A visit to the largest authentic German Christmas market outside Germany
The spirit of Christmas has arrived, and we wanted our Master students, coming from countries like Malaya, Indonesia, Russia or China to have, some for the first time, a real European Christmas experience! And what a better place to do so than the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham?
Once we arrived, last Saturday afternoon, there it was… The whiff of mulled wine in the air, reminding everyone that this is a real Christmas Market! “Glühwein” (pronounced like GLUE-VINE) is red wine, heated with spices like cinnamon, lemon and sugar, cloves and some aniseed or vanilla. There was also an option for hot fruit punches, for those who are not keen on alcohol. One or the other, it is just the perfect drink for a cold winter!
It is so popular that some markets have special decorated cups for it, and that was the case in the Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, known to be “the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria”.
You could hear the “Cheeeeeeeers”, on Victoria Square, along with the band that kept on playing some of the most popular Christmas Greatest hits!
One look around was all it took to understand that the “Glühwein” was far from being the only special Christmas treat available.
Noses up, looking for that peculiar sweet and warm fragrance in the air, driving us all the way down to “New Street”: what was that? The roasted almonds! Once we start to go down that road, other temptations start to rise and dance just in front or our eyes and, again, our noses... Like the delicious smell of waffles tempting our taste buds. And this was just the beginning of a joyful, festive and romantic winter experience.
Along the road there was just so much to our delight: the pretzels, the schnitzels (a thin slice of meat fried in fat) and, of course, the “bratwurst” (the German sausage made from veal, beef, or most commonly pork).
Walking along the street, we spotted another band playing, so everybody could hum some more Christmas songs as we were crossing the handcrafted wooden decorations, the delicate glass baubles in the form of crystal lamps, the hand-crafted leatherwork, the toys and some jewellery. In other words, soak up all this Christmassy warmth atmosphere.
Birmingham comes alive every winter with the arrival of this Market and with both residents and visitors from across the UK and Europe.
So, this last Saturday afternoon was no exception. Before leaving this mystical place, some students still had time for the last exquisite gastronomic experience with a melting cheese and ham crepe (others preferred Nutella), a very creamy and colorful Berliner Pfannkuchen (a traditional German pastry like a doughnut) and some crispy chocolate-coated marshmallow treats.
The first historical record of the Frankfurt Christmas Market dates to the 14th century. The Christmas Market was usually held on the church square so people could wander round the Market after attending church.
The social aspect of the Christmas Market has survived till today. People still meet and get to warm up over a cup of Glühwein and treat them self’s with Christmas goodies.
So, Christmas it is around the corner! Find yourself a Market, warm up with a a mug of mulled wine and, most important of all, wherever you are, just find yourself a Merry Little Christmas! And as the Germans would say: Prost!