Christmas greetings everyone! I’m sure this will find most of you enjoying the warmer weather and gearing up for a hot Christmas at the beach! We really are a world away from the Aussie Xmas here in Germany. Over the last month, we’ve watched the Autumn leaves fall from the trees, the festival of the Christmas markets begin and we even had snow over the last couple of weekends (which kind of made up for how bitterly cold it’s been). We’re heading to Vienna for Christmas, which is even colder than here, so here’s hoping for a white Christmas 🙂
Over the last month, we’ve had some visitors which has been great – Sheridan came to visit in November – perfect timing for the beautiful Autumn colours, and Danny and Sylvia were here the past couple of days and we spent most of our time at the Frankfurt Christmas markets 🙂
At the end of November we took a short trip to England to visit Tim’s Grandad near Cheshire and for Tim’s Uncle’s 60th birthday in Oxford. We checked out Cheshire and Stratford Upon Avon on the way, and had a quick look around Oxford before the birthday party, including a quick stop at Oxford’s oldest pub, The Bear, built in 1242!
Since November the change in seasons has been incredibly fast – one minute the trees were covered in beautiful Autumn coloured leaves, and over about a 2 week period the temperature dropped to around 0 degrees or less, all the leaves fell and then we had a couple of big snow falls (although not enough to keep Frankfurt permanently covered in snow unfortunately).
Here’s our balcony on 12 November and the second photo was taken on 2 December:
The German Christmas markets (‘Weihnachtsmarkt’) have been in full swing over the last few weeks and just about every town has their own Christmas market. They’re really into all things Christmas here, which is just awesome! There are lots of traditions, like the Adventskranze, which is a wreath, usually decorated with flowers or Christmas decorations, with four candles mounted on top and evenly spaced around the wreath. You light the first candle from the first Sunday of December, the second candle from the second Sunday of December and so on. On the last Sunday before Christmas all four candles are lit together. Everyone has Advents Calendars here too, with a Christmas treat every day from the 1st up to the 24th December. We have ourselves a Lindt calendar with a chocolate a day – kind of cheating as I think you’re supposed to put some thought into buying little gifts for each day of December…
Back to the main attraction though – the Christmas markets… We’ve been on quite the Christmas market tour over the past few weeks! There’s a big Christmas market in Frankfurt in the old city, open every day, and we’ve visited a few markets in nearby towns Weisbaden, Mainz and Dreieichenhain.
The Frankfurt market features a massive Christmas tree in the centre of Romer square, in front of the town hall. The tree is real and was transported in by truck and mounted in the cobble stoned area of the old city in mid November. Six men in a crane then spent the next week putting up the Christmas tree lights!
The Wiesbaden markets featured large flower lights that could be seen from anywhere in the market:
Dreieichenhain was a really cute market set in a small old town build next to a ruined castle. We went there a couple of weeks ago and it was snowing all day, making the whole village look like it was taken straight from a fairy tale.
Last weekend we met up with some friends from London in Cologne (or Koln in Deutsch). The city has 6 different markets so we spent about 10 hours market hopping and finished up at the cathedral markets.
The market at the Cologne cathedral was incredible, with a blanket of fairy lights covering most of the market:
All of the markets are pretty amazing and there’s such a buzz as you walk around. They’re all open air markets usually with the town hall or the city cathedral as the backdrop. There are so many stores selling Christmas food and drinks: there’s Lebkuchen (gingerbread), gebrannte Mandeln (toasted almonds), Waffeln (waffles), Maroni (sweet chestnuts), Bratkartoffel (baked potatoes), Bratwurst (fried sausages) and, of course, hot Glühwein (mulled wine). There’s also lots of Christmas gifts, many of which are hand-made or produced by independent artists etc.The detail that goes into the Christmas decorations is amazing – you could go crazy buying up on all the different Christmas decorations! I’ve lost count how many times we’ve been to the Frankfurt markets now – and I’m still noticing more things for sale each time I go.
My favourite ‘novelty’ food is the Schokolade Werkzeug (chocolate work tools) which look like metal tools, blades, keys, locks, hammers, bolts and even a life size camera, but are actually made of rich dark chocolate!
A practical demonstration from the expert on how to screw the chocolate nuts and bolts together!
Each time we’ve been to the markets we’ve discovered new types of Christmas drinks – usually variations on the standard Glühwein (which is a warm red wine drink with cinnamon and other spices added to it). When Glühwein just isn’t cutting it, there’s Feuerzangenbowle – made the same way as Glühwein but with a rum-soaked sugarloaf suspended above the wine, that is set on fire and gradually drips into the wine making it much stronger than the standard Glühwein. There’s also Heisse Apfelwein (hot apple wine), and other types of fruit wine using cherries or blueberries. Each market also has it’s own Christmas mug which all of the Christmas drinks are served in, and I know quite a few people who have started their own collection of Christmas mugs. After 6 different mugs for each market in Cologne, the collections are off to a healthy start!
Here’s a mini Feuerzangenbowle, with the sugar about to be lit:
I’ve put together a gallery below of all the Christmas market photos, as there’s a lot! Just click on each photo to enlarge and view in a slideshow.
We’re heading to Vienna tomorrow, which we’re told has around 13 different Christmas markets (and probably a different Christmas mug at each one…)! We’re also meeting up with some of Tim’s family while we’re in Vienna, which will be nice.
We’ll be thinking of you all over Christmas, and all the best for the New Year!