I was born and raised in a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Naturally part of our annual celebration is Christmas. In fact, we are so obsessed with this holy day that as soon as the “ber” month starts, you could already hear Christmas carols in the air waves.
Commercial establishments start preparing their individual décor and I must admit, the country prides itself in decorations, nativity scenes, traditional songs and celebrations. The main thoroughfares have some of the best Christmas decorations in SE Asia.
This Philippine tradition have been passed on to me that even though that I am a convert Muslim living in a Buddhist country; I continue to celebrate Christmas through entertaining and decorating my home during the season. Growing up in this type of environment, you can just imagine my excitement when I had the chance to visit some of the best Christmas markets in Germany.
A thousand images of Christmas decoration often include drummer boy, trinkets, nativity set or people drinking glug sitting out in a cold winter especially at night. These visions I see is one of the compelling reasons for travelling to Germany in the winter season. The day I arrived the temperature was 6 degrees. For a girl from the tropics, this was cold but I have got to bear that if I wish to pursue my plan of hopping from one Christmas market to another. Still jet-lagged, I was taken to the nearest Munich Christmas market on Marienplatz. They say that this is the original and oldest Christmas market in Bavaria.
The mood was festive… too many people drinking a hot beverage they call gluehwein. Gluehwein is a German/Austrian winter drink. It looks so innocent because of the water, orange, cinnamon, and cloves concoction until they pour the red wine and heat until steaming. It’s supposed to be a warming drink but looking at the extremely happy result from everyone, I decided to order the virgin one. I was happy but not to the point of kissing or hugging everyone. I continued exploring the market, it has everything you need for a really happy Christmas celebration such as a variety of handmade items. The assortment of ancient German Christmas decorations like hand painted glass, different glass decors even sheepskin jackets to fresh chestnuts, Stollen and fruit cakes emanates a real festive Christmas. The various decorations were impressive but the real attraction was the giant Christmas tree covered with lights. That was just the beginning. The Munich Christmas Market will definitely lure you to stay a while, look around and taste their gluehwein, traditional delicacies and experience the locals’ culture and tradition.
The following night, I strolled the streets of Munich. A few steps from Marienplatz Square is I believe is the Nativity Market. This market is a feast to the eye. It has a variety of décor to complete a manger and authentically made from local crafts. Various nativity on display, you’ll have a hard time choosing which one to take home. The party like atmosphere with lively music, local bread made with nuts, dates, Stollen bread and the cool temperature is to me a truly white Christmas experience. My Christmas hopping has just started. I intend to visit as many Christmas markets as possible. At the former Bavarian seat of government, a farming village was recreated in the Emperor’s Court of the Munich Residence and made it into a Christmas market. It’s a cosy and bustling Christmas market. This is where the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales come to life in various stalls. Imagine all the best of Christmas and they seem to be here: handmade toys, music, gluhwein stalls all over the place, festive huts crammed with ornaments, grilled sausages, ham, and the best Christmas bread. I can stay here the whole night through because it’s a fun place, very enjoyable but the tormenting scourge of the cold wind wasn’t too convincing for me to stay longer.
Well, I spoke too soon. In another area came a very unique Christmas market. There were people in medieval costumes and the market is reminiscent of the past era. This was something new to me so I thought I won’t pass this chance. True to its name, Medieval Christmas Market, the area looks like a true medieval village. Vendors in almost a hundred stalls wearing historical costumes offer their goods for sale, the way they did ages ago. Local artists perform with music, juggling and whatever they feel like doing. Here, I was fascinated because it differs from other Christmas markets, there are basketmakers, rope makers, glassblowers all demonstrating their craft. The smell of Bratwurst being grilled is so tempting, and the highlight is a whole roasted pig… which was hard to resist as they taste so yummy indeed. People were friendlier and Glughwein has always been part of the celebration. I filled my stomach with virgin Gluehwein in order to endure the cold temperature on a rainy night. This Christmas market in Germany is one that shouldn’t be missed if you happen to travel to Germany during the Christmas season. I promise you a good time most especially if you are a historical buff.
I was still in awe for last night’s market experience but there are two more markets that I intend to visit. I was supposed to go first to Nuremberg Christmas Market but unfortunately, the train going there was on strike. My companion searched for an alternative one but that would also mean longer travelling time. I was there to explore so like a real trooper, we took the next train to Ulm. Ulm is a German state situated on the River Danube. It is the 7th biggest city in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and popularly known as the birthplace of Albert Einstein.
I had a bit of apprehension as I was traversing an unfamiliar area of Germany but with a lot of enthusiasm and sense of adventure, I said to myself, why not? It did not disappoint. Bright light and smell of freshly roasted nuts will get anyone in the mood to stroll around.
The Christmas market in Ulm is like a little town directly in front of the world largest church spire surrounded by wooden stalls selling crafts and toys for the old and young alike. They even have live animals in pens which was popular with children. The whole market was illuminated with happy friendly people and hundreds of beautifully decorated stalls, nativity sets, fairytale canopies and not to forget sausages on the grill and different kinds of bread, pastries and almonds. What a truly festive atmosphere that I will never forget for the rest of my life. This Chrismas Markets adventure is worth it and hope to be travel to that part of the world for another Christmas adventure. Fröhliche Weihnachten.