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Christmas Markets

January 6, 2016

Lets get serious here for a second.  The biggest problem in the U.S. today isn’t gun control, or foreign wars, or terrorists, or Russia’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric, or any of that stuff.  No, the biggest problem is that we can’t have drink in public.

Now, you are probably saying to yourself “Alex, I thought this post was about Christmas Markets” well I’m getting there.  See, going into this, I expected christmas markets to be filled with handicrafts and trinkets and baubles and toys.  In my mind I saw sellers of christmas trees, christmas lights, all manner of ornaments and christmas time wares.  While all that was at the various christmas markets they were a rather small part of what was there and an even smaller part of why everyone goes to the christmas markets.  People go to christmas markets to hang out with friends eat some form of pig meat and drink.

I am not saying that christmas markets are some sort of sub-zero Oktoberfest.  No, at the markets things are much more restrained and adult.  First, you cannot go alone.  Ok, I mean you physically are able to, but no self respecting European ever would.  You go with friends or family and you walk through enjoying the sights and sounds have a few drinks and a bit to eat and then you go to a bar or you go home.  This isn’t the place to get sloshed.  Second, you don’t necessarily plan on going to the market, but if you are out shopping or walking there is a very good chance you will walk through one.  It seems to me most people find that is good enough an excuse to stop and enjoy a break from the holiday hustle and bustle.

Now, this may all seem a bit confusing but let me try to lay this out for you.  In Dresden there were probably ten or more markets just around the downtown area.  There was one along the main pedestrian shopping mall, one just around the corner from there, another in the main town square, another in front of the Frauenkirche, one in a courtyard of the palace, another along the Elbe, one in front of the opera house, one across the Elbe in Neustadt, another in Outer Neustadt all of that is in a single line walking from the main train station north for only about a mile and a half. Just continuous christmas markets.  They are unavoidable.

Which brings us to the next point.  At least in Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe it is totally acceptable during the holiday season to have a drink or two or three pretty much any time after the markets open… which is 10am.

So, now the good question is what is everyone drinking.  The most common drink is probably Glühwein, literally “glow wine”.   This is a sweet red wine mixed with spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and dried citrus and apple.  The cheaper stuff has loads of sugar but there are also some amazing vintners that set up stalls and sell some very nice mugs of wine.  Another common drink is Eierpunsch or “egg punch”.  A bit like Eggnog this concoction is made from Eierlikör a kind of liquor made with egg somehow(?) and some white wine and orange juice all heated up and then beaten until frothy and topped with cinnamon.  This was Alexandra’s favorite she says it is like a hot boozy Orange Julius.  There are loads of other drinks but those are the big two.  As for food, the choices are truly ridiculous and also oh-so German.  Sausages of any kind of course, a stall that wheels in an entire Ox every day that they have been slowly roasting all night the previous night and then proceed to slowly dismantle and make melt-in-your-mouth tender and amazing tasting pulled Ox sandwiches from.  There’s schnitzel and smoked fish and roast pig and grilled pig.  There’s a sort of narrow-sighted variety that the German culinary scene seems to truly excel at.  It really amuses me right up until I have a serious hankering for something spicy.

On the sweet side of things the markets are loaded with stalls selling hot roasted almonds coated in various sugary spice mixes, giant gingerbread cookies, chocolates, and candies.  Then there is the famous Dresdner Christstollen.  This confection is truly a thing to be reckoned with.  A bit like fruit cake but at once somehow denser and moister and yet more delicate.  Dresdner’s are incredibly proud and opinionated about stollen and well spend hours debating the various stalls wares.

Wow! That was a lot of background information that you probably didn’t want to read but too late now! Haha!

So what about us?  Well, Alexandra’s sister visited us just in time for Thanksgiving which just so happened to coincide with the opening of the christmas markets! So after a delicious Thanksgiving which I forgot to take pictures of (sorry!) we went out to see what this was all about!


This year Dresden claimed to have constructed the worlds largest Pyramide that they had turned into a two story bar.


But maybe you think there weren’t that many people there.  Well it was the first night.  Over the next few weeks things got busier and busier until soon the entire downtown looked like this:


The markets were absolutely crammed every evening after about 4pm.  It made for a very fun atmosphere with everyone talking and laughing and having a great time.  This was all over Dresden!  Simply crazy!  I didn’t even know there were that many people in this city.  Here is the market by the Frauenkirche.


Finally we made it up one beautiful evening to the terrace overlooking the river and managed to get this great sight looking down the street towards the church.


All too soon though Christmas itself was upon us and as if they had been nothing more than a mirage the markets disappeared from the streets and we were left with cold, quiet Dresden in winter.  But, we will always have some amazing memories and I think we can both say that if you have the opportunity to go to Germany or really most anywhere in Europe for the christmas markets it is absolutely worth it!

So, I’ll leave you with Alexandra and her favorite treat, a roasted apple filled with sugar, and cinnamon and topped with whipped cream.


Merry Christmas everyone.

-The Alexs

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