My First German Cuckoo Clock
I got my first German cuckoo clock when I was 20 years old on my very first trip to Germany. Even though I now own several German cuckoo clocks, this first one will always be my favorite because it was the one my husband gave to me just after we first met.
In 1991 I was working as a waitress and had saved up enough money to go on a trip to Germany with my very best girlfriend. We had been saving up our money for nearly six months in order to have enough to go to Germany for several weeks before the holidays. It was a lot of money to be spending on such an extravagant trip, but we had our hearts set on spending one last holiday traveling abroad before bills, work, marriage, and children became a permanent part of our lives. It certainly was not going to be a luxury vacation, but we did not care one bit and were really looking forward to our whirlwind trip. When the time came for us to leave, we boarded the flight to Frankfurt, Germany with our backpacks, our passports, and our dreams of what adventures we might soon have.
Germany was a wonderful place to be during the holidays of 1991. The Berlin Wall had recently come down and German reunification was complete, bringing all Germans from both the east and west back together. There was a feeling of freedom in the air, both for us and the German people, and being able to experience that joy together was wonderful. One of the first things we did when we first arrived in Germany was to visit some of the German markets that sold all kinds of handmade German cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, and figurines. I was fascinated by all the intricate woodcarving work that went into making these little pieces of art. As we walked through the markets, I so badly wanted to buy one of the German cuckoo clocks to take home with me as a reminder of our trip, but buying something like that was just too much of an extravagance for me at the time. So, I just dreamed of one day being able to return to Germany in hopes of owning my very own German cuckoo clock some day.
As it turned out, my girlfriend knew someone who was in the Army and stationed in Germany at the time of our visit. He was stationed outside of Dresden and we had made plans to visit him on our trip. He was a friend of hers from high school that I had never met, so we hopped on the train and traveled from Frankfurt to Dresden to visit him. It turned out to be a trip that would change my life forever. As our train pulled up into the Dresden train station, I was wowed at the beauty of the surrounding area with all of its snow covered hills and thick forests. My girlfriend called her friend to let him know that we had arrived and he told us to meet him at the Striezelmarkt that evening.
The Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in all of Germany. A Christmas market, as I came to understand, was a special market that would open up in the weeks before Christmas that would sell traditional breads, cakes, candies, and other treats that Germans traditionally buy for their Christmas celebrations. It is also the place where you can find all the wonderful handmade crafts that come from the nearby Erzgebirge mountain region. Once a prosperous mining community, the Erzgebirge region has now become famous for making traditional handmade wooden and glass crafts, such as German cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, smokers, figurines, and Christmas ornaments. As we walked around the Striezelmarkt, I was amazed at how many German cuckoo clock shops and venders there were all around us. I was fascinated with all the different styles of German cuckoo clocks that they had. Some cuckoo clocks were simple with birds, leaves, and other natural elements carved into the small wooden boxes. Other cuckoo clocks were more intricate and carved into the shapes of tiny little villages with moving parts and dancing figurines that would spin around each time the cuckoo clock struck the top of the hour. I was literally mesmerized by their intricate details, so when the time came for us to meet her friend, I really was not ready to go. My friend promised we would come back to look at more German cuckoo clocks later and we rushed off to meet him.
It was a good thing that she managed to tear me away from the cuckoo clock display too, for it turned out to be one of the most wonderful nights of my life. Without sounding too sappy, when I met the high school friend of my travel companion that night, it was literally love at first sight for the both of us. Maybe it was the magical lights of the Striezelmarkt or that feeling of joy you can feel in the air around Christmastime, but from the moment our eyes first met be both knew we would be together forever. As we strolled around the Striezelmarkt together over the next few weeks, the man who would become my husband realized how much I had come to adore the beautiful German cuckoo clocks that were sold in the markets. Before leaving Germany for what would become a yearlong wait until we could be together again, my future husband surprised me with a package just before we boarded the train and said goodbye. As you can probably guess, he had bought me a beautiful German cuckoo clock that he had seen me admiring a few nights before. This particular German cuckoo clock had a pair of young lovers enjoying an embrace and sneaking a kiss at the top of each hour. It was the perfect present that would continuously remind me of him each time the cuckoo clock would strike during our long separation until he returned to the states.
We were married a year after he returned home from Germany and every few years we take a trip back to Dresden where I always manage to come home with another German cuckoo clock to add to my collection. Of course, my favorite cuckoo clock is the one my husband gave me and it will always hold a special place in my heart because if it was not for German cuckoo clocks and the Striezelmarkt we might never have fallen in love.