From the beginning, Triberg was a land of our dreams. As lonely exchange students in Bremen, Germany, it was the rising expectations and elaborate day dreams of Weihnachtszauber (Christmas Festival) in Triberg that let us weather the winter chills. We created stories in our heads of a thousand floating lights and a frozen waterfall, deliberately falling in love with Triberg and waiting for the day we could leave.
But when the day arrived on the 22nd of December, 2014, little did we expect the road to the scenic town of Triberg to be spiked with surprises.
That evening, whilst we were waiting at Nuremberg station for our train, we realised the length of the journey ahead of us. Despite looking so comfortably close to each other on Germany’s map, the journey from Nuremberg to Triberg was to take 11 hours overnight, 5 hours of which had to be spent waiting at a station called Engen. We braced ourselves for a sleepless night and got out of our train at Engen at midnight. And realised with shock that we had completely underestimated the cold.
In our flimsy jackets and jeans that felt too hot back home in Chennai, the sub zero temperatures of the cold night nipped our bones. At the bare station we fervently searched for some shelter and ended up cuddling together on an underpass floor and sharing stories of summer and Bollywood movies. When our train finally came at 5.39 am on 24th December 2014, we felt like the Spartans returning from battle. But the adventure was far from over. In the pitch darkness of Triberg at 6.30 am, we struggled to find our way to the hostel, only to realise an hour later that our reservation was for the 24th of December 2016, and that the hostel was booked out for 2 years straight.
Aside the rising tensions and irritability amongst us, we were now overcome by the horror of waiting once again in the cold. Desperately knocking on the doors of every hotel on the route and calculating our frugal bank balance, we walked all the way back to the town centre where an angel of a man pointed us to a bank and informed us of a hotel above it.
And it was then that our fortunes flipped over completely.
Located snugly at the heart of the town, Hotel Triberg’s heater was the most beautiful thing I had felt in my life. Manning the reception was a gentle lady who informed us that the extremely cheap hotel rates (2 double rooms and an extra bed came up to about 20 euros per head per night) came with complimentary breakfasts, a grand view of the mountains, a discounted public transport card and free entry to Triberg Weihnachtszauber- the million lights Christmas festival of Triberg. On their deep white beds we slept till noon on Christmas Eve and spent the rest of the day accustoming ourselves with the German tradition of celebrating festivals inside. Outside, the empty streets beckoned us for long walks, indulging every visitor with a heady mix of chilly winds and bakery smells. And later over a Christmas dinner of cold jam sandwich infused with excitement we awaited the Weihnachtszauber festivities to begin.
A romantic Christmas spectacle, the Weihnachtszauber begins on December 25th and lasts for five days transforming the small sleepy town of Triberg to a festive centre with a million lights, music concerts and a sensational fire and light show on the famous Triberg waterfall. Armed with our entry passes and a most sumptuous breakfast from our host, we set out to explore every inch of the festival. Spending our time drinking Glühwein (steaming hot mulled winter wine), making our own bread on the bonfires and being a part of the friendly crowd, we discovered the Triberg market, where among other things the world’s largest and smallest cuckoo clocks were showcased. But the most exceptionally beautiful part of the trip was the fire show. The tall expanse of the Triberg waterfall was lit most expertly by coloured lights as the air filled with music, and dancers and fire artists performed right at the centre of the waterfall. And as our hearts rose to the exciting climax of their performance, it began to snow; the light snowfall, the music, the dance and the million lights around us, making Triberg truly the land of our dreams.
Leaving behind a snowy white Triberg the next evening, we felt somewhere deep in our hearts the pain of bidding farewell to a romantic love affair.