Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market

In Bosnia you don't get many of the decorations or music that go along with Christmas, so we were very happy to be in Germany for the days immediately after Christmas. When we lived in Europe before, our family came to love German Christmas markets. We visited them in Aachen, Monschaus, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Strausbourg (it may be in France, but it seemed German). Nobody does Christmas better than the people who invented the Christmas tree.

Berlin has fifty Christmas markets, but a lot of them close on Christmas Eve. One near the Sony Center had a toboggan ride, but we settled on Gendarmemarkt, despite its 1 Euro entrance charge.

On the outside stage, a folklore ballet troupe was performing a Russian folk tale that involved Father Frost, a witch who was repeatedly spanked, several dwarves who looked kind of like Mexican bandits, and a beautiful girl and a handsome prince. Eleanor wasn't the only one enchanted--we all loved it, despite having to stamp our feet and blow on our hands to keep out the bitter cold.

To our relief, there were inside heated stalls as well as outside ones. We went inside. I was suprised that there were just a few Christmas-themed stalls, but they had beautiful nativities. Eleanor, utterly fascinated, watched the wood cutter using a jigsaw to make Christmas tree ornaments for so long and with such attention that he eventually cut out a tiny cat and gave it, meowing, to her.

The other stalls had fascinating handcrafts, like leather purses shaped like pug's heads, toy boats made out of cans, and papier mache fish.

One of our favorite parts of Christmas markets is eating the treats. We buy small amounts of lots of different things and then share (another advantage of having a big family). We tried crepes with four different fillings, waffles with four different toppings, two kinds of sausages, candied almonds, hot chocolate, and hot apple juice.

As is common in most Christmas markets, if you pay a little extra you can keep the decorative mug your drink comes in as a souvenir. Every time we go to a Christmas market, we happily pay the surcharge and then promptly break the mug. We kept that tradition yet again. But collecting the mugs is a great idea, so if you go to a Christmas market, you should buy the mug and not break it.

And after the Christmas market, you should duck into Fassbender & Rausch, the chocolate shop across the street, to ogle at their models of famous Berlin landmarks and their amazing Christmas chocolate displays.

It was two days after Christmas when we visited Gendarmenmarkt, but we bounced with Christmas cheer all the way back to the car.

Friends of ours from Holland visited a German Christmas Market last month and posted photos that capture the spirit of it perfectly.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

We proudly displayed our smoking old man and nutcracker again this year. If you're not in Germany for the Christmas Markets, you ought to at least have family who does go and sends you great Christmas presents.