Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weihnachtsmarkt Review

I know I haven't updated the blog since September...the thing is that this blog started as an Expat Chronicle, but I've lived abroad for such a long time it's starting to feel like old hat.  Ryan and I are just used to the oddities of living abroad; the endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy, as well as the more charming aspects like the holidays.

I'm enjoying my third Christmas season in Germany, and as a veteran of the traditions (which you can read about here) I feel inclined to offer an American perspective on Christmas Markets.  Our giant Frankfurt Christmas Market opened last week and Ryan and I took the opportunity to visit the Frankfurt Market as well as a smaller one in Bad Homburg, about 20 minutes north of Frankfurt.  In the past I've also visited several Christmas markets in Munich, Berlin, and the famous Nuremberg market, so I'm basically an expert.

Your first experience in a Christmas market is definitely magical.  Here are row after row of tiny cabins purveying all manner of German handicraft, good cheap food, and most importantly hot mulled wine.  The lights, choir concerts, and nativity scenes warm the cold night.  That is the epitome of the Christmas market experience, and if you're lucky enough, you could probably experience it several times.  But there is a downside of Christmas markets: freezing temperatures, insane crowds, horribly schlocky booths, and worst of all-- wet feet.

This year we prepared ourselves.  We donned long underwear, several shirts, and generally as many layers as possible, as well as water-proof hiking boots.  But my main weakness is always the crowds.  I don't know if this is because I come from the land of open spaces, where our nearest neighbors were several acres away, or if it indicates a deeper psychological problem, but I hate crowds.  I hate slow people walking in front of me, I hate people bumping into me; basically crowds drive me into an illogical rage..or if not rage, then definitely a grump.  So Saturday afternoon was pretty much the worst time we could've picked for visiting the Frankfurt market.  We managed to cross a few gifts off our list, but it was a bit of a headache.  Even my Nutella-covered waffle was cold!

Now Ryan is a genuine Christmas market fiend.  When he suggested heading out to another market after our Frankfurt experience, I thought he was crazy.  But we drove up to Bad Homburg early Sunday afternoon and had quite a different experience.  The market is much smaller, and located in a castle.  There are fewer booths, but everything was very high quality, and we found things we hadn't seen in Frankfurt or at any other Christmas market.  We also enjoyed a walk around Bad Homburg, including the castle grounds and the gigantic neo-Byzantine/neo-Romanesque church.  I have to say, I think this is my favorite Christmas market of all.

And I'm glad to know that after all this time, Germany can still surprise.  I don't know how much longer we'll stay here, but as long as we do I'll try to keep looking for new discoveries.