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If you read our Untours blog and Eurozine newsletter or follow us on Facebook, you know we love the Christmas markets of Europe. We've been writing about them and sharing photos for years. For my part, I have gazed on colleagues' pictures, edited and produced their blog posts, and listened to their tales with envy.
But on my recent trip I got to experience the Christmas markets first hand. And I was not disappointed! The experience brought tears to my eyes. I was in Cologne, Germany on the opening day of their Christmas markets, and I was in bliss. Here are some scenes from our hours browsing the markets.
Costumed strollers (above) and skaters were on hand to enchant the crowds, circulating among shoppers and happily stopping for photos. The market attracts lots of families in daytime. Stalls selling candies and gingerbread hearts are a draw. But nothing has quite the appeal of a beautiful ice skating princess (see photo up top).
As dusk settled in, the ice skating rink was just getting populated with young and old skaters. The setup included skate rentals and lockers. On another rink nearby, people were curling. When we inquired, we found they were booked until late evening.
Mulled wine (gluhwein) is a staple of Christmas markets, a very civilzed way to stay warm. Red or white, served piping hot in a keepsake mug, this was the perfect touch. Stands sell all manner of drinks and food. Lots of sausage, tarte flambee, and raclette. All sorts of tasty treats for a snack or full meal!
Gnomes are a hallmark of this market, gracing every market stall and every sign. The setup stretched for several blocks and encompassed a ferris wheel and merry go round, along with its many many stalls of locally and hand-made goods. Whenever we needed something, we followed the gnome signs to find our way.
As evening set in, the market glowed. The trademark Moravian stars lit the nighttime sky, and shopping stalls glowed in wam light. The smells of dinner circulated as the after-work crowd meandered in. There was plenty of shopping, but it was so much more soulful than in a mall. The markets are a communal experience.
I hope each and every one of you gets to experience the charms of the European Christmas markets, whether on a Christmas river cruise or a visit to Alsace, Germany, or elsewhere in Europe. In the meantime, you can read more about Cathrin's favorite German markets.