Hello and Frohe Weihnachten! Whilst I’ve noticed several posts from my fellow Erasmus students detailing the joys of European Christmas markets in their respective countries, I am yet to see anything regarding Germany, which as most know is the creator and reigning queen of Christmas markets, with the mother of all Christmas markets being held here in Berlin, as well as several equally impressive and vast markets claiming city centers in Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne and Munich. These markets aren’t the dinky affairs you may be used to in the UK, where the most you can typically expect outside of Birmingham is a few sad-looking tents selling stale Stollen and charging £8 for a half-pint of German beer – here in Deutschland they go all-out, and the community of market veterans and entrepreneurs responsible for making these markets happen seem determined to make you as full as possible on rich German food, drunk on very strong and tasty German beer, and absolutely bursting with festive cheer, all for a fraction of the prices charged at the poor imitations in most U.K cities (it should also be noted that the Hamburg and Alexanderplatz markets here make even the famous Birmingham market look sad and provincial in comparison).
If you find yourself in Berlin this holiday season, you could come here for a week and do a different Christmas market every night and still not have done all of the biggest ones in town, with the most extravagant and varied markets being found in Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Neukölln and Gendarmenmarkt. Should you be lucky enough to experience these places, I would recommend starving yourself in the hours before your visit so that your stomach has some room for as much of the delicious, high quality and heart-attack-inducing as possible, such a wide variety of bratwurst sausages, giant turkey legs, gut-busting hog roast sandwiches, crispy frites drenched in sauce, and sweet treats such as two foot long crepes, decadent German schokolade, and of course some Stollen cake. Once you’ve had your fill you’ll need to wash it down either with a massive stein of the previously mentioned Bavarian beer, or warm your entire body with mug of hot (and very strong) Gluhwein. These markets tend to be the size of your average small town, and often host thousands of people and sometimes hundreds of stalls, so you’ll certainly not be lacking in choice. Most of the biggest markets also have large funfairs complete with rollercoasters, ferris wheels, ghost trains, dodgems and sinister physics-defying contraptions with ominous names like ‘The Destroyer’ or ‘The Wheel of Death’ or ‘Endgame’ – so I would certainly recommend trying these before you’ve stuffed yourself with fried lard and booze.
Most importantly (for me) is that the markets are absolutely ideal for picking up a cheap and thoughtful German present to bring home, with the myriad of stalls selling gifts for everyone, from decorations, to toys, to souvenirs, to surprisingly-hip handmade clothing, to books and of course necessary home-ware such as a two litre Bavarian beer stein and of course a not-at-all-OTT Weihnachspyramide.
That’s all for the moment and I hope this account of Christmas in Germany will persuade you to experience them for yourself before the holiday season ends, as it really is something everyone must do in their lifetime! Tschus!