German Christmas Markets & The Glühwein Hop

Germans know how to do Christmas, and it’s evident in the magical Christmas markets that litter the entire country during the holiday season.  Almost every city and town have their own markets, which fill the town squares with stalls selling crafts, art, jewelry, Christmas ornaments – literally, everything!  Last Christmas, I decided to experience the whimsy and festivity, and discovered a whole other side to the Christkindl markets that I never saw coming.  While I managed to fly away from Deutschland with some beautiful Christmas gifts, the best things I bought didn’t even make it out of the country.  Yes, you guessed it – food and drink.

The main Koln Cathedral market

After doing my research, I narrowed down my search to the major cities, since I knew I’d only have a couple days and would need easy flight access.  Based on prices and accessibility (of both flights and hotels), and the info on the aforementioned website, my friend Lizzie and I settled on Cologne (Köln), heading out the weekend before Christmas.

A little gnome in the glühwein!

So, it was cold (only -7º C, but when you’ve been living in England, you apparently shed your thick Canadian skin), and it snowed quite a bit.  Given the weather, the only thing we could do to make wandering around the markets completely enjoyable was to indulge…often.  We ate everything from sausages and saurkraut to gulasch in a bread bowl and decadent macaroni and cheese.  And what, might you ask, did we wash it down with?  Ah yes, that would be the delightfully addictive glühwein (pronounced gloooovine), which is traditional mulled wine.

Gnocchi and gulasch in a bread bowl

During the Christmas season, each city typically hosts multiple Christmas markets scattered in squares throughout the city.  Each market has a similar array of goodies, including the obligatory warm beverage stand, stocked with glühwein, apple cider, and other warm drinks.  We quickly learned how to do the glüwein hop throughout each of Cologne’s markets.  Each mug of glühwein cost 7€. Pricey?  Not really.  Each drink is served in a beautiful ceramic mug, unique to that particular market.  If you return the mug, you receive 2€ back.  If not, well, then that’s an instant collector’s item!  Needless to say, we hopped from market to market, eagerly anticipating the our newest mug.  In the end we collected four each, and the favourite by far was the one with a little gnome inside, who gradually appears as you drink your glühwein.

Enjoying glühwein in the Neumarkt

Looking back a year later, this was one of the best ways to collect souvenirs.  Ingenious, really!  We stayed warm, enjoyed a festive bevvy, and really only spent 2€ on each mug.  I can’t imagine anyone going to Germany for the Christmas markets and NOT doing the glühwein hop!

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