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As a Mancunian, I know no shortage of Christmas markets when the season is upon us. The sights, the smells, the bratwursts, the hustle, the bustle, the bratwursts, the dazzling lights and the bratwursts. This year, however, my partner and I decided to take a little detour from the usual Piccadilly line and, after a two hour flight, landed in Munich hoping to sample the European Christmas market everyone back home was raving about. And perhaps some of the bratwursts.
The München Christkindlmarkt proved large and dispersed enough to keep us occupied for five days, but never felt overcrowded. One could not distinctly notice locals from any other European tourists excitedly browsing the cobbled aisles. To a certain extent, it just felt like we were enjoying a local neighbourhood tradition as opposed to a major tourist attraction. The calm order of day-time Munich with its soft meditative blue sky and rows of decorative pastel buildings completely contrasted the bustling night-time market with its garish but brilliant light shows one could marvel at for hours.
With two amazing Cathedrals a five minute walk away from one another, it became obvious that the surrounding community was built on a very Catholic sentiment. Delicate pottery nativity characters for seven euros apiece were by far the most frequent attraction lining the wooden booths.
The Glühwein (pronounced ‘glue vine’ but is actually identical to our mulled wine) is a must try. I must admit, sometimes the mugs of this heated spiced treat I get from Manchester can be rather vinegary on the palette. But you can almost taste the love and pride served in an ample portion of the Munich edition to keep you nice and warm out in the frozen tundra that is a so-called “mild” German winter. Though glacial, it indeed proved a delicious meander. Chestnuts roasted to perfection, crêpes smothered in Kinder chocolate and gingerbread men so detailed that it felt immoral to bite into one.
Maybe it was a characteristic of the small area we stayed in, or maybe it was the amount of times I went back to the same stall to purchase a different flavour pretzel, but I would add that the Munchen Markets don’t have all the variety of products I expected to compare with their typical British counterpart. Safe in the knowledge that droves of tourists from all around the globe will flock to get a taste of debatably the most famous European market in the world, shop-owners are not foolish to have three quarters of their stall packed with German themed merchandise. Then again, how many versions of a bauble with an image of the Marienplatz do they think people want?
Critically speaking, I would give these particular Christmas Markets 4 out of 5 stars. Give them a whirl, but be prepared to get on the returning flight borderline obese and with enough German produce to kit out the local town hall.