Part 1: A Fairytale Christmas
Part 2: A Winter Day In The City
Part 3: Heidelberg, Germany – Beyond Magical
Part 4: Frankfurt Favorites
Being in Germany at this time of year is like living a holiday fairytale. The biting cold, the pungency of cinnamon and spice wafting in the air, roasting chestnuts, seeing and touching real Christmas trees, nibbling on gingerbread and sipping mulled wine, I’m living my childhood Christmas fantasy.
Germany has a lengthy history of Christmas markets but none are perhaps as large and as enthralling as this one in Frankfurt. The elaborately decorated food stands are set amidst the stunning surroundings of the Römerberg and the Eiserner Steg bridge.
Much of the festivities are in St. Paul’s Square loomed over by a huge Christmas tree. This is certainly the most beautiful Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas market), and also the oldest, dating as far back as 1393 (!).
The towering Christmas tree, draped in thousands of lights, stands in front of the Römer, Frankfurt’s city hall. A gleaming source of pride for the locals, the tree contributes much to the market’s joyous holiday atmosphere – or ‘gemütlichkeit’ as the Germans call it.
A captivating carousel for kids and for those who wish they were still kids…
It’s a pleasure to stroll through this Christmas wonderland that extends from the Zeil shopping mall to the Römerberg and down to the river Main with over 200 laboriously decorated stalls all offering edible holiday dreams.
Come and have a look.
Nobody does sausages like the Germans…
and the best of the wursts are cooked on this stupendous schwenkgrill, a circular grill suspended by chains over smoldering birch wood. The swinging grill is adjusted at various heights throughout the cooking process to encourage even cooking and smoky flavors.
I am not a big sausage eater but in Germany, I could eat sausages all day long. My favorite is the feuerwurst or ‘fire sausage’ (above in bun). Its skin snaps satisfyingly, sending spicy juices oozing, its soft meat yielding to teeth; my mouth tingles from the spice.
My Bin’s favorite and now mine too – we fight over the last bites – is this pork steak sandwich, schweinesteak. So soft that I suspect it’s been cured, its smoky exterior belies its absolute tongue-tender interior. Succulent and salty, sadness descends on us once it’s gone.
Wisps of steam waft in the wintry weather from these mammoth pots of spiced wine.
Housed in stalls decorated like old-time German taverns, the unfamiliarity of the beverages inspire curious possibilities.
This evening, after much consideration (and frantic online translations), I choose to drink some eierpunsch. Similar to eggnog, it’s made from egg liqueur, wine, and rum. Crowned with whipped cream, the hot tipple tastes just like rich eggnog that ends with a heady, alcoholic flourish. It’s delicious! Suddenly, my feet don’t feel so frozen anymore.
Warmer and more fully fortified now, we walk on.
Loaves of stollen, a German Christmas bread enriched with dried fruit and nuts.
An array of candied nuts and decorative Christmas cookies.
A typical holiday treat, lebkuchen, or German gingerbread.
Cookies and mile-long gummies. I eat the cola lasso, the brown one in the photo, and it’s better than any Haribo gummy I’ve ever eaten.
These chocolate covered strawberries on a stick take me by surprise. I don’t expect the milk chocolate coating to be so lush nor the strawberries to be so sweet. What a treat!
Non-edible items at the Christmas market are also sold such as this well-stocked place selling all sorts of cookie cutters.
The crush of crowds and cold.
This one is fun: schneeball or schneeballen are snowball-sized cookie balls mixed with all manner of delightful ingredients like marzipan, hazelnuts, liqueur, and chocolate.
Once we buy a ball, we’re given a mallet to enthusiastically crush it into more manageable bite-sized pieces. I flirt with the idea of attempting to bite straight into the ball, but figure my teeth would never forgive me…
Baumstriezel, a rather elaborate pastry that’s fascinating to watch being made. Also known as chimney cake, strips of enriched yeast dough (seen in photo above on the right) are coiled around a cylindrical baking spit and then baked. I’m engrossed in watching the spits being turned in the oven and…
… once ready, are rolled in the customer’s coating of choice, everything from cocoa powder to poppy seeds and nuts.
Here’s our cinnamon-sugar baumstriezel. The sugar in the dough has formed a crisp caramel crust. To eat, we simply peel off curls of dough that unfurl in one long swirl. The dough isn’t as buttery as I’d expect but it’s such a novel treat that we can’t help but love it.
A candy that my Bin keeps returning to at the market is the schokokuss, ‘Chocolate Kisses.’ First introduced in 1829 and a German childhood favorite, they’re made of sweetened egg white foam. Fluffy and tantalizingly light, the foam rests on a crispy waffle disk, the lot of which is then enrobed in chocolate and dusted with a variety of nuts, coconut, etc. “Reminds me of Choco-Mallows,” my Bin remarks as he bites into his third schokokuss.
It’s getting late … and much too cold for us tropical folk. Suddenly, ending the evening with a hot crepe is vital. A painstakingly decorated creperie beckons to us, its lights twinkling in the distance.
And not too long later, crepes for my Bin (Nutella-banana), and me (just Nutella). The hot crepe cradles the gooey chocolate spread; I take a bite – bliss! A trail of Nutella dribbles down my chin, and it is so cold this evening that it freezes on the plate! I laugh in wonderment and bite into my chocolate covered strawberries (seen above resting on top of my crepe).