Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas market in Essen, Germany, 2013

Bridget and Cindy, Essen
Since our daughter Bridget moved to Germany more than 20 years ago, we have tried to have someone from the family visit each year.

A highlight is visiting the Christmas markets.

The Germans transform their town centers into winter wonderlands of lights with open-air feasting, shopping and live music.

German Christmas markets are commercial, no doubt. But they are commercial in a more picturesque way than we do it in the U.S. The Brits have tried to imitate them. I sampled Manchester's version a few years ago. But they don't get it right.

This year we took a 10-minute train ride into Essen, not a big place by any means, and we saw hundreds of little gabled shops set up in the pedestrian malls that make up the heart of the town center.

Town center, Essen, with Christmas shops and lights.
Overhead were huge religious images composed of colored lights as well as giant globes of starry ornaments.

I have fond memories of snowy Munich and Stuttgart in other years. The Germans carve large green spaces out of the center of their cities for parks. You can walk or bike for miles. People don't curse the weather. They bask in it. The Christmas markets are part of that outdoor experience.

At the center of this image, the Three Kings. Taken from the upper level of a bookstore.
You can buy all kinds of baked goods, candies, roasted sausages (wurst), pommes frites (french fries), and steaming cups of sweetened spicy wine called gluehwein. Of course, they had beer.

All takes place in the open air, which is part of the charm. Children run around and beg their parents for treats.

Miniature town on display. Houses for sale. What is the boy imagining? What will he remember?
Bridget bought some gifts -- lovely thick woolen socks, scented soaps, some books. She also picked up some smoked trout for dinner.

Along the way we had some curry wurst and a light, puffy pastry with powdered sugar. Later, at Bridget's apartment, she and Cindy prepared a kale salad and a rich pumpkin soup.

Cindy loves this quintessential Christmas market stall, with its half-timber styling.
Hansel and Gretel are surely inside of this shop. 

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