Dresden Neumarkt: The Medieval Market

Frauenkirche at Neumarkt at night


Moving on from the markets in the outer portion of Dresden, we come to the Christmas market in Dresden’s Neumarkt, one of two major Christmas markets in Dresden’s Altstadt. The market is located between Wilsdruffer Strasse at Altmarkt and the Elbe River and includes the city’s Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).  The market is  unique for many reasons. The first and perhaps most noticeable of the market is the way it is laid out and the trees and huts are decorated. While most German Christmas markets are in a town square and have a central meeting point where people can stop to eat, drink and watch the entertainment from the benches and tables surrounding the Christmas tree, the layout resembles a round swirled raisin and cinnamon roll, with wide aisles curling past and around the huts and many areas where people can indulge in their food and drink while being awed by the Christmas trees decorated in yellow star lights. At least 10 Christmas trees decorated with these string of star lights (made of paper machete and painted a dark yellow or white color), and many huts carry a yellow star light that shoots out on a steel pole at a 60° angle.

The Christmas tree with the yellow lights


One can see many young artists singing Christmas carols or playing an instrument, both as a solo or a small ensemble, but there is no official program nor large ensemble group found here at this market. That is found at the Striezelmarkt at Altmarkt or in Dresden-Neustadt.  But for children, there is a hand-powered carousel that is worth riding, if they enjoy horses and swinging. There is also a live manger set located near the church.  What is characteristic of the Neumarkt part of the Christmas market is that there are many shops that offer a wide array of hand-made products made of ceramic or wood with live demonstrations. Most of these products resemble the ones that were common during the Medieval Ages. For those willing to try a homemade specialty or two originating from the Medieval Ages, the market has everything that will satisfy the appetite in a visitor. One can try entrées originating from the Middle or Far East, like beef goulash with olives and couscous (wheat kernels that are boiled and dried before they are cooked and served with an entrée- very popular in the Middle East), date-filled rolls with either a pistachio or a sesame pastry covering, different types of coffee or tea from that region, just to name a few. There are also a few places that serve homemade pastries originating from Dresden and all points to the east, including the pastry tunnel (a Hungarian specialty where the cookie dough is rolled onto a rolling pin and cooked- best served with a coating of sugar on it) or even handmade cookies and Stollen from a local bakery booth where the children can see the whole process live. Yet should they want to become involved with Christmas baking at the market in general, the Altmarkt is the place to go.

The manger set with live animals on display

After trying out all the Medieval specialties and some from other places, and purchasing homemade Medieval products from the booths, one should spend a couple hours visiting the Frauenkirche, which is the centerpiece of Dresden’s Neumarkt. Built in 1726, the cathedral is one of the most common of all the points in Dresden one has to visit, with over 2 million visitors every year minus the time of the Christmas market. During the one month celebration from the end of November to Christmas Eve, the number of tourists during that time matches the ones who visit during the 11 months of the year.  In order to step inside the church, one should plan an hour of waiting time, which may be inconvenient when winter weather hovers over the city during the Christmas market.  If one lives only two hours away from the capital of Saxony, then the summer time is perhaps the best time for visiting the church.  This unique landmark was constructed as a replica to the one destroyed at the end of World War II. On 13 February, 1945, a fleet of British RAF Airplanes pelted the city with 650,000 bombs, creating an inferno which destroyed 80% of the city (including all of the city center), and killing as many as 60,000. This signaled the beginning of the end of the 12 year Nazi Regime as many people who supported Hitler’s cause left and willingly surrendered to the allies, with those supporting him took their own lives in the last months before Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, 1945 and Germany surrendered to the allies on 7 May, 1945. Much of Dresden remained in ruins for three decades as it became part of the Soviet zone and later the German Democratic Republic, which (when the next article on Dresden-Neustadt will explain in further) constructed various multiple storied flats and ignored the true meaning of Dresden, which was its artwork and architecture.
Right after the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989, millions of dollars worth of investment flowed into Dresden and the city center was reconstructed from scratch, beginning with the Frauenkirche and working its way towards the Palace and other Baroque-style buildings that were destroyed.  A section of the old church was preserved and can be seen on the east end of the church when walking toward the river. The reconstruction took 10 years and featured exact replicas of the architecture that was destroyed in the war. When the Frauenkirche was open in 2005, it marked the return to architectural greatness that was and still is the signature of Dresden today.
The Medieval Christmas market at Neumarkt makes the Frauenkirche complete as the surroundings give the tourist a feeling of walking back into the past when there was no electricity, everything was handmade, and the Frauenkirche looked like the church that was never destroyed. This was the impression that came across the author as he and his family passed through the place many times during his recent visit in Dresden.  With its offers and its settings, it is no wonder that the market at Neumarkt is a royal treat for those wanting to know a bit about Medieval culture and Dresden’s unique history; especially when it comes to the market’s centerpiece, the Frauenkirche.

Frauenkirche today after its reconstruction


One thought on “Dresden Neumarkt: The Medieval Market”

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