Last year this time, I was packing my bags to explore the Christmas Markets in Saxony, Germany. My third and last destination within the state was a town called Seiffen. Seiffen sits on the border of Czech and Germany, in the region of Erzgebirgskreis.
Historically, Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) was a silver mining region. Over the years, the locals found an alternative means of livelihood- making and selling wooden toys- hence rechristening it ‘toy town’. It is now an important winter getaway surrounded by ski slopes. The town centre, which is on Hauptstraße, comes alive during Christmas.
If you’re ever looking for an off-the-beaten road winter wonderland, Seiffen would be my recommendation.
What I did
Since I was in Seiffen only for a night, I prioritised exploring the Christmas Market which was essentially on one street. Hauptstraße was dressed in food stalls, people sipping glüwine and children playing in most corners. Snow filled the length of the street. Cornice of every house was lit. In the windows, I saw Schwibbögen or Christmas candle arch with Plauen lace curtains in the background. Ornate Weihnachtspyramide or the Christmas pyramids filled corners of the street. And the Seiffener angels carved out of wood were the street lights.
The following morning I walked to Schauwerkstatt on Bahnohstraße. This ‘demonstration workshop’ exemplifies Seiffen’s famous woodwork. The workshop is sequentially lined with craftspeople who carve, paint and assemble the famous nutcracker’s 35 pieces in 150 working steps.
Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) narrates history of toy-making in the Ore Mountains. Even though the museum has information only in German, it is worth a stop to see the technique, precision and creativity of the toy-makers here. They have pyramids from 1875 on display. The museum is spread over 1000 square metres on three floors.
Made a quick stop at Wendt & Kühn
Started by Grete Wendt and Margarete Kühn in 1915, Wendt & Kühn is now a world renowned brand. They design small painted wooden figurines, of which Angel Musicians and Angels Orchestra are most famous. These handmade toys are considered exquisite collectibles.
Where I ate
Spielzeugschachtel on Hauptstraße have quite a range of local German cuisine. From Erzgebirgische bratwurst to potato pancakes with apple sauce, they have it all. However, I settled for the smoked salmon with fried potato pancakes with a dark beer from the tap (local Freiberger beer). It was a comforting last lunch I had in Germany.
The previous night I indulged in a two-course meal at Restaurant Buntes Haus. I had the roasted chicken breast with winter vegetables for my mains and an elaborate Saxony tiramisu for dessert. I didn’t proceed to the main course until I downed some local German schnapps. First vugelbeerschnaps (rowan-berry), then pflaumenschnaps (plum) and finally a Lauterbacher tropfen (mix of herb). I brought home three miniatures of vugelbeerschnaps.
Where I stayed
Buntes Haus Hotel Erbgericht on Hauptstraße is a well known boutique hotel. I got a single room (Flower Girl), which faced the town centre, for €69 inclusive of breakfast. The room was clean, comfortable and more than anything I could ask for. They also have a sauna which is included in the tariff. They arranged a free pick and drop from Olbernhau-Grünthal Station (the last rail stop to the Ore Mountains.)
What I bought
Lots of German schnapps! Also miniature nutcrackers and angels from Schauwerkstatt.
How I travelled
During my three-hour journey from Dresden to Seiffen, I changed two trains. From Dresden hauptbahnhof I took one to Flöha. Onward from Flöha to Olbernhau-Grünthal.
While I was exiting Seiffen, the travel time doubled (I was on my way to Nürnberg). I took the train from Olbernhau-Grünthal to Flöha, to Hof and finally to Nürnberg hauptbahnhof.
Buntes Haus (or Seiffen) was a short 15-minute drive from Olbernhau-Grünthal station. It is best to have the hotel arrange a pick-up.
Good to know
-English is sparingly spoken in Seiffen. Basic German is helpful.
-Seiffen charges a €1 tax per night, which is added to the room rate or package.
-If you’re getting a drink in the Christmas Market (anywhere in Germany), expect to pay a ‘pfund’ or a deposit. This is refunded once you return the mug to the staff.
Which is your favourite Christmas town?