as you might expect, i’ve been surrounded by christmas markets in every german town and city that i’ve visited in the past month. the christmas markets – weihnachtsmärkte – are a real focus from the last week of november up until christmas, with people visiting regularly to meet friends, enjoy the food and glühwein that is available as well as to stock up on gifts and baubles or go the fairground rides that are scattered among the stalls.
the largest markets i have visited have been in frankfurt and hamburg, which are both similar in that there is a concentration of stalls and activities in the main square in front of the town hall but also plenty of offshoots around the city centre, in side streets, squares and pretty much every open space where a small wooden hut can be plonked ready to share some festive love.
we also visited aschaffenburg, a small town nearby which had a lovely little market in schlossplatz in front of the city hall and the johannisburg palace, and a much smaller market in eschborn, which was along one little street and had a much less commercial feeling, with stalls being run by the local rotary group etc.
the food and drink available varies a little but not by that much. hot drinks are the focus with glühwein being most common – a spiced red or white version is almost always available but i also saw flavoured glühweins where fruit brandies gave an extra kick and a different flavour. egg nog is also available and in some cases slightly odd concoctions such as hot aperol (aperol spritz is a summer favourite but i can’t imagine it hot).
the food is often sweet – stollen, lebkuchen, gingerbread cookies with festive messages piped on in icing, chocolate-coated fruit, lots of traditional cakes plus popcorn and other candies – or deep fried. the most common deep fried foods involve potatoes – thin crips, french-fry style chips and kartoffelpuffer (a deep-fried potato pancake, usually served with apple puree).
wurst is also widely available – eaten as you’d expect peeking out of a small bread roll and smothered in ketchup or mustard that has been dispensed from enormous udder-like sauce containers - no retro squirty bottles here, it’s almost industrial in its approach!).
garlic mushrooms and plain/topped garlic breads are things i’ve seen in most markets. my favourite – and to be honest the only thing i’ve managed to eat more than a mouthful of as i’m not a fan of this kind of streetfood – is dinnele, small freshly baked flatbreads breads with a scattering of toppings and which reminds me of turkish pide.
there is also a abundance of hot sweet dishes – crepes with all sorts of fillings, as you’d expect, plus stodgy steamed puddings served with oodles of custard and jam
the weihnachtsmärkte are a lovely seasonal feature of life in germany (a good follow on to the summer of fests) and i’m looking forward to exploring further afield next year – nuremburg is often said to have the best market in germany and i’d also like to pop over the border to see strasbourg's christkindelmärik, which a friend absolutely fell in love with, when she visited it a few weeks ago.