I always thought that going to a Christmas Market meant you got on a coach and spent hours going to Germany until a day out last winter with some friends in Birmingham meant we had to struggle through one to get to the Museum where we were visiting the Saxon Hoard. All I recall is the smell of fast food and chips…. Another friend went off on the Eurostar sipping champagne to an event in Bruges, those little huts on the Southbank in London were expanding all over the place and suddenly Christmas markets were everywhere.
This year we were going to Dusseldorf on business at the end of November and when I did my research I found- yes- the Christmas markets would be just outside the hotel and all over the city. As soon as it started to get dark off we went to explore. Dusseldorf is an affluent city and my first thought was how expensive it was to buy ornaments, nativities and table decorations. Clearly the Germans spend a lot on Christmas.
Other potential gifts were more reasonable but best value of all was the snacks and drinks. Clearly for many locals this was their reason to be there- meeting friends after work for some spiced gluhwein and kartoffelpuffer or bratwurst. Filling food for a chilly night. The next day I took a walk by the river where a Ferris wheel had been put up and many of the cafes and bars had extensions under cover so that more socialising could take place in the evenings and weekends. Special river boat trips were going to be on as well. I would have liked to do one of those though I would not have got sunburn as on my last visit.
The following weekend I found myself in a very busy Belfast visiting a friend and lo and behold an enormous Christmas Market was taking place in front of the City Hall. Although santa was there in his grotto, This market was a bit different because as well as the gifts it was a mecca for foodies being full of gastronomic delights. We tasted and bought cheese (cheddar with jalapeno mmm) but resisted the huge range of Italian chocolate, French fruit tarts, Turkish delight, artisan cakes and breads from all over the world and sweeties piled high. We could not decide between spiced ginger wine , cider or gluhwein and a vast range of street food. I am not a fan of bratwurst so I was tempted by the wild boar as opposed to kangaroo, springbok or zebra but the stall was rammed so we went elsewhere for some skinny soup!
So- have you been to a Christmas market this year? Was it just a social event with friends or did you buy anything? What do you think about them- gimmick to part us with our money or an event to promote the Christmas spirit.