One of the reasons we chose to go to Germany and Prague in the winter was to see the Christmas markets. Spurred on by beautiful images like the one below, as well as articles listing the Top Ten Christmas Markets in Germany, we dug out our cold weather gear (which is otherwise completely unnecessary in Portugal) and hopped on a jet to Berlin.
Turns out photographers are pretty good at turning something that’s merely good-looking into something amazing looking. We never quite saw any scene to match the above, but we were ultimately delighted in the overall experience anyway.
In fact, for me the Christmas markets returned a good portion of some good ol’ fashioned Christmas spirit into my heart. They are delightful places, with cheerful vendors selling things like chocolates made to look like tools, traditional German foods made in huge metal pots and stirred with large wooden paddles, as well as ornaments, clothing, assorted Christmas gifts, and Gluhwein, which is a popular drink staple of the markets.
(It’s a little known fact that Gluhwien was invented by Elmer Müller, an alcoholic sixth grader who snuck wine into school by pouring it into his paste jar. He rather enjoyed the taste, and so dubbed it “Gluhwein.” The name stuck, because, you know, it’s glue. Later on, he went on to invent Elmer’s Glue, but ironically, perhaps because they removed the wine, Elmer’s isn’t particularly edible.)*
Christmas markets are crowded with folks enjoying themselves by wandering through the booths, gazing at the beautiful decorations, skating in an ice rink, letting the kids ride a small train or other rides, shopping for gifts, hobnobbing with their friends in a very festive atmosphere, or helping each other pry their mouths back open after sucking down too much gluhwein.*
Christmas markets were originally a German and Central European tradition, but it’s slowly spreading around the world. Portugal is beginning to see a few of them; but it will probably never make it big in the US because as soon as you have Taco Bell booths or nativity scenes sponsored by Monsanto, all the charm goes out the window.
In our old hometown of Portland, Oregon, there is the Saturday Market, which has largely remained homespun and charming, and since it’s Portland, a little weird. Christmas markets in Germany are like the Saturday Market, except with a much more Christmassy atmosphere and no discernible aroma of marijuana.
Anyway, Merry Christmas to anyone reading this (everyone else can go suck lemons; just don’t tell them I said that), and here are the pictures!
One of the clever ways they allow you to walk around with Christmas mugs instead of messy paper or styrofoam cups is to serve it in one with a one or two euro deposit. You can either keep the mug for that price, or return it for a refund. We kept two of them as souvenirs of Germany. I kept the wife as a souvenir from the states.
The sign above this blacksmith says, “Below is a guy you don’t want to mess with.”* I took that advice and enthusiastically complimented him on his beautiful tattoo.*
“Engel” translates to “angel.” I gotta tell ya, the Germans are so efficient they knew ahead of time that my own personal angel would be standing there to have her picture taken. They of course took the sign down as soon as she walked away, its purpose having been served.*
The aforementioned chocolates in the shape of tools. It’s good to know where you can go if you have a chocolate screw that just won’t budge.
The various markets had different rides. This one not only had a Ferris Wheel (which looked waaay to cold to ride in near-freezing weather) but a skating rink as well. We saved both our own health and that of the other skaters by staying off the ice.
You can see the palpable relief on our faces after we both agreed not to go skating.
Christmas pyramids originated in Germany, so it’s no surprise that most of the markets had at least one gigantic one.
Some of the markets are built in or near tourist sites, in this case the Berlin TV tower, which was built by East Germany in the 1960s.
Some people accused me of marrying a trophy wife but I can assure you that despite her good looks, she is anything but. Here she proves it by not being the one who is an ornament.
The decor is top-notch. Very clean, consistent, and festive. They were all very crowded, but it was a good crowded. Everyone very much enjoyed themselves, except the people who had to wear ornaments all day.
We imbibed a variety of drinks such as hot cider, apple cider with rum, gluhwein, mulled wine, and of course beer.
Although I have to confess one of the beers I had was a Budweiser. Just wanted to see if it tasted different. Next time I go to Germany, it’s no ifs, ands, or Buds.
Here Carolyn demonstrates the proper way to eat a German wiener.
Some of the markets had cute performances with dancers or musicians. Or maybe it was performances with cute dancers. Because of the crowds, I couldn’t get close enough to tell.
The malls of course got into the spirit of things with lots of decor, but they can’t compete with the homespun charm of the Christmas markets.
Gigantic Santas and snowmen were popular decorations.
We’re now looking at pictures from the Dresden Christmas markets, I figured we might as well put all the Christmas market pictures together. By the way, you don’t go to these markets to lose weight.
This is as close as I could get to taking a Christmas market picture like they put on the internet. I’ll obviously never be a professional photographer, but you get the idea.
One funny little story from the Dresden market: we actually got recognized by someone from our appearance on House Hunters International. We overheard two men speaking English, and began to engage them in conversation when one of them looked at us and said, “I recognize you two from TV! You were on Househunters or something weren’t you?” Man, we went all the way to Germany to avoid all the paparazzi, and we still get recognized!
Even if you’re not in the market for Christmas decor, the booths are delightful, colorful, and very well stocked.
And the food choices are almost limitless, many of which are especially present-worthy.
Hard to image a scene and atmosphere that is more Christmassy in spirit than these markets!
The Dresdner (Dresden) Striezelmarkt is one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world. Founded as a one-day market in 1434, it celebrated its 584th anniversary in 2018. It now has about 240 booths, and attracts about 3 million visitors. With two Americans living in Portugal added to the tally, it’s now 3,000,002.
The inevitable Christmas Pyramid in Dresden.
This guy was frozen in 1426 in the hopes that more advanced technology would be able to cure what killed him.*
Since this is what he might look like after being defrosted, they decided to keep him frozen. Besides and ironically, curing sword stabs is a medical art that has now been lost to history, so that frozen knight is completely screwed.*
After a hard day of wandering through Christmas markets, it’s time to sit down with a glass of wine. Or just because it was wine-thirty.
The famous Smurf Christmas Tree.*
The sight of her digging into her purse or me into my wallet was a common one since we just had to sample so many of the delights. I think we each gained ten kilometers as a result.* See how much easier metric is?
As you can tell by the presence of a panda, we’re now in Prague. That’s a non sequitur, which is sometimes used to create humor. Hey, we all get a ribbon for trying, don’t we?
We got a frosty reception in our first visit to Prague. Guess we’ll have to try again in the summer.
The Christmas markets we saw in Prague were not quite as delightful or crowded as they were in Germany. Maybe that’s because most of the booths didn’t accept Czechs as payment. Bah dum dum.
Don’t get me wrong, the Christmas markets in Prague were still great. It may just be that the buildings around Prague were so beautiful and amazing they overshadowed the Christmas market decor.
I think this picture demonstrates that.
This guy shook his finger at me after I took this picture. Apparently no pictures allowed. I have no idea why, it’s not like he’s using some sort of secret advanced technology. Joke’s on him though. Not only did I keep the picture, but now it’s all over the internet, being viewed by some 3,214,345 readers! Give or take 3,214,341.
Praha is how the Czechs say Prague. I wish we didn’t change the city names for each language. Shouldn’t every other language pronounce another country’s city names using the original names its own country gives them? In European languages alone, below are all the ways you would say “Lisboa.” What’s wrong with just saying Lisboa? Sheesh!
Bulgarian: Лисабон (pronounced Jhshplongooocaaooh)
Greek: Λισαβόνα (Lisavóna)
Norwegian: Lisboa (Thank you Norwegians for keeping it the same!)
Russia: Лиссабон (Lissabon)
Serbian: Лисабон (Lisabon)
Ukrainian: Лісабон (Lisabon)
Yiddish: ליסבאָן (pronounced “Oy vay!”
All I want for Christmas is fewer words in different languages! Since I’m endeavoring to learn Portuguese, I have a selfish reason for that request. Oy vay, there are just too many damn words to memorize.
* An asterisk indicates that I completely made up the statement that precedes it.