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An ethereal experience: Christmas markets in Germany

Aruna Rathod
Aruna Rathod

Freelance journalist, who believes one doesn't need magic to disappear but just a destination

Mumbai | Wed, November 30, 2016 | 02:18 pm
An ethereal experience: Christmas markets in Germany

It’s celebration time and the Christmas markets are set up all over Germany. (JP/Aruna Rathod)

Starting at the end of November, Christmas is the most cheerful season in Europe. Last year, I had the joy of experiencing the beautiful tradition of Christmas in Nuremberg, Germany.

It was cold, below 10 degrees during the day and almost zero at night. A visit to Germany at the end of November was a revelation – not only because of the freezing temperatures, but also the Christmas markets.

It’s celebration time and the Christmas markets are set up all over the country. Having been a tradition since the 18th century, these markets are visited every year not only by the locals, but by tourists from all over the world, for an authentic, traditional feel of Christmas.

While in the last week of November the markets only open after 5 p.m., in December they are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Christmas Eve, which is on Dec. 24, and then are wound up, so that the stall owners can enjoy Christmas.

A feast for the senses

Make sure you are dressed to beat the cold. When I ventured out it was dark by 5 p.m. and the festivities had already begun. Well-lit streets and stalls, dotted lights in the form of stars, angels and Christmas trees adorned the streets. Rows and rows of stalls selling homemade goodies, traditional toys and Christmas decorations were like a carnival. The Christmas season had begun.

Christmas souvenirs.(JP/Aruna Rathod)

There were couples who snuggled and walked in the chill, groups and families enjoying the roasted bratwurst (sausages), groups enjoying German beer in huge mugs and lots of laughter. The camaraderie was infectious.

Nuremberg has about 180 wooden stalls festooned with red-and-white cloth that gave the Christmas Market its name of "Little Town of Wood and Cloth". Each year stall holders present their traditional wares: Nuremberg spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, bakery goods, sweets and typical Christmas articles such as Christmas tree angels, cribs, Christmas tree ornaments, candles and toys, as well as many arts and crafts products. Some of the favorite souvenirs include the "Nuremberg Plum People": little figures made of prunes.

(Read also: Can sugar really make a child hyperactive?)

Bakery goods at the Christmas market.(JP/Aruna Rathod)

Something for everyone

The Christmas market in Nuremberg is in the Hauptmarkt Square in the old quarter. Kinderweihnacht is the children’s market and has an old-fashioned carousel, a Ferris wheel and a steam train. The Nativity scene trail runs between the two markets. The children’s market has an exclusive enclosure for children with rides, games and a Santa Claus who talks with them and gives them gifts. Children wait in queues at the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and puppet shows. Christmas was in the air.

Children wait in queues at the merry-go-round.(JP/Aruna Rathod)

As I walked around, it was difficult not to be jostled in a friendly way as I craned my neck to look at every stall. Colorful Christmas merchandise in glass and wood, gifts, beautiful candles, traditional crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, candles and lambskin shoes to place underneath the traditional Christmas tree – it was all there! I wanted to buy everything.

Mulled wine

The fragrance of delicious mulled wine called glühwein wafted in the air and I headed toward a stall that offered it. Served in a frosted glass mug that has a picture of a Christmas tree on it, the wine is hot and flavored with spice. The hot wine is a good idea as it warms you while you move around; make sure you hold it carefully because of the crowds! The bonus is you can keep the mug as a souvenir. Well warmed, I continue my jaunt to other stalls.

Aromas of hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and gingerbread biscuits known as Lebkuchen, marzipan figures and other sweets were tempting. The world over, Germany is the only country that has exclusive Christmas markets to bring in the joy of the festive season in a traditional way. To add to the festive atmosphere, there is music everywhere.

I took a ride on a traditional horse cart, which went through the old city on cobbled stones and passed by the magnificent church built in stone. The chilled air, the white smoke from chimneys, strains of music and aromas of sweets, roasted meat and mulled wine, made this ride magical and as I slept that night, I was excited and waited for Christmas day!

The wine is hot and flavored with spice.(Shutterstock/File)

Christmas markets at the airport

Munich offers more than 15 Christmas markets located throughout the city, including a Medieval Christmas Market with gospel singing at the Wittelsbacher Platz and a gay pink Christmas Market (Stephansplatz).

What was most amazing was Munich airport, where a beautiful Christmas market was set up in the terminal itself, offering ice-skating, stalls and a wonderful brewery if you wanted that last taste and sip of the famous German beer before heading for home.

 

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With a Master's Degree in English Literature from the University of Mumbai, Aruna began her career with a food magazine. Her passion for travel has taken her across the globe, to popular and off-beat destinations, enriching life with experiences, some told and written.  

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