Now that I'm a bit more settled into my new life in Calabria, Italy, the travel bug has been nipping at my heels. I had the chance to go to Germany to meet a friend from San Diego, Jason, who may be moving there.
On our agenda was Frankfurt (I'll write all about the Christmas market there soon), Stuttgart (honestly, not my favorite), and the adorable town of Esslingen, where he may move.
Esslingen did not disappoint.
For me, this is quintessential Germany. The traditional half-timbered houses, the church bells tolling, the afternoon sun dappling the sides of buildings. I fell in love with this town on the Neckar immediately and considered moving there! (not really. I love Italy!)
Redefining Bedroom Community
When I think of the term bedroom community, I think of a sleepy suburban area without much going on. Esslingen is just a few miles (17 minutes by train) from Stuttgart and is where many people live who work in the city or in other nearby towns.
But while Esslingen definitely seems calm, it's far from boring.
We arrived as the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) was being set up. I was sad we wouldn't be there to experience it because while many towns in Germany hold their own Weihnachtsmarkt, Esslingen's is unique because it also includes a medieval market. Not only can you get your Glühwein (mulled wine) on, but you can also buy capes, potions, and medieval weapons! We saw an axe-throwing booth being set up, as well as stands that sold fur pelts. In a town that's been around since 1000 B.C., you could imagine this market was much the same eons ago.
A Bird's-Eye View
As Jason and I meandered up the hill of homes, he spied a staircase going, as it appeared, to heaven. He asked if I was game. After grumbling about needing to pee, I agreed.
326 steps later...we arrived at the top of the Esslingen Burg, or Castle. It's not a castle in the typical sense, but rather a fortified wall that provided a vantage point that let townspeople see potential enemies from far away.
Behind the wall is a beautiful park. I believe the tower may be open for tourists, but not on the Monday in November that we were there. I also noted that if we'd come from the other side, there would have been zero steps! But what's the fun in that??
It's Not All Meat and Potatoes (Well, Always Potatoes)
When you think of German cuisine, you probably think of heavy pork dishes accompanied by potatoes. While you absolutely find a lot of that (and it's very delicious), you can also find plenty of other dishes.
After wandering around looking for a restaurant that was open for lunch on a Monday (many aren't open, FYI), we found Theater Cafe - Steak & Fish. Okay, I'll admit I was drawn in by the promise of Glühwein. It's amazing how satisfying it is when you're walking around in the cold!
I ordered sea bream with surprisingly delicious veggies, and Jason had a kebab and fries. Despite me saying I was so over eating potatoes at every meal, I stole a few fries because they were so good!
And Now, For Dessert
Our bellies happy and warm, we made our way back to the train station. But on the way, I spied an enticing window of delectable candy treats. I dragged Jason inside (he was willing), and we were in Willie Wonka's domain, German style.
There was a little old man in a white coat who worked there. I watched him shuffle from display to display, straightening a package here or there. When Jason checked out, the woman (maybe his wife) asked (in German) if he wanted his purchases wrapped. Of course! We watched her lovingly wrap the box of chocolate and add a flair of ribbon. Talk about customer service!
Esslingen was a delightful day trip from Stuttgart. I hope that Jason moves there so I have an excuse to visit again!