TOP 5 for Christmas Markets
- Drink a gluhwein
- Drink a different type of gluhwein (maybe with Schapps in it?)
- Eat some sugared almonds.
- Eat some lebkuchen or stollen.
- Buy a wooden Christmas ornament.
(Sorry, but there isn’t much else to do at a Christmas market but eat or drink :).
- Nuremberg – Hotel Lucas: This small hotel attached to a cafe in the city center is inexpensive, quiet, clean, has big rooms, and breakfast is included in the rate. You can’t ask for much more!
Christmas is my favourite time of year. The world is blanketed in a blissful cover of twinkling lights, wooly socks, merry music, unabashed indulgence, and an unrivalled anticipation of that one day where all are content. Every family has their own traditions which make the day their very own. For me – the smell of a fir tree, the taste of truffles and cheese cookies, the sound of Christmas Carols played on an old creaky piano, and the sight of a burning fire in our fireplace are sure-fire signs it must be close. So, when I first moved to Germany, I was feeling mournful for the weeks leading up to Christmas which I would be missing. But, Germany does a damn fine job of making you feel festive no matter where your family is.
German Christmas markets are world famous – and rightly so. Starting at the end of November, wooden huts, adorned with fir boughs, sparkling lights, and ornaments appear from nowhere, clustered in town centres and offering all sorts of Christmas cheers, mostly in consumable form. On a chilly winter night, when you are trudging through snow drifts and generally feeling cold and a little bit down, suddenly you happen upon red-topped wood huts, lights strung between them, with hoards of laughing and raucous patrons guzzling Gluwein and munching on sizzling hot bratwurst or potato rosti. Believe me, your mood improves significantly. The idea of the Christmas markets is not so much for shopping – it’s more to gather a group of friends together and go for a couple Gluwein (hot mulled wine, wickedly delicious and hangover-inducing) and perhaps a snack, all the while huddled together, stomping your feet to keep warm, and clutching your mug of hot wine for dear life. It is one of the friendliest and cheerful environments I’ve ever been in – nobody is angry here. Even the typical practise of German wait staff – that being curt, unsmiling, and efficient – vanishes and is replaced by smiles, laughter, and even( horror upon horror) small talk.
Depending on where you go, you will find different treats in different regions. In Nuremberg, one MUST purchase the Lebkucken – giant soft gingerbread cookies that will convert the most steadfast gingerbread-hater. Further North, marzipan is famous and claims to be the best in Lubeck. In some markets, Finnish Gluwein (with raisins, almonds, and schnapps) is raved about. However, there are Christmas market staples available everywhere – Gluwein of course, garlic mushrooms with aioli, bratwurst, potato rosti served with apfelmus (applesauce), and hot roasted sugared almonds. The smells which emanate from the markets are enough to make anyone smile.
For those looking for non-consumable keepsakes, beautiful painted wooden Christmas ornaments are common and worth spending some euros on. Blown glass ornaments, small crystal figurines, and various other knick-knacks are abundant. I would heartily recommend a trip to the markets for any Christmas lover.