Depending on your family's traditions, the winter day has come to hang your stockings with care, trim up the tree and open the first day on your advents calendar. What is behind door number 1? Chocolate? A small gift? Or something bigger? How about opening the town hall's window for an advent calendar with thousands of others in full Christmas cheer?
For over 15 years the quaint town of Gengenbach in Baden-Württemberg has transformed its entire Rathaus (Town Hall) into the world's largest Advent Calendar House, or - auf Deutsch - "Das weltgrößte Adventskalenderhaus". The 24 windows (two rows of 11 plus 2 in the roof) are each decorated with a festive Christmas scene with a new window revealed every night until Christmas.
Adventskalendar in Gengenbach
After months of preparation, the soft pink town hall is warmly lit and lies in wait like a package waiting to be opened. Around 100,000 visitors descend on this small town of just over 10,000 to celebrate each day of the Christmas season.
An enormous Christmas tree sparkles in front of the town hall as crowds gather in the darkness. Eager watchers show up before 18:00 each night to catch the show. The senses are awakened - first by scent as a spicy fragrance of Glühwein wafts its way through the frosty air; then by sight as the 200-year-old town hall baroque façade is lit up and comes to life. Amongst all this movement, the first door on the window swings open and a vignette from a world-famous artist is revealed.
If you miss the show, you can still see the completed Advent Calendar until January 6th, 2015 with scenes like those of the Gruffalo, Harry Potter and Pippi Longstocking. For impressive light shows in other towns, consider Berlin's Festival of Lights.
Christmas Market in Gengenbach
In addition, watch for the daily program of Christmas events starting on the 30th and ending on the 23rd. Events begin at 17:00 on weekdays ans 15:00 on weekends with the full program available online.
- Gengenbach Christmas Market Hours: Monday to Friday 14:00 - 20:00; Saturday and Sunday 12:00 - 20:00
Gengenbach's Other Attractions
If you miss the Christmas season entirely or are looking for more to do in charming Gengenbach, go no further than the medieval old town center (Altstadt). Founded in in the 13th century, the city has a nickname of “pearl among the romantic half-timbered towns”. The center maintains its old defences of rampart walls with imposing guard towers. For another example of gorgeous medieval architecture, consider a visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
If you arrive during Carnival season, the town has another side to share. Gengenbach is famous for its Fasnacht celebration. Festival-goers dress in gaudy outfits with unique carved wooden masks. Discover more of the unique traditions of the town on Gegenbach's site or in the Fasnacht museum.
Directions to Gengenbach
Gengenbach is on the western edge of the Black Forest, about 40 kilometers south east of Strasbourg. The Black Forest Mountain Route (Schwarzwaldhochstraße), part of the Bundesstraße 500, runs nearby and offers easy access.