The next stop in our Travelogue exploring the places where the German Christmas pastries and handcrafted ornaments and gifts are made is the small town of Seiffen. Nestled in the Ore Mountains or, in German, Erzgebirge
(listen here to the pronunciation of that mouthful
!) this quaint little town is best known for the production of wood figures like Nutcrackers, Smokers and Pyramids.
The beauty of "digital travel" is that we can jump all over the country. And the jump from our last stop - Nuremberg
- to Seiffen is not that far: a 3 1/2 hour drive so long as there is no "stau" or traffic jam along the way.
I have had the pleasure of visiting this area of Germany twice over the past 15 years. Most recently I spent a couple of days in Seiffen with my middle daughter when we traveled together in the summer of 2018. Seiffen is a very quiet, sleepy village in the summer time. But given the amount of parking lots and bus parking lots it must be packed during the Christmas Season.
I was in Seiffen visiting the two studios that make the wooden Smokers
that Gingerbread World imports to Canada. At the Seiffener Volkskunst Schauwerkstatt (Demonstration Workshop) Signe and I each got to make a wooden figure. She chose to make a Smoker figure and I a Nutcracker. There are a lot of little pieces that cleverly fit together but painting each tiny piece and putting them together correctly is definitely an art. I really wanted to make my Nutcracker look happy...I failed! (but it's OK - their frowns and bared teeth serve a purpose - read about it here
The Richard Glässer shop and studio is on the main street of Seiffen - a beautiful place to shop and to see up close how the wooden figures are made on the two stories of their workshop. Again what stood out to me was how small and precise the pieces are and how many pieces are needed to make each figure.
We felt very welcome in Seiffen. Someone had carved a very Canadian-looking moose and put out the flag!
(in the background of this photo you'll notice the Wendt & Kühn shop
- this is where I decided we just had to have their Angel and Blumenkinder figures in our shop!).
The first time I traveled in the Erzgebirge area was with my inlaws, my husband and my children. The kids were 5, 7 and 9 and we were traveling over Christmas (this was before I owned Gingerbread World and I had no appreciation for the handcrafted treasures being produced in this area). We visited a small city called Zwickau and stayed in a most incredible hotel - an old hunting lodge. For the 4 days we stayed over Christmas we ate our meals in a beautiful dining hall with the most fabulous centrepieces on the tables (a different one for each meal). One evening a couple of opera singers performed for us, another evening a poet read Christmas verses. But we really won the Germans over on the evening when guests were invited to share a song or reading after dinner. Our kids (who attended a German bilingual elementary school) sang a Christmas song in German - they were a hit!
The Erzgebirge translated literally as "Ore Mountains" get their name from the large ore deposits found there. To this day there are mining operations and we got to tour one of them - on Christmas Day! Probably the weirdest activity I have ever done on Christmas!!
But when the deposits started to run out the miners turned to other means to support their families. The dense forests that covered the mountains were excellent resource for a new industry - wood toy making and folk art. This is where the famous Christmas Nutcracker
was first created and the Smoker Man
- cleverly designed and beautifully hand carved and hand turned pieces. Read my blog about the origins and meanings of the Nutcracker
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Next stop in our Travelogue - the northern Germany city of Lübeck and the scrumptious Marzipan made there.
Owner @ Gingerbread World