We had heard a lot about how wonderful the Christmas markets would be before we ever left the United States to spend some time here in Germany. Even though the markets are just now being put together in Frankfurt and will be opening this Wednesday, we have already been to several Christmas markets as we have travelled the past couple of weeks. Obviously we will share posts on all of the food, wine, Glühwein, and various souvenirs, but we thought that we would share some things that we have observed that we were not told about and were not prepared for.
- The markets seem to be around all of the major attractions in the various cities and towns. While this can be awfully convenient in some respects, it does detract from the ability to truly absorb the sight that you are trying to see and photograph. Having all of the stalls in front of a cathedral or palace doesn’t make for ideal picture taking and sometimes one of the giant Christmas trees blocks the view completely. Add to it the extra crowds that come to the market on top of those visiting the attraction and it can feel quite claustrophobic.
- There can be multiple Christmas markets all going on at the same time in various parts of the city. It probably isn’t true of some of the smaller villages, but in the larger cities there can be many different Christmas markets. At this point, we have seen up to eight markets in one city, Köln (Cologne) and are not sure how many we will have in Frankfurt, but we have walked past two getting set up just in the old town area. In theory, it should keep down the crowds because they have multiple to choose from, but as far as we can tell, people go from one market to the next, so it doesn’t keep down the number of people you have to traverse through.
- The items sold are not often unique, hand-made, items, but tend to be the same items sold at each of the various markets. Obviously the markets are commercial, so it isn’t too surprising, but if you are hoping to find that perfect gift that can’t be found anyplace else, you will have to do some searching. It isn’t that there aren’t some truly special items that you can’t find anyplace else, but you will just have to take some time to figure out what is from a local artist and what is mass-produced.
- Not all Glühwein is the same. You have to be careful, some places will add rum or other liquor to the delicious, warming treat, making it even more likely to take you to a happy place. Often you can ask to have something added, but other times it is just added for you. Be careful, it can sneak up on you if you have a couple of glasses, but it will definitely put you in the holiday spirit.
- People don’t pay any attention to where they are walking. We see the same effect in airports and train stations, where people walk without looking where they are going, but they are especially bad in the markets. Perhaps it is all of the shiny lights making them look anywhere but in front of them, so don’t be surprised to have several people walk right into you as you make your way through the crowds. Don’t get us started about the parents with strollers who fall into this category, it is as though they use their children as battering rams to move through the crowds.
As we mentioned, we have already enjoyed some wonderful markets and are definitely looking forward to ones that are about to start here in Frankfurt. We will likely avoid them on the weekends, when the crowds will be even worse, and we wouldn’t be surprised if by the time Christmas actually gets here, we are a little tired of having to walk through the markets to get to some of the places we like to go. Unfortunately, the market in the town square is directly outside of our favorite watering hole, Alten Limpurg, and you can no longer even see the fountain and buildings from within restaurant.