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  • Writer's pictureLaura Peters

Weihnachtsmarkt - Offspring Tourism Style

You may wonder why I’m writing about Christmas Markets in Germany in October, but I will tell you. It is so you can book your trip to Germany now to enjoy the beauty of Christmas there.

My first experience at German Christmas Markets, called Weihnachtsmarkt, was in 2014. After visiting one on my first night in Cologne, I literally thought, “If I had to go home tomorrow, I’d say this trip had all been worth it.” I realized that I had never experienced such a beautiful celebration of Christmas. Thanks to offspring tourism, this experience was mine.

As the holidays loomed, Cologne, Germany, where two of my daughters lived and worked, beckoned. My youngest had recently moved to Manchester, England, for a masters program. So going to Europe for the holidays was an easy decision. Who wants to be in California for Christmas when their kids are partying in Europe?

My husband, John, always claimed that traveling anywhere with really cold weather was too big an obstacle to enjoyment. Having grown up in the American midwest he hated cold weather. He warmed to the idea when I pointed out that we already had warm clothes from our skiing days. We could, literally, weather the experience. And, hey, we could always fly to some place warmer.

The trip from San Francisco to my eldest daughter’s apartment in Cologne was exactly twenty hours door-to-door, including landing in Frankfurt to switch to the high speed train to Cologne. John and I are good nappers so we managed to catch some sleep on the ten hour flight over. After a bit of refreshment at Hana (our eldest daughter) and Jan’s (her partner) apartment, we walked the mile or so to a Weihnachtsmarkt on the Rhine River called Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt.

Set next to the Chocolate Museum, Hafenmarkt has a “port” theme, which includes people in costume and a large pirate ship. My jetlag vanished as I walked around in the cold night air. The glühwein warmed my insides. Seeing people, clearly friends or work colleagues enjoying time together standing around tables, the lights and delicious foods brought me more joy than I can describe.

Weihnachtsmarkt are magical events where people gather to enjoy one another’s company. They are a fairy tale world come to life, particularly markets set at the foot of a castle or turreted section of ancient stone walls. Booths sell handmade woolens, leather or wood crafts. Stalls feature beer, wine, and especially glühwein, a hot German spiced wine. Short plays for children are performed. Father Christmas may walk through with wide-eyed children in his wake, or singers will mount a stage and sing festive Christmas songs. The walkways are festooned with lights and the smell of fresh pine trees and cinnamon fills the air. What makes Weihnachtsmarkt unique to open air Christmas craft markets I have been to in England and France is the sense of camaraderie, community and good cheer. In Cologne, where I mainly live when I’m in Germany, fourteen neighborhoods have their own market. Each has its own style and brings out everyone in the area for a cup of good cheer at the end of the day.

I haven’t been to Germany during Christmas since before the pandemic, in 2019. In 2022 my family in Germany came to California for the holidays. But this year, you’ll know where to find me. Just find a German town and go from one Weihnachtsmarkt to another. I’ll be at one of them.

Below are photos of food, people, lights, color, turreted city walls, the Cologne Cathedral, glühwein and more. Did I mention that there is no entrance fee to all this delight? Some markets have open air ice skating or rides for which you have to pay, and you always have to pay for food, drink and crafts you may want to have, but you can walk around for hours and not spend a cent if you choose. Enjoy!


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