A friend in Fribourg, Dorota, and her mother in Poland make beautiful handmade pottery. During the Christmas season, Dorota typically participates in selling some of the family’s pottery at one holiday market or another in Switzerland. This year, she opted for a venue in Martigny, a village of about 15,000 in the canton of Valais to the south. A friend, Rana, volunteered to drive, so together with another friend, the three of us headed south to visit Dorota and do a little Christmas shopping. It was high time for a road trip.
The main highway from Fribourg to Martigny skims the eastern tip of Lake Geneva with the French Alps towering over the lake from the opposite shore. Martigny is a southern travel hub – several main roads in town converge to link Switzerland with its borders with France and Italy, just 25 and 40 km away, respectively. From the parking lot of the venue, clouds were visible rolling down into a steep valley high up among the peaks.
The venue was classy and festive. We spent a couple of hours browsing past stalls, sampling tasty edibles like absinthe wafers and flavored honeybee candies. I couldn’t resist buying several giant chocolate-covered marshmallow cream bon bons: vin chaud (mulled wine), mocha (to take home to Travis), and stracciatella.
Unfortunately, since we’re currently on a tight budget here, Trav and I decided to forego Christmas gifts entirely this year. (Sorry, friends and family back home.) My only non-edible purchase was this mug that Dorota made. I thought Trav would really like it, which he does, but since blue is my favorite color and I’m always using it, I might need to get him another one.
The market was a fun and festive way to spend the day with friends, but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of variety across the vendors. The vast majority of stalls were selling edibles or wine and garnered the most customer traffic and sales. An excess of jewelry vendors were represented with a few other booths selling things like candles, note cards, and knickknacks.
Where were the photographers, painters, hand blown glass artists, sculptors, iron and metal workers, the craftsmen making wooden kids’ toys? With a whopping price tag of 400-600 chf for a booth for the weekend, perhaps these artists couldn’t afford it. Or perhaps it simply isn’t popular in Switzerland.
Clearly this is only one Christmas market. We’ve heard that the best and most visited is in the town of Montreux along the shores of Lake Geneva. We definitely plan to visit the holiday market there next year with hopes that it will offer up some fun and creative gift ideas for folks back home. But considering how much I love Dorota’s pottery, maybe it’ll be pottery all around for Christmas next year.
What’s up next on our agenda?
Hiking to La Brillaz Chapel, a quaint little church past our neighboring village…