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Christmas Market snapshot

What’s in a bog-standard Christmas market in a bog-standard (north) German town?

Glühwein, in all quantities, average price around €2.50 for a beaker.

Bratwurst with bread, €2.80, or by the half metre €3.80. But this being the north, there’s a good showing for cheese soup and various kinds of cheesy burgers (which are all cheese).

Germknödel, dinner-plate-sized steamed dumplings made on the spot, usually with some kind of fruit filling, €3.50. Charcoal grills are big this year, particularly with foil-wrapped baked potatoes. The fish stand is not doing good business, but cold fish in cold weather? Not something I would get wrapped up and venture out for. There are of course various nuts – almonds particularly – coated in sugar, Brezel of all shapes and sizes, and all kinds of fruit-based cakes in the Weihnachtsbäckerei, although Funnel Cakes (I had to look ‘em up on Wikipedia, so you can too) had their own stand. And of course the ubiquitous Lebkuchenherzen (gingerbread heart) up to €6 for a big one, hanging everywhere. They do tend to taste like cardboard, and they do look as they might have been there since last year. But no-one really ever eats a Lebkuchenherzen, so it doesn’t really matter.

For crafts, there are acres of handmade woolly hats, handmade tree decorations, handmade useful wooden things (bet you didn’t know how many handmade useful wooden things you needed). I liked the brightly-painted handmade bird houses (€39 for a really good one), but hated the terracotta meerkats (€19.99) on the terracotta animals stand. A grungy man is selling mistletoe, you can be sure he’s going to ask for a snog at €3.90 a bunch.

This market only has a couple of rides. A pretty carousel, and a riding ring where a very well groomed selection of ponies does an endless circuit under the supervision of a couple of barbarous, murderous-looking gypsies. The kids love it, and nobody’s asking the ponies’ opinion.

Then there’s the slight wacky stuff. Plunge your hand into a mold, and get it modelled in hot wax for €6.50. Buy a house made of coloured paper with a light bulb inside (particularly Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Kunterbunt, €19.99). There’s a place to buy your semi-precious stones for those who like to buy their stones by the shovel-full (it could have just been colourful rubble, for all I could tell), a couple of crystal healing stands and a tea stand selling every tea under the sun except tea tea.

Oh yes, and a lot of cold-looking people, being jolly. And good for them, better than staying home and being miserable on this cold Sunday in December.

Happy Christmas, Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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