Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weihnachtsmärke = Christmas Markets = LOVE

Tollwood Christmas Market: Snow, great eats and most of Munich’s population. Posted on December 10, 2011 by Jess (Blogged at LUFTHANSA comment line)

I really have to hand it to the Germans — inclement weather will not keep them from enjoying their Christmas markets. After my excursion to Tollwood Market this afternoon, I’m inclined to think that nothing will. They simply bundle up, and head out.

(In contrast, this is me on a typical Friday night in New York: ”Eh…it looks borderline drizzly. Thai delivery guy’s getting a big tip tonight!”)

I discovered this fact my first night in Nuremberg, with umbrellas blowing down the cobblestone hills like so many spiky metal tumbleweeds. It was so windy I could barely take a breath. And so jam-packed with happy people ferrying home bags of gifts that I could barely move. The warm sense of community surrounding Germany’s "Christkindlmärkte" is enough to keep the chill off no matter what the weather. And besides, many bodies generate heat. This is a fact.

Tollwood Market is different from the others I’ve visited so far on my trip, very different. For one, and I didn’t think this was possible, it’s at least twice as big. Many areas are also tented, and for good reason. You wouldn’t want the English jazz band’s equipment to get all wet. Plus, nobody likes eating largely non-portable biryani in the open when it’s rainy. Yes, Tollwood is an international, ethnically-inclined feast for all the senses. And feast I did. -- Right before I picked up some German toys for the kinder that were so amusing in their simplicity; I ended up playing with them for quite some time before the nice lady asked if I wanted to buy anything. “Quack quack!” responded the duck I was holding.

Glühwein keeps the cold off.

Every glühwein stand I passed had a line of many people, with many more crowded around. As soon as I saw flakes falling from the sky, I had the same idea. As I tweeted earlier today (and many of you agreed): Glühwein = mittens. Only yummier.

Big bull sausages

My guess is they knew it would be too crowded to see what they were serving up on menus alone. This definitely clarifies things. Texas could probably take a leaf out of their book.

No open fire permit necessary

Now here’s how you beat the cold — roasting meat over open flames in a small, potentially flammable wooden shack. I especially loved the skewers from this stand because they perfumed the entire surrounding area with the smoky wood-burning smell that really embodies the winter season.

Why don't we just melt cheese all over everything? Actually...

Leave all preconceived notions of bruschetta at the door. I’m talking about those little slices of toasted baguette, rubbed with a little garlic and topped with a spoonful of chopped tomatoes, onions and basil. This Munich variation pays homage to the Italian original by quadrupling the size and covering it with mozzarella, which is melted on a griddle to order. Now THAT’S an hors d’oeuvre.

You can really do anything to a potato and I'll eat it

Kartoffelpuffer, or German potato pancakes, are the most satisfying comfort food around. This stand sold nothing else…except beer, of course. Which you can see stacked high in the fridge. Think about it: without potatoes and beer, where would Germany be today? I give this stand two thumbs up.

Look at that cheese stretch!

Raclette is a special kind of cow’s milk cheese made high in the Swiss Alps. The pristine mountain air and water make for extremely happy cows, which in turn provide Europe with extremely happy cheese. Raclette can also refer to a dish of this cheese melted over boiled potatoes, served with bread and a few cornichons to cut the richness. Needless to say, it was the first place I stopped. If this doesn’t warm you up and stick to your ribs, I don’t know what will.

They eat POLISH SAUSAGE in München? Und wie! (And how!)

It wouldn’t be a trip to a German Christmas market without sausage. Thankfully I found it, in the truly massive form of various Polish kielbasas. The dudes working this stand seemed pretty warm and dry, all things considered. I’m sure they smelled pretty good, too. Note the chunks of bacon getting their confit on in the chafing dish. I stood by this grill for quite some time, warming up and savoring a scent so seductive I could dab it on my wrists.

At this point I decided to head into one of Tollwood’s huge tents. Lo and behold: in the first one, far more food! The holy tent of international cuisine housed a variety of foods from Turkish feta-stuffed peppers in spicy tomato sauce to pad thai and butter chicken. Ethnic artwork and sculptures were displayed all around, and to my surprise, nearly all who chowed down in this strange land were German.

The next tent I ducked into (which required stepping stones made of overturned milk crates to get over the melted snow puddles) featured several bars around the perimeter, a forest’s worth of live foliage, and a jazz band playing a great version of “Moondance” for happily imbibing patrons.

The final tent I entered was the jackpot: all the craft stands that didn’t fit in the outdoor area. And this was a big one. This fair had everything from DVDs dubbed in German to handcrafted paper, street art, sheep’s wool everything, jewelry, wood carvings, lanterns, toys, candy and…well, everything any of your loved ones could possibly want for Christmas. And then it struck me: "Christkindlmärke" are Germany’s holiday malls. But rather than trudge through the crowds with only the impersonal scent of Wetzel’s Pretzels and the same recorded versions of the same Christmas songs you’ve heard a million times to spike your merriment, Germans come together as a community, enjoy great food and company, and buy their Christmas presents in a way that promotes each city’s own local economy. Amazing.

Dear America,

Can we do this?



  1. This looks so interesting. I'd really want to go to the real thing in Germany and get something there. I have the Advent calender that you gave me after the Oktoberfest and it has a picture of the Wienachtsmarket on the front. It looks really cool.

  2. Die Weihnachtsmärkte sind schön in den Fotos! And all of the food looks and sounds delicious! I wish we had something like this here. Someday I want to visit one in Germany.

  3. My mom said it was a dream of hers to take my sister and I to the weinachtsmarkt in Munich, Koeln, or Berlin! Hopefully next year I will be there. Mmmmmm kartoffeln..

  4. This looks really cool! I'd really love to visit here sometime in the future and try all the new things and experience all of the different culture and fun things to see and do in Germany! Especially during the holidays!

  5. This is definatley something that I want to do sometime in my life. It looks realy interesting and fun. I just wish that there were christmas markets this large in the north east durring the holidays.

  6. I went to the market in germany. It was beautiful and so many cool things were for sale. I bought so much stuff that day. I can only imagine how much cooler a christmas market must be, with all the energy and spirit of the holidays.