Christmas Markets: Bonn

December’s here! And with it, comes the most wonderful time of the year! Those of you who’ve followed the blog for a little longer, know that every year I like to visit the Christmas Markets from the region. This year I moved to a different state, which means there are plenty of new Markets to visit. This time, I started the Market season with Bonn.

Bonn is a beautiful city located by the Rhine in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was the provisional capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and, after the German reunification, it served as the seat of government until 1999.

The Bonn Christmas Market is a lot bigger than the markets I usually visit. Instead of being limited to the central square, it is spread throughout the city center and the different squares are connected through well-lit streets with fewer stands.

For the lovers of music and of all things bright and beautiful, Bonn is the natal city of the great Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in December 1770. A fun fact about him is that no one knows the exact date of his birth. He was baptized on the 17th of December, which is why some think that he was born on the 16th, but nobody has been able to prove it.

The city is particularly proud of Ludwig, which is why his image is virtually everywhere. In the form of a statue at the main square, on the souvenirs sold at the shops, on my glasses’ case, on some traffic lights, and, of course, on the market’s mugs.

I’ve been going to Christmas markets for four years now and, yeah, they all pretty much have the same things. I never get bored, though, and depending on the size of the market, you might find some variety in the products. The bigger markets have a wider range of beverages, they definitely step-up their decoration game, they offer more international products, and they have lots and lots of food.

There’s always Bratwurst, there’s Glühwein (one day I’ll share with you my recipe), there’re crêpes, caramelized walnuts, lots of chocolates, and lamps and stars and wooden accessories for the home.

What I like the most about the markets is that, it doesn’t matter that every year’s the same, there are always people willing to go see, eat, and drink… especially drink.

As always, I went there around five o’clock, when most people are still working and I can take my pictures without annoying anyone or without bumping into drunk Glühwein enthusiasts, who each year take it upon themselves to drink their weight in wine.

A friend from university offered to come with me and he was patient enough to wait with a smile while I took all my pictures.

We visited the whole market, walked all the streets, saw all the stands, and enjoyed all the colors, the smells, and the flavors. I always like to buy roasted chestnuts to eat while I walk.

The last market stand we went to was at the end of the market. It was inside a wooden Christmas pyramid and it offered many types of Glühwein, complimentary cookies, and, to my surprise, had a very particular kind of music. It wasn’t Christmas music, nor was it German music.

It was none other than Luis Miguel, the famous Mexican singer, beloved by the masses, known by the nation, protagonist of his own Netflix series, king of 90s romance, melter of Mexican hearts, and official ambassador to all things cheesy.

As expected, we ordered a Glühwein, ate some cookies, had a nice chat, and returned the mugs at the end.

What about you? Are you in the Christmas spirit already? What are your projects this season? Leave a comment!

Christmas Markets: Goslar

Goslar is a beautiful historic town in Lower Saxony located at the skirts of the Harz mountains. It’s one of the places I love the most in Germany, not only because it’s pretty, but also because it’s where I spent many weekends when I was 16 years old.

This Christmas Market is known as one of the prettiest in Germany. Every year, people from all the state pick a weekend to go see it and enjoy the lights, the trees, the food and the Glühwein.

It has a “forest” section, which is basically a ring of pine trees that surround a zone with a floor made of wood dust, and some tables where people go to have a drink “in the woods.” I tried taking a picture from the inside, but it was too dark.

This time I decided to take pictures of the inside of the stands, since you’ve already seen the outside and it’s fun to see what else they sell.

Wooden candle trees with the Christmas story are quite popular in Germany. People tend to place them by the window and I get to see the different shapes and sizes when I walk by.

Some stands sell objects that have nothing to do with Christmas, such as small sized cars, goblins, fairies, and other figures. Some objects are toys, some are just decorative.

The Chocolate Work Tools stand is also quite fun. The tools look like rusted hammers, nails, wrenches/spanners, but they’re completely made of chocolate.

There are the typical decorative and aromatic candles in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors.

There are heart-shaped ginger cookies, chocolate-covered fruits, caramelized almonds, cotton candy and candy canes.

There are hand painted ornaments made of glass, metal and wood.

And there’s the food. This time we stopped by a ‘Hungarian Specialties’ stand that was selling Kürtőskalács (“chimney cake”). A different kind of cake made of flour, water, yeast and cinnamon.

It’s basically a strip spun and wrapped around a truncated baking spit, which is covered with butter and sugar, and roasted on an open fire or in a special oven.

The crust becomes crispy, but the inside stays soft. You can add other ingredients such as hazelnut, cinnamon, chocolate or more sugar.

It’s called chimney cake because of its shape and because of the steam that comes out of it.

Either because of the memories, the cafés, the beautiful buildings, or the particularly funny garlands, visiting Goslar is always a joy.

Christmas Markets: Bremen

Yesterday I spent the whole day sitting inside an airplane, with numb legs, an uncomfortable back and too many cups of coffee, but thank God this year I get to spend Christmas with my family again. The best part is that we’ll spend it in one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, but I will tell you about that some other day.

For now, it is only fair that I share with you the pictures of the second Christmas market I went to.

The Sögerstrasse is the street that takes you directly to the central square, during this season, walking through it is a joy.

I love the way Germans take their Christmas lights seriously and really put a lot of effort into their decorations. The lights, the trees, the ornaments and the whole atmosphere almost make me forget it’s cold outside.

It was five thirty in the afternoon, the sky was completely black, the square was full of lights and the multitudes were going from one stand to another. Because it’s Bremen, the Christmas market has more visitors than others. However, if you arrive early, you may just have a shot at buying something delicious without having people pushing you out of the way. It’s not that they mean it, but there are just so many that it’s kind of inevitable.

 IMG_2869

This market surrounds the cathedral and is divided by the tramlines. The tram has to be extra careful during the Christmas market season, since there are little children, senior citizens and a lot of drunk people. Seriously, it’s like they go to drink all the punch in one night and by the end of their stay they can barely walk.

In every Christmas market there’s at least one or two amusement rides, all completely covered in lights or decorated with Christmas motifs. They’re usually full of children that go with their parents or grandparents, but, if you ask me, I think that it’s really brave of the owners to put such rides in a market full of drunk people.

I’ve never been in one of these amusement rides, mainly because I prefer to focus on the food. This time I bought a marshmallow-cream crêpe, which ended up being way too sweet for my taste.

In the Braunschweig post I told you that they sell a lot of Christmas-related objects in these markets, but in Bremen I realized that they also sell other stuff too.

 IMG_2861

The stars are very common during the winter. You can see them in a lot of homes, hanging on the door, or by the window, or even in the middle of the living room.

I love the colored light strings. Those stands also have lights of every kind: strings, spheres, snow globes; to hang by the window or put on a shelf, or simply as a table centerpiece. They’re all wonderful.

One of the best stands I saw this year was the “Bird Village”. It was full of bird houses, in all sizes, shapes and colors:

There are stands that are so beautifully detailed that I would leave them there rest of the year. I’d just take down the lights and the Santa Claus.

But if there’s one rule here, is that you have to get yourself a hot beverage.

Did you know about the “Pfand” system in Germany? Before I came here, I had never heard about it. For those of you who don’t know it, it works like this: I buy a hot drink that costs €2.50, they serve it on a glass mug and ask me to pay €3.50 (sometimes even €4.50). As soon as I finish my drink, I give them back the mug and they give me back my extra euro. I have friends who collect these mugs, so once a year, they leave the extra euro and take the mug home.

That day we ordered Feuerzangenbowle, a wine punch with fruits, spices, orange juice and rum.

You prepare it in a glass or metal bowl suspended over a small burner that kinda makes it like a fondue set. You fill the bowl with hot red wine that already has the fruit and spices, and on top of it you put a metal grate that holds a Zuckerhut (“sugar hat”), which is a big cone made of sugar. You soak it with rum, set it on fire and see how it turns into caramel and drips into the wine. Fun, right?