One of the first things people asked me when I moved to Bavaria was, "Have you been to the crystal factory yet?"
Visiting the Nachtmann crystal factory is a rite of passage for Army wives stationed in Bavaria, much like your first Polish pottery trip or your first time to the Nurnberg Christmas market. You just can't be stationed here and not go. The good thing is, it's easily reachable from most of the Army bases in Bavaria, so it makes for a nice day trip with the girlfriends.
So without further ado, here are some tips if you're interested in planning your own Crystal Factory adventure!
1. Friday is usually the day for sales
While you can get cheap crystal most days, the Nachtmann factory store in Neustadt an der Waldnaab (a town outside Weiden, near Amberg) usually has their big sales on Friday. Check out the Neustadt Factory Outlet's website, where they post the dates of their regular sales and BIG sales. The place will be swarming with American women on the sale days, but it is so worth it. I got 6 crystal dessert bowls for 1.50 euro A PIECE.
2. Check the bottom of the pieces for designer pieces
This was a tip from a seasoned crystal shopping friend of mine. Sometimes they mix in Waterford, Tiffany, and other designer pieces into the selection without marking them. I found Waterford glasses for 9 euros a piece, just hanging out on the shelf in the warehouse. Awesome find!
3. Walk through the gate where it looks like you're not supposed to go
This is what you'll see as you walk toward the factory outlet in Neustadt. This building houses the factory outlet which has good enough deals, but what you want to do is go through the metal gate you can see there on the left. There is a small door sized space where you can go through, and even though it looks like this is some off limits thing you shouldn't be trespassing on,
GO THROUGH THE GATE!
Once you've walked a little ways you'll see a warehouse with a ramp leading inside. There are shopping carts parked outside. Take one, step inside, and welcome to amazingly discounted fantastic crystal land. Proceed to shop til you drop!
The factory outlet pictured above is definitely worth a visit too (they had some sweet deals and beautiful stuff), but if you're looking for some serious bargains, go to the warehouse!
4. Make a list before you go
I wish I had done this. I didn't think about what I needed, so I got there and was overwhelmed with choices. Did I need wine glasses? Serving trays? Is someone I know getting married and need a wedding vase? There was so much to look at and it was all so affordable-I needed a game plan!
5. Military wives-bring your VAT form!
The prices are crazy cheap, but they're even cheaper when you've got your VAT form. Bring it, ladies!
6. Consider if you want something engraved
The day we went, there was an engraver on site who engraved while you waited. My friends got some beautiful vases and platters engraved for soon to be married friends or parents' anniversaries. They could also make good farewell or new baby presents.
7. Check out the town
Besides the crystal outlet and warehouse, the town is full of crystal stores that seemed to have good deals. Give them a try (if you have any euros left that is!). The town itself is very cute!
If you're stationed here or living the expat life, visit the Nachtmann Crystal Factory. They have locations all around Bavaria (you can find info, directions, and opening times here) so you really have no excuse not to go. Besides, why serve your Thanksgiving dinner on Target dishes when you could get a whole set of German crystal for cheap? Just sayin'.
To prove the awesomeness of this weekend, here's what I headed home with. Grand total? 27 euros (a little over 30 euros before VAT):
I also didn't spend more than 5 euros on any one piece
One serving bowl, one vase, 6 dessert bowls and 6 dessert plates.:)
Lovely. So, are you ready to go yet?
If you want to check out my second trip to the crystal factory, click here!