Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Markets in Germany

We are not going to write about cycling this week, but about something that is a major part of German life, a major export item: Christmas markets. After a recent study trip lasting two days the three of us,  Judith, I and a friend came to the conclusion that there are three types of Christmas market in Germany:
Big and Commercial
These are to be found in the big cities. Of course, they feature professional caterers' stands selling Glühwein (mulled wine) and variations on Bratwurst (grilled sausage). However the majority of stands sell Christmas trifles like Father Christmas hats, tree decorations and shiny glass globes. Most of the stalls are run by market tradespeople. This is normally the type of Christmas market found abroad, outside of Germany. I have not been to a German Christmas market in Britain for ten or so years, so I cannot comment on them, but in Germany in between the stands selling bling and Bratwursts there are a few craftsman selling items they made themselves. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are typical of these. The latter town has the advantage shops are open on Sundays in Advent. Some of these shops sell interesting hand crafted items of clothing. 
Medium sized and full of craftsmen and -women.
If you are interested in picking up interesting items made by artists and craftsmen then look at smaller places like Dinkelsbühl on the Romantic Road where craftspeople predominate though there is no shortage of stands selling hot wine and sausages. The food stands are more often that not run by local clubs.
Village Christmas markets
These are the most fun and the most ethnic. We went to Feuchtwangen on the Romantic Road on Saturday night. It had gone dark when we arrived. We walked through the dark cobbled medieval streets of the small town, down narrow alleys, across the market square and then turned in to the space between the town's two churches. It was an oasis of light in the darkness from the brightly trees strewn with lights on both sides. We stood at a table chatting to locals in a mixture of German and English drinking Glühwein (the rest) or hot cordial (me). The food was locally sourced and home made. The items on sale are simple handicrafts or foods. The profits went to charities, churches and local clubs from the Boy Scouts to the Model Railway Club. We had a very successful evening and in addition managed to visit a choral concert in the protestant church on the square. (On this evening I was the Designated Driver (DD).  I was not drinking, so Glühwein did not cause me to see the world through blurred rose coloured lenses.)
If you wanted to experience the spectrum of Christmas markets in Germany contact the Tourist Office in Feuchtwangen (www.feuchtwangen.de, touristinformation@feuchtwangen.de) or the Romantic Road Tourist Authority: www.romantischestrasse.de for more information. Both organisations will be pleased to help you up with hotel bookings and trips to  Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You would probably need a taxi or a hire car, though the latter brings with it the DD problem. The German police don't have warm Christmas feelings about driving over the limit. Glühwein gets you there quite quickly, before you notice.  Unfortunately public transport in this part of Bavaria is very sparse.
Disclaimer: We were not supported by any tourist organisation. We paid all our own expenses.

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