Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas markets

Of all things at Christmas time, Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets. On our train journey from London, we met people travelling to the Cologne Christmas markets -- some of the most acclaimed in the country -- specifically to do their Christmas shopping. The markets can apparently be found in just about every town, and attract crowds (no matter how freezing the temperature) to sample the edible delicacies and handcrafts and, perhaps most importantly, Gluhwein (mulled wine).

The Bonn Christmas market, located mainly in the town square, is a lovely market with all the prerequisite foodstuffs and handcrafts like ornaments and Christmas decorations carved from timber, engraved glass objects, paper star lanterns (complete with light globes inside) for hanging in windows at Christmas, porcelain ornaments, candle holders etc. It flows into adjoining pedestrian walkways and neighbouring squares, luring the visitor onwards through the quaint city centre. It was in the Bonn market that we sampled the delicious dampfnudel, a traditional German steamed dumpling, smothered in vanilla custard sauce and stewed plums.

We visited two of the Cologne markets today. The first nestles in the shadow of the Dom, Cologne's massive and impressive cathedral (see picture - not mine), and is perhaps slightly more diverse and higher quality than the Bonn market. Here, the kids rode the merry-go-round and the adults sampled gluhwein in ceramic mugs that we could keep. The weather was milder today at 1 degree C, and we all enjoyed perusing the many excellent stalls. (Alas, no dampfnudel to be found!)

We stumbled upon the second Cologne Christmas market, down a bit and around the corner, as we headed back to the station, the light fading and the lights twinkling in the dusk. We didn't have nearly enough time at this market, which looked at a glance to be the best of all of them! It seemed to have a multitude of stalls with interesting wares and different foods, and the night atmosphere with all the lights (including hundreds of lit Christmas trees) was truly spectacular.

So the German Christmas markets have lived up to expectation (unlike the Bruges effort, which was poor by comparison). The lights and snow and gluhwein and market stalls all combine to create a wonderful Christmas atmosphere that is unlike anything we have in Australia.

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