Year Abroad, Part Five: Christmas Markets

One of the few things I’ve loved about Germany is all the Christmas markets I visited through December. So I thought, rather than boring you all with how I’m doing at uni, I’d focus on the positive and write my next (long overdue) year abroad post about the Weihnachtmärkte!

SchokolART: Internationales Tübinger Schokoladenfestival

This wasn’t really a Christmas market, but it felt pretty festive! The five-day event took place at the end of November and the beginning of December, and saw hundreds of chocolatiers gather for Germany’s biggest chocolate festival. I had no idea this event even existed until the tents started being erected a few days beforehand, and discovering that the town I’d chosen to study in hosts a chocolate festival felt a little like winning the jackpot!

Stalls sold truffles, and slabs of chocolate of various shapes and flavours. Hot chocolate was available at every corner, and wherever you went, you could always hear either the busker with the harp, or one of the groups of schoolchildren playing clarinets and violins. The whole of the Altstadt smelled of chocolate and was full of life and music – together, it all created quite a magical atmosphere. It reminded me very much of the markets that would take place in my book – no wonder I liked it so much!

I treated myself to a vegan hot chocolate (I am happy to report back to my vegan friends that it was likely better than any non-vegan hot chocolate I could’ve bought) and some cheese-flavoured truffles (I couldn’t resist trying a combination of my two favourite things! It sounds like a weird mix, but they were actually delicious!). I also bought some pizza-shaped chocolates as a Christmas present.

Reutlinger Weihnachtsmarkt

Reutlingen is one of the closest cities to Tübingen, being barely ten minutes away on the train. (A quick note on German trains: they’re so quiet! And there are double-decker ones!) I went with the student group StudIT (Students for International Tübingen). It was my first outing with them, so it was awkward at first as I didn’t know anyone, but I soon discovered that everyone was really friendly.

The Christmas market was in Reutlingen’s mostly-modern city centre, and was relatively small. We spent most of our time there standing around drinking Gluhwein, which was a nice opportunity to get to know the people I was with.

Once we finished our Gluhwein and finished looking around the market, we all went ice skating. I’d been hoping for an outdoor rink set up and decorated especially for Christmas, but instead we went to a pretty standard indoor rink, much like those common in England. Regardless of the slightly-less-Christmassy atmosphere, though, it was a lot of fun!

Tübinger Weihnachtsmarkt

Reutlingen’s Christmas market may not have impressed me as much as I’d have liked, but it was still good enough to leave me disappointed at Tübingen’s Christmas market. It took place over only one weekend, which meant it was incredibly busy, and the stalls were all in the same plain tents used for the chocolate market. There wasn’t a festive enough atmosphere to feel like an actual Christmas market. I wandered around, ending up trapped in the crowds a few times, ate a waffle and a skewer of chocolate-covered strawberries, and then left.






Esslinger Weihnachtsmarkt und Mittelaltermarkt

This market was undoubtedly my favourite. Once again, I went with StudIT; it was great to spend more time with the lovely people I’d met on our previous trip, and get to know some new people too! Esslingen is further away than Reutlingen – the train took between forty minutes and an hour to get there – but travelling the distance was definitely worth it!

Esslingen’s Altstadt, where the markets took place, had the same sort of quaint, traditionally German charm as Tübingen’s Altstadt. We entered the market through an archway of hedges of fairy lights, feeling like a gateway to another world, which immediately set the tone for an enchanting evening. At first, it appeared that the whole market was in one town square, which had me wondering how we’d spend two to three hours there, but the market was bigger than it looked. Once we’d started wandering – after some Gluhwein, of course! – we discovered that the Weihnachtsmarkt was full of hidden corners. The log cabin style stalls, topped with fake snow and surrounded on all sides by twinkling fairy lights, created a warm and festive atmosphere. It was just how I’d imagined a German Christmas market ought to be!

Entrance to the Mittelaltermarkt

As much as I loved this part of the market, though, I loved the medieval market more. Upon walking through a wooden red archway bearing a banner which read “Mittelaltermarkt” in gothic writing, the fairy lights and log cabins gave way to canvas tents and dim, coloured lanterns. Live folk music added to the atmosphere. Stalls sold medieval clothing, armour, and weapons, or jewellery and trinkets inspired by Celts, Vikings, and dragons. I’m sure anyone who knows me understands that this is my idea of heaven!

 

I’d really love to go back to Esslingen at Christmas one day – I could’ve spent hours longer there, especially in the Mittelaltermarkt!

München Weihnachtsmärkte

Since I spent only one day in Munich, I only went to a few of the city’s numerous Christmas markets. They were all in the traditional Weihnachtsmarkt style, like the ones in Esslingen, and sections of the markets were tucked away wherever they would fit – along side streets and in courtyards. I went to the Christkindlmarkt, in Marienplatz, first – it was full of little religious Christmas ornaments. It was pretty quiet at that time of day, too, which was nice.

The Mittelaltermarkt didn’t compare to Esslingen’s Mittelaltermarkt, though it might’ve had a better atmosphere if I hadn’t gone there as soon as it opened for the day!The woefully small crowd didn’t stop the first performance of an adaption of Robin Hood of the day from going ahead, though. Since the actors had to speak slowly and clearly both to be heard without microphones and to appeal to the children in the crowd, I actually managed to follow some of it! It was a fun, farcical sort of show which actually bore very little resemblance to the story of Robin Hood – unless Robin Hood ends with a double wedding and the sheriff living as happily ever after as Robin himself (or, considering that Robin was secretly Marion’s sister Princess Anne, herself).

Robin Hood and the Sheriff mid-duel

 

Munich

After I left the Mittelaltermarkt, I wandered past the Munich Residence to the English Gardens, and by the time I came back into the centre to find some late lunch, everything was much more crowded. Having completed my schedule for the whole day in just a few hours, I spent the rest of my time in Munich just wandering.

It was great to see some more of Germany, especially somewhere as famous as Munich!

That’s it for this update – I flew home for Christmas about a week after my daytrip to Munich, and am now back in Germany and at uni. Hopefully my next update won’t take so long as this one took!

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