Tag Archives: Christmas

Ghosts of Christmas Markets Past

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Dortmund
The massive tree and drinking Glühwein with friends in Dortmund

My obsession with the German Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) began in late Fall 2006, on my first trip to Europe.

Being in Germany was a big deal for me – having been told my whole life that, being of German heritage, I had to go to Germany when I was older. Some of my early memories are of exploring the Christmas bazaar at the German hall. There were always handmade crafts, lots of food, singing and dancing. I didn’t know that it was the quiet offspring of a greater and older cultural event that happens every year in cities, towns and villages all over Germany.

I think I first understood the spirit of the German Weihnachtsmarkt in Dortmund. We were brought there by friends, who let it be known that you could not experience the market without having some Glühwein. The hot, mulled wine is served in keepsake mugs at the various markets. It keeps you warm, gives a wee buzz and leaves you with a memento of your time there. This would not be our only taste of Glühwein – I made a point of having some at both of the other markets we visited.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt
A winding market on cobblestone streets, and fairytale structures of Römerberg.

We spent most of our time at the market in Frankfurt am Main, once when it was first opening up and then again three weeks later, when it was in full swing. It’s a winding road of sights, sounds and smells, culminating in the square at Römerberg. This was the highlight for me – the Römer buildings look like something out of a fairytale, like they’re made of gingerbread or something.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Food
Some chocolate covered fruit kebabs, and some sausages and sauerkraut!

Being a food girl, of course we had to try a bit of everything! We enjoyed some chocolate covered (real) marshmallows, giant cookies claiming “Ich Liebe Dich!” (aww, cookie, I love you too!), skewers of chocolate-covered fruit, sauerkraut and brats, and more!

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Thüringer
Can’t go without a Thüringer, mit senf!

One of the best things I ate had to be the Thüringer sausage, served from the weird swingy fire contraption from the photo above. Topped off with some fantastic strong mustard, it was heaven in a bun. Mind you, eating meat was a very strange thing for me in 2006, so indulging in a sausage was a bit novel.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Kölner Dom
Kölner Dom – up the impressive Cathedral we go!

Later in the trip, we had a free day in Köln, and headed right for Kölner Dom. Of course, there was a Weihnachtsmarkt right out front! First, we explored the cathedral, climbing higher and higher. The photo above, on the right, is the view of the market from one of the windows in the cathedral. Amazing views.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln - Train
Take the train to the various Christmas Markets in Köln

Köln had a number of markets, and you could get to them all on the train. The biggest was definitely Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, but there was also a neat Medieval market near the chocolate museum, and a few others. This was a great way to take a load off and see the markets and parts of Köln. Of course, I bought a pile of chocolate at the museum shop. It couldn’t be avoided.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln 01
The Köln Weihnachtsmarkt, with the backdrop of Kölner Dom

Once it gets dark outside, the market becomes more magical. If anything, it’s busier, and the dark is broken by the lights coming from the various stalls, and Christmas decorations. A nice mug of Glühwein keeps you warm as you worm your way through the crowds, picking up some roasted almonds, baked goods, teas and crafts.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Koln - Steph
Me, at Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom

Ghosts of Christmas Markets Present

Distillery Xmas Market - Gooderham & Worts sign

This past weekend, we checked out the Christmas Market at the Distillery District… twice!

I’ve been craving a German Weihnachtsmarkt since we were in Germany in 2006. For a brief time, I was incredibly jealous of Vancouver for getting one this year. A couple of days later, I found out about the one here in Toronto, in the Distillery District.

Distillery Xmas Market - lights
Lots of lights and huts

Initially, I was hung up on the things I remembered of the German markets – things that were missing from ours (like real Glühwein, served in keepsake mugs). Once I got over that, I was able to relax and enjoy the environment and the spirit. The thing about this kind of Christmas market is that it seems to be missing much of the tackiness of the season that we normally can’t seem to escape. Something about the little wooden huts, the smell of the food and the sound of caroling is kind of relaxing and enjoyable – even when you’re standing out in the cold.

We went on Friday night, and then again on Saturday afternoon.

Distillery Xmas Market - Goodies
A very large gingerbread house, and some Xmas cupcakes.

There was fun to be had by all ages. Friday night, we definitely saw more adults milling about the beer garden, sampling some yummy Glenfiddich, Amarula and Weihenstephaner beer. Saturday afternoon was definitely for the kids, with some live reindeer, pretty ladies dressed as angels, and other family fun (in addition to the beer garden).

There was a variety of food available – mostly decadent treats, of course! The Sweet Escape even made a child-sized (real) gingerbread house. There was a sign to not touch, but I’m pretty sure there was a bite out of the side! I swear it wasn’t from me! The lineup for Soma was out the door and down the street (ridiculous!) on Saturday.

There were stollen, fruit cake, pfeffernüsse, marzipan pigs and all sorts of holiday baked goods. But that wasn’t what I was there for…

Distillery Xmas Market - Sausages and Beer
Sausages and Beer! (No, the sausages aren’t both mine)

Yup, I went in search of sausages. Initially, I was hoping to find some Thuringer sausages like we had in Frankfurt. Instead, we found some tasty Oktoberfest sausages. They hit the spot. Too bad they ran out of Sauerkraut on the Saturday!

Distillery Xmas Market - Raclette Fries
Distillery Xmas Market – Raclette Fries

One of the stalls was serving freshly melted Raclette cheese on top of French fries. You could smell it before you could see it – the cheese had a wee bit of stink to it, in a good way. It was gooey and tasty, just as expected.

Distillery Xmas Market - Raclette Making
Raclette Making

The guy making them had a pretty neat rig, too. There was a heating contraption that fit two blocks of cheese. They would melt the top layer of cheese, and he would scrape the melty goodness onto the fries. Pretty sweet! He was also serving up some choucroute (French for Sauerkraut, but no doubt prepared in its own way). I kinda wanted some cheese and coucroute on my fries, but I think that would have been an expensive box of fries!

In all, I think this was a valiant attempt at having a not-so-tacky Christmas event. If this can happen every year, I’m sure it can only get better.

Next week, a peek at the Ghosts of (my) Christmas Markets Past…

Until then, take a look at some other cities’ markets!