My obsession with the German Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) began in late Fall 2006, on my first trip to Europe.
Being in Germany was a big deal for me – having been told my whole life that, being of German heritage, I had to go to Germany when I was older. Some of my early memories are of exploring the Christmas bazaar at the German hall. There were always handmade crafts, lots of food, singing and dancing. I didn’t know that it was the quiet offspring of a greater and older cultural event that happens every year in cities, towns and villages all over Germany.
I think I first understood the spirit of the German Weihnachtsmarkt in Dortmund. We were brought there by friends, who let it be known that you could not experience the market without having some Glühwein. The hot, mulled wine is served in keepsake mugs at the various markets. It keeps you warm, gives a wee buzz and leaves you with a memento of your time there. This would not be our only taste of Glühwein – I made a point of having some at both of the other markets we visited.
We spent most of our time at the market in Frankfurt am Main, once when it was first opening up and then again three weeks later, when it was in full swing. It’s a winding road of sights, sounds and smells, culminating in the square at Römerberg. This was the highlight for me – the Römer buildings look like something out of a fairytale, like they’re made of gingerbread or something.
Being a food girl, of course we had to try a bit of everything! We enjoyed some chocolate covered (real) marshmallows, giant cookies claiming “Ich Liebe Dich!” (aww, cookie, I love you too!), skewers of chocolate-covered fruit, sauerkraut and brats, and more!
One of the best things I ate had to be the Thüringer sausage, served from the weird swingy fire contraption from the photo above. Topped off with some fantastic strong mustard, it was heaven in a bun. Mind you, eating meat was a very strange thing for me in 2006, so indulging in a sausage was a bit novel.
Later in the trip, we had a free day in Köln, and headed right for Kölner Dom. Of course, there was a Weihnachtsmarkt right out front! First, we explored the cathedral, climbing higher and higher. The photo above, on the right, is the view of the market from one of the windows in the cathedral. Amazing views.
Köln had a number of markets, and you could get to them all on the train. The biggest was definitely Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, but there was also a neat Medieval market near the chocolate museum, and a few others. This was a great way to take a load off and see the markets and parts of Köln. Of course, I bought a pile of chocolate at the museum shop. It couldn’t be avoided.
Once it gets dark outside, the market becomes more magical. If anything, it’s busier, and the dark is broken by the lights coming from the various stalls, and Christmas decorations. A nice mug of Glühwein keeps you warm as you worm your way through the crowds, picking up some roasted almonds, baked goods, teas and crafts.