I was in Berlin this past week, getting a huge dose of art and culture — something I’m starved for on my small Mediterranean island.
I went there to soak up the gritty feel of the city, and to hang out in museums and small galleries. But I also ended up wandering through a bunch of Christmas markets. They were everywhere. And they had good food.
The Christmas Market tradition goes all the way back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking areas of Europe. It’s normally held during the four weeks of Advent, leading up to December 25th.
I’m an unapologetic Scrooge when it comes to all things Christmas. Especially the overhyped North American consumer craze version. And you won’t catch me putting in a yearly appearance at a church just for the midnight mass atmosphere, either.
But even if you’re a ho-ho-humbug like me, a German Christmas market is still worth checking out. There’s a chill in the air, a scent of woodsmoke hovering around the edges, and enough food and drink to stuff even the hungriest turkey.
Stalls are normally set up in a town square, and they sometimes spill over into neighbouring streets. Stalls sell ornaments, furry hats, food and drink. And most markets have singing and dancing entertainers too.
We bumped into these things — and we usually stumbled out — all over Berlin. From the jam packed gathering at Gendarmenmarkt to a smaller and more pleasant market on the Unter den Linden at Opernpalais, to the glittering lights of Potsdamer Platz. And a bunch more in between.
The highlight was of course Glühwein — hot wine spiced with cinnamon, aniseed, cloves, citrus, sugar, and sometimes with a shot of brandy thrown in for extra warmth.
I also ate delicious bratwurst covered in mustard, roasted chestnuts, bite-sized donuts, pretzels filled with cream cheese and chives, Flammkuchen (thin bread dough baked in a stone oven and topped with creamy white cheese, green onion and chunks of meat), and more.
There were also liquorice stalls, stalls selling candied nuts, crepes, candy apples, baked apples, and nougat… More treats than I could sample in a week in the city.
I’ll have a lot more stuff to say about Berlin in my next blog. It’s an amazing city.
But for now, please enjoy these photos of traditional German Christmas markets, Berlin-style.
Ho ho ho etc.
Photos ©Tomoko Goto 2013