The German Christmas markets were such a treat for us last year...I'd never seen anything like it. Dozens of little huts that look like traditional half-timbered houses are trucked into the pedestrian zones, and planted there for the whole month of December (seems like it starts earlier every year). The vendors in each hut then work awfully hard decorating them- stapling evergreen branches to them, hanging lights, making sure their glüwein sign is bigger than everyone else's...
Glüwein is the traditional drink of the Christmas season. It's a mulled, spiced wine that is served hot. I prefer the hot chocolate. There is also a German version of eggnog, which only I seem interested in having a non-alcoholic version of (is it really Christmas without eggnog?).
The food is the best part of these Christmas markets. Naturally there is bratwurst and a large selection of other pork foods (like always), hot soups, and the traditional decorated gingerbread hearts. My favorite are the huts that sell roasted almonds in every flavor you could think of (coconut is the best!).
Last year, a number of Bielefelders criticized the punyness of our own local weihnachtmarkt, so to broaden our horizons we branched out this year to see the two best-known Christmas markets in our state of North Rhine Westphalia- in the cities of Münster and Dortmund.
We had been to both cities before; Münster is a quaint city with beautiful old buildings pushed up next to unique, modern ones. There were huts everywhere and the crowds were very dense. Most of the markets are set up next to cathedrals, setting quite an impressive scene. Most of the huts sell the same sorts of things...food, ornaments, carved wooden trinkets...but occasionally you'll see something really odd, like boomerangs!
Dortmund is a bigger place, known for its shopping. At the center of the Weihnachtsmarkt was an enormous Christmas tree, which was really made up of hundreds of Christmas trees. There was a sign near it that said this was the largest Christmas tree in the world! The crowds here were CRAZY! It actually was a bit concerning; when you're sandwiched in between thousands of people, if suddenly there was any event that caused panic and people trying to get away, people could be trampled. They didn't seem concerned, though....just thousands of jolly Germans drinking their glüwein and forgetting the winter.
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