There’s Christmas markets and Christmas markets……I’ve sampled a few. The ones that live up to my mind’s eye view of a traditional artisan market are a relatively quick train trip across France into Germany. Of course for me there’s the incentive of visiting my daughter in Dusseldorf and celebrating her birthday at this time of the year.
The German Christmas markets trace their history right back to the middle ages. The word Weihnachtsmarkt means Christmas fair and the opening of these markets signals the start of the Christmas season; Advent, being the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The cities and towns dress up their town square in its best Christmas illuminations and welcome the visitors. There are market stalls for traditional food and drinks like Gluhwein; hot mulled red wine (blows your cotton socks off!), or the tame non-alcoholic version, hot meaty stew served in a bread bowl, umpteen types of German sausage, potato fritters, stacks of mini pikelets, roasted chestnuts, soup, and heaps more.
Properly fuelled up you can browse the markets for all sorts of knick knacks. The traditional wooden Christmas decorations and nativity scenes are something else. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend away, and I have more Gluhwein souvenir mugs for my collection.
The reputation of the German Christmas markets, and the tourists they bring, has seen other cities join the party. There are now Christmas markets in Paris located between the TuileriesGarden and the Champs Elysees. I went along last year, excited to see them and came away totally disappointed after finding them to be largely commercial junk stalls along with fast food and candy-floss in amongst the occasional traditional fare.
Paris doesn’t need faux Christmas markets; the city has plenty of Christmassy delights and that’s what I will bring you next……see you soon.