I hope everyone is having a good Christmas season! I’m going to skip ahead a little and write a bit about the Christmas markets which we’ve seen all over Germany this month, as well as over in London and Belgium. Christmas back home in Perth is usually all heat waves, barbecues, prawns and Pictionary matches with cousins. We decided to spend our first Northern hemisphere Christmas season in Germany, and I’m glad we did. So many Christmas traditions that we’ve imported to Australia make absolutely no sense in the extreme heat of December, but here where it’s winter it rings a lot more true. I don’t think I’d give up the blue skies and beaches every year, but it is nice to do once!
Christmas markets originated in Germany and Austria in the late Middle Ages, but we saw them in London and Belgium as well. Little wooden huts, often lavishly decorated, line the streets of the old town and sell mulled wine, sausages, crepes, wooden trinkets, candied nuts, gingerbread, local sweets, and Christmas decorations. In the evenings there are sometimes trumpeters or carol singers covering Christmas songs, and the surrounding beautiful old buildings and pine trees are lit up with fairy lights. It’s gotten a bit too warm for snow where we are currently in the Black Forest region, but in Dresden we had beautiful, softly falling snowflakes so big you can see their intricate patterns. It really is magical!
We’ve now seen Christmas markets in London, Brussels, Bruges, Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Freiburg and Gengenbach. Of these I think Dresden was the most picturesque (possibly due to the snow), Nuremberg has the best sweets and Christmas decorations, Stuttgart was the best all-rounder and Gengenbach had the best variation of glühwein (served with cherry liqueur and sour cherries). I think if you want to experience a ‘traditional’ Christmas, then Germany is the place to be!
- Glühwein – hot mulled wine, often just a bottle mixture which is then heated up, is served everywhere. In Germany it’s usually served in porcelain souvenir mugs, which you pay a deposit for and can get back afterwards if you decide not to keep it. Not everyone likes mulled wine, but I think it’s a nice hot drink to warm up with!
- Bratwursts are served everywhere, usually with the town’s own variations as well as the ubiquitous (and in my opinion, overrated) currywursts. Usually served with a small crusty bread roll. I don’t want to think about how many bratwursts I’ve consumed over the past few weeks.
- Candied nuts and chocolate covered fruits are also popular, although I’m not such a fan of the latter.
- Local specialties, such as stollen and fruit bread in Dresden, lebkuchen (gingerbread) in Nuremburg or magenbrot (spiced cookie caramalised in sugar) in Southern Germany are usually specific to their own markets.