Sitting pretty on the Rhine, Basel is a city of gothic spires, important art galleries and charming Christmas markets. In fact, this Swiss city is so big on Yuletide magic that festive vibes have been flowing year-round for 50 years. If you wish it could be Christmas every day, don't miss a trip to Johann Wanner’s Basel bauble shop.
Johann Wanner started out as an antiques dealer in the 1960s. After meeting a man from East Germany who sold him the traditional glass ornaments of his youth, it stirred something inside the Swiss shop owner.
“They had disappeared from Switzerland at the time, because Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain,” recalls Wanner, regarded as the world's leading Christmas ornament expert. “That inspired me to start selling them.
“I travelled to Bohemia and Poland to meet the artisans and bring ornaments back. People were always asking me if I had more decorations, so I opened my shop in ’69. Now it’s been more than 50 years and I’m still running it.”
"The ornaments in my collection each tell stories about a different period of my life"
Wanner’s Christmas emporium has a truly dizzying array of ornaments, from strawberry tart and crystal deer tree decorations to straw polar bears and your classic bauble.
“Ornaments are very emotional,” he points out. “The ones in my collection each tell stories about a different period of my life. Switzerland was the first region to decorate Christmas trees, so it’s an important tradition here. I love going for a walk on Christmas Eve and seeing all the trees lit up in the windows.”
And while his shop has become a real institution in Basel, luring scores through the door all year round, Wanner doesn’t need till receipts to tell him his business is on the right path.
“When I see little noses pressed against the glass, I know we’re doing something right,” he says with a smile.