Tag Archives: christmas market

German Christmas markets 2011

Over the past few weeks in most German towns, little wooden huts have sprung up on squares and along the main shopping streets. Behind shutters we heard scuffling and hammering, mysterious bags and boxes were unloaded, cables laid, lights tested… wafts of aniseed and cinnamon and ginger…  a general air of mystery and excitment.

And now, this weekend most of the Christmas market stalls are finally opening up. The bratwurst and waffles are sizzling, the wine mulling, the stalls full of craftwork and sweetmeats are overflowing with novelties.

I walked through part of the Duisburg Christmas market yesterday lunchtime and got an impression of what they have to offer there… for a start the choice of food was surprising. One stall was just beginning to roast a whole hog…

Spit roast

Why settle for a Bratwurst when you could eat the whole pig?

Another was starting to flame-grill some salmon…

Salmon smoking

The smoking ban clearly doesn't extend to salmon...

Traditional sweets, nuts and candied fruits are everywhere…

Toasted Almonds

It wouldn't be Advent without toasted almonds

Being only a short distance from the Dutch border, there are plenty of specialities from the Netherlands too – sold from Dutch gabled huts

Poffertjes

Poffertjes are technically a Dutch speciality - but the Germans love them

I’m not entirely sure why there was a Viking ship in the town centre selling Glühwein – but it certainly stood out. I didn’t see any Vikings, and the figure of Saint Nicholas on board looked decidedly tipsy…

Glühwein stand

Glühwein served from a Viking longship? Well, I suppose it gets cold up North....

No Christmas market is complete without a German Christmas Pyramid. This one was a fine specimen because it actually has an integrated Glühwein stand…  no German city should be without one!

German Christmas Pyramid

Glühwein served from a German Christmas Pyramid

 

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Warning: Glühwein may seriously impede your fashion sense

It’s mid Advent in Germany, the Christmas markets are in full swing. And a worrying annual phenomenon is becoming apparent. The more Glühwein people drink, the worse their fashion sense becomes.

It all starts out quite innocuously. At the start of Advent, Germans look relatively similar to their all-year-round selves. They typically dress in a sensible, sober and sometimes even quite stylish fashion.

Step away from the Grog!

But note here… the slippery slope lurking in the background. The hot pots of Glühwein and Grog, the bottles with a Schuß of extra Christmas cheer… the wafting scent of cinnamon and aniseed…

After a Glühwein or two, possibly an Eierpunsch or a Grog, or even a dip into the Feuerzangenbowle… strange things start to happen. The first and most catastrophic is a total loss of fashion sense.

Under normal circumstances, this might not be a problem. But a Christmas market is packed with unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion-wares, waiting to pounce. Before the unsuspecting drinker knows it, they have blasted their entire Christmas budget on a range of ethnic knitwear, jewellery handcrafted from old tin cans and a tinsel Christmas-tree shaped hat to top it all.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Weihnachtsmarkt_Aachen_%28Markt%29.jpg

Unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion items

By late in the evening, Santa hats are de rigeur, along with strange colourful scarves and jackets which may once have hung as curtains in someone’s kitchen. The cluster of raucous revellers is oblivious to the fashion crimes which they are committing. They are only focused on the next Glühwein and whether the stall selling rainbow fingerless gloves with the tassels is still open.

So this advent, I’d just like to issue a sincere warning to all revellers. However tempting it may be…whatever you do… please, think of the children… just don’t drink and shop!

By Orin Zebest (Flickr: The Christmas Band) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every time you do, a kitten dies….

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German versus British beer drinking

I nearly died of a heart attack yesterday.

I was sitting, minding my own business in my office when Birgit suddenly piped up: “We should go down to the Christmas market next week – I’ll buy you a Glühwein.”

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frankfurt_Roemer_Weihnachtsmarkt_2004-11-28.JPG

Please observe and witness those words, readers. I’ll buy you a Glühwein. Spoken by a German. Not just any German, either. A Swabian. The legendary race of South German tightwads.

Is it any wonder that I was left reeling on my swivel chair, clutching my chest and gasping for air?

When I recovered the power of speech,  I enquired what had brought on this sudden and unexpected burst of generosity.  The response was no less extraordinary than the original offer.

“It’s my turn.”

Now, given that it’s been Birgit’s turn for the past twenty years, this came completely out of the blue. In the event that she actually goes through with the offer, I won’t know whether to drink the Glühwein or have it inscribed and display it in a cabinet.

You see, readers, there is a huge difference between British and German drinking culture. In Britain, when you go to the pub in a group, everyone takes turns to buy a round. In Germany, everyone buys their own drinks and pays for what they consumed themselves.

The problem for Brits arriving in Germany is that they make the fundamental error of opening the evening by getting a drink for everyone present.  The Germans are delighted. But it never occurs to them to buy you one in return. The British drinker will finish his beer and spend the next twenty minutes waiting in increasing agitation for one of the Germans to stick their hand in their pocket. Peering through the bottom of the empty glass at them will not work. Nor will pointed comments like: “Whose round is it?” Eventually the waiter will bring a beer over for the hapless Brit and mark his beermat with a line which means he will have to pay for that beer too at the end of the evening. He will descend into a sulk, the Germans will judge him a peevish lout and fifty years of improved international relations between Britain and Germany will have been wiped out in one single evening.

Wer soll das bezahlen? Wer hat das bestellt? Wer hat soviel Pinkepinke? Wer hat soviel Geld?

Of course the real reason why the beer-buying system is different in Germany and Britain is that German pubs have waiter service. In Britain, if everyone had to go themselves to the bar and buy their own drink, there would be a permanent rugby-scrum around the counter and nobody would ever get served. The act of buying for a group ensures that not everyone in the pub is permanently crowding around the bar.

In Germany, as the waiter comes to each table, they can mark each beermat quickly and efficiently and at the end of the evening it is simple to add up who drank how many glasses.  There is no pressure to keep up the pace with the heaviest drinkers. Everyone has as much or as little as they fancy.

But now I have Birgit offering against all odds to buy me a Glühwein. What am I to make of this? Is the entire edifice of a thousand years of German drinking culture collapsing around us? Is this the beginning of the end for the Fatherland?

More blog posts by Cathy Dobson can be found on Birds on the Blog

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