Kruner knows the Saxon capital well: not only was she born and brought up in Dresden, she also works as a tour and museum guide with a particular focus the city’s cultural heritage.
What’s special about a Dresden Christmas?
There are a lot of real local Christmas traditions. It’s not like Halloween in Germany, which is imported. Dresden has its own traditions, which have been around for hundreds of years and are really something special.
The decorations and lights are a particularly important tradition. We have these traditional paper lanterns lit up with bulbs inside – every shop has them in the windows at Christmas.
Even walking through a very normal residential area at night is very magical because of all the lights; it’s a pleasure just to walk around because people do a lot of individual decoration.
Dresden is famous as the birthplace of the Christmas market. But are they just for tourists these days?
Not at all. I actually went to a Christmas market this afternoon with my kids for them to ride on the carousel. You have to go at least once every Christmas and have a Glühwein and a Bratwurst.
Do you have a favourite one?
I like the Neumarkt around the Frauenkirche best. It has a 19th century theme; all the stall holders wear costumes and sell traditional wares. There are a lot of real craftsmen; there’s a goldsmith and a knife-grinder. I personally find the Striezelmarkt – the biggest and oldest market – too big and too crowded. There are just too many people. But the one around the Church is much smaller and calmer. It feels a lot more Christmassy.
Dresden is also famous for its Stollen, the traditional German Christmas cake. Where can you find the best?
You can buy it all over the place, but everyone thinks their own is the best! Many people in Dresden make their own. We use my grandmother’s recipe, and prepare our own dough but bring it to the baker for it to be baked in a proper oven – that makes it taste even better.
Do you have any tips for festive music lovers?
I love the Kreuzkirche – it’s the oldest church in the city and has the famous boys’ choir. We go to hear Bach’s Christmas Oratorio every year as a family. But all the big churches have wonderful services.
On Christmas morning at six o’clock there’s a nativity play in the Kreuzkirche. The church is always heaving with Dresdeners, even though it’s so early in the morning.
Where would you go to warm up out of the cold?
Mulled wine! Or a hot chocolate! Wackerbarth makes the best. Theirs is unusual in that it’s made with white wine, not red, which comes from the Wackerbarth vineyard here in Saxony. The wine is then mixed with white grape juice and some secret ingredients – it’s totally delicious!
Dresden certainly takes Christmas seriously. What would you do if you wanted a break from it all?
If you wanted to escape from Christmas, you’d have to get right out the city – everywhere is full of people and decorations! You’d have to cross the river and get out into the countryside for a walk.
Lastly, can you tell us something about a Dresden Christmas that only locals know?
Every local has their own Stollen recipe – I wouldn’t go giving that away! That’s a private secret.
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Interview conducted by Pippa Wentzel