So the nights are growing colder and the supermarket shelves are stocking themselves up in readiness for the festive season. What to do – do you fight the Christmas feeling and go into denial until embarking on a frenzied shopping spree on 24th December? Or do you embrace the spirit of Christmas and make the most of the next few months?
If you are tempted by the latter but unsure where to start, why not plan a visit to a traditional German Christmas Market to get you in the festive spirit? More and more UK visitors are heading to the snow-covered streets of Germany every year to experience the magic of the Christmas fair. Their appeal is two-fold: the opportunity to experience a different culture that continues to embrace the ethos of Christmas in a way that time has forgotten for many of us; and the opportunity to fill your Christmas gift box with a series of unusual, intricately crafted pieces that your friends and family will treasure for years to come.
Historic Christmas Markets have grown from the small, two-day events of times gone into major annual centrepieces that are held in towns and cities throughout Germany from late November right through until Christmas Eve. Each market has its own traditions and its own specialities. Some are known for their delicious Christmas snacks and sweet treats while others are famed for their beautiful crafts. Some, such as Hamburg, are huge shopping paradises with a discernable urban edge while others are more intimate and romantic, located in the narrow streets of small towns and rural villages.
Choosing which to visit is a difficult choice and the chances are that once you have visited one you will be clamouring to go back for more. Many visitors return to Germany year after year to add yet another Christmas market to their “collection”. If you are planning your first Christmas market visit, Bernkastel-Kues could be the ideal destination. Perched on the banks of the Moselle River, Bernkastel-Kues is distinguished by its dramatic half-timbered houses which line the narrow lanes of this attractive town.
The stalls sell a lovely mix of traditional handicrafts such as wooden figures, tree ornaments, nutcrackers, hand-carved jewellery boxes, cookie jars and smoking paraphernalia along with some mouth-watering snacks and Christmas treats. Wine lovers will find plenty of prime vintages here to take back for their Christmas table and there is no shortage of opportunities to sample before you buy – from formal wine-tasting events to ad hoc tastings on the many stalls that line the streets. Don’t miss the chance to sup a tasty Gluhwein to warm you up when the sun goes down and the frost begins to settle on the ground.
Visiting Bernkastel-Kues is a pleasure at any time during the Christmas Market period but if you are in search of a little extra entertainment try the first weekend of December when 100 swimmers hurl themselves into the freezing waters of the Moselle to begin a torch-lit swim through the town before throwing chocolate treats to the children gathered in the square, just waiting for their first taste of Christmas.