From the last weekend in November until the 24th of December cities all over Germany transform into Christmas wonderlands called Weihnachtmarkts (Christmas Markets in English). They push together little wooden sheds decorated with lights and boughs of pine into a square and sell trinkets and presents and giant bratwurst and gluhwein.
Gluhwein is kind of like a sangria except it’s served hot. It’s a nice way to warm yourself up, both because it’s hot and because of its alcohol content. The cool thing is that they serve it in cute little Christmas mugs that are unique to the markt. The price you pay includes a deposit for the cup which you get back when you return it. But if you want a super easy (and cheap) souvenir, you can keep it! Most cities have special cups personalized for that city and sometimes with the year printed on it.
While I found that most of the product sold is the same at the Markts that I visited, the size and themes vary. At one of the biggest markets, Stuttgart, the stalls are decorated much grander than those in Regensburg. Stuttgart, for example, is one of the biggest Markets in the country. The stalls wind through the streets of the altstadt (old town), there’s an ice skating rink and the windows of the Rat Haus (City Hall) are turned into a giant Advent Calendar.
In the medieval town of Esslingen just outside of Stuttgart was my favorite of the Markets I visited. Wander the through the town down the narrow, cobbled streets and you’ll find games like ax throwing, archery, candle making, and a even a hand turned wooden ferris wheel. Many of the vendors dress up in costumes and there was even a beggar dressed in rags and walking around without shoes on.
Without a doubt, the Christmas Market season is my very favorite thing about Germany. When I was feeling down, a trip to Christmas-town was the exact pick me up I needed. You can look at all the things for sale, hear choirs sing Christmas music or just people watch. And for a few euros you can get a giant bratwurst or a bit of Gluhwien to fill your tummy and warm your spirits.
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