November 27, 2011

Glühwein anyone? The wonders of Christmas Markets...

I won't be original - [and the only one] - who would say that one of the best things about Christmas time is Christmas Market, or as they call it in Germany, where I've been exposed to my very first old school traditional Christmas market at the age 14 - Weihnachtsmarkt

Christmas Market, Union Square/NYC. A view from the top.

It was in Gottingen, a small German town (here's more on the town from my upclose and personal experience), where I first learned the joy of Christmas market traditions and which - up until this day - I consider the best Christmas markets in the world. I still very vividly recall - as it was yesterday - the smell of freshly made steamy Glühwein (Mulled wine) - [the memory of which is kept by my family in the glasses one can keep for paying an extra .50 Euro], Brätwurst (usually described the way the sausages are made - grilled or pan fried, and sometimes cooked in broth or beer) and Kartoffelpuffern (potato pancakes/cutlets deep fried in large pans of oil) - served with apple jam and/or sour cream. Those German Weihnachtsmarkts are very hard to beat. German tradition of Christmas markets goes back to Late Middle Ages, so, of course, I've been spoiled with the best from the beginning...


Not even in other countries and - now - in New York, I could find the Christmas market 'replicas' of the German kind, which brings nostalgia to me every Christmas time... I've seen the ones in Frankfurt and Dortmund as well, but the memories of the one in Gottingen are my favorite. Perhaps it also for the reason that once I was no longer 14 and went back to the town a few years ago, I was able to explore and experience it to the fullest - like an adult - with a glass of Glühwein that kept on coming...

The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. The Dresden Christmas market, first held in 1434, is one of the oldest Christmas markets. It attracts between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year and has over 250 stalls. The Bautzen Christmas market was even older, first being mentioned in records in 1384. However, the Vienna "December market" was a kind of forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294... 

In USA, I've only been exposed to many semi-Christmas markets, but only in NYC it felt more as a real Christmas market due to the fact that the weather permits it - it's not the same to experience a Christmas market in Texas, Florida and California, per say...And when it comes to the New York Christmas markets - my favorite one is on Union Square - they do a good job with it, offering 'goodies'  with a very New York 'flavor' - handmade jewelry, hot chocolate and cider, and crepes with banana and chocolate paste, but they are still missing the best 'components' of it all - hot wine and sausages! There's nothing like it, and in Germany, the locals stop by the stalls any time of the day for a cup of mulled wine - even on a work day during the work hours... When it's -10-20C degrees outside and you can see your breath, there is nothing like hot wine. It's almost a requirement!

Here is a visual tour of how NYC Christmas market compares to a German Weihachtsmarkt: and I'll be taking a memory tour with you as those are the photos I took one time or the other... 

What is your favorite Christmas market?

NYC, USA (November 2011)










Gottingen, Germany (December 2005)











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