Seiffen: Germany’s Year-round Christmas Toy Town

One of my last posts of 2013 was dedicated to The Erzgebirge: Santa’s Workshop in Germany, a region, which at the time I knew only by reputation. However, a late-July trip to London this year gave me the excuse to fly over to Germany and fill in the blanks, as it were.

With just a couple of nights at my disposal, I realized I only had time for one town but the choice was a no-brainer: the village of Seiffen, which stands out as a kind of shopping and manufacturing epicenter of German hand-carved wooden Christmas decorations and ornaments. It did not disappoint.

Seiffen Spielzeugmuseum street signFor starters, the town is very neat and charming. In addition to many, many, many shops, there is a famous Toy Museum, or Spielzeugmuseum. (Seiffen is known as the Spielzeugdorf, or Toy Town.) It seemed like, and was, a great place to start. There’s a short video presentation—available in English upon request—on the history of hand woodcarving in the region.

Originally, the Erzgebirge (English translation: the Ore Mountains) was a silver and tin mining center and woodcarving was primarily an off-hours pastime for the miners. In the nineteenth century, however, with ore deposits nearly exhausted, the miners turned in their picks for woodcarving tools and began perfecting their craft full time.

Seiffen's BergkircheI was particularly keen to see the famous octagonal Bergkirche (Miners’ Church) that features in so many woodcarvings. It dates from the Baroque era and its interior is rather simple and unembellished. If you happen to be in Seiffen on a Sunday, you’ll be able to attend a service and hear its children’s choir and there are sometimes noontime organ concerts, which we unfortunately missed. However, when we arrived a soprano and organist were rehearsing up in the organ loft and it was possible to sit and listen quietly in the empty church.

To be continued . . .

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