Munich evokes images of Beer, Oktoberfest, and Leiderhosen. As the capital of the Southern region of Germany, Bavaria, it is Germany’s third-largest city and the quintessential Germany of many people’s imagination. For those who are fortunate enough to travel to Munich during the holiday season, it is also a winter-wonderland infused with the spirit of Christmas.
I recently flew a trip to Munich and visited the city’s Christmas Market, set in the central square of Munich, the Marienplatz. Germany’s Christmas Market tradition goes back to the middle-ages. The cities and towns of Germany hold these markets in the city center, usually in a pedestrian shopping zone. Small cottages and stalls are set up which sell everything from decorations and ornaments to candies and cakes.
After a short nap at our layover hotel I got up and walked the half-mile to Munich’s walking streets. It was still daylight out as I perused the stalls, browsing the handmade ornaments and decorations. The temperature hovered at only about 38 degrees, so I decided to warm myself with the traditional hot drink of Christmas markets around Germany, Glühwein (pronounced glue-wine). Glühwein(meaning, literally, glow wine, because of the rosy glow it gives to the drinkers cheeks) is a hot spiced red wine served at stands throughout all Christmas Markets. The Glühwein stands become a social meeting place for harried market shoppers as they crowd around the small standing tables set around each stall and enjoy their drinks. Merry conversation and laughter make these stands the focal points of the markets as shoppers come in to warm themselves.
I finished my Glühwein and went in search of my favorite food stall from years past, the Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancake, stall. Served with a side of either applesauce, garlic sauce or an herb sour cream, Kartoffelpuffers are one of the deliciously decadent treats found at many Christmas markets. As long as you are not looking to loose any weight or eat terribly healthy you can find an abundance of food throughout the market. Bratwurst and sausages on rolls are just a few of the offerings. I found my Kartoffelpuffer stand and hungrily downed the three potato pancakes. While standing at the small counter and eating I overheard some other Americans trying to read the German sign and figure out what the food options were. Having lived in Germany for several years when I was younger I speak German, so I translated for them. It turned out they were crewmembers from another base with my airline. Small world.
Once my appetite was satisfied, I spent the next hour browsing the numerous stalls of the Christmas Market as I strolled the walking streets of Munich. German decorations range from traditional nativity figurines to wooden nutcrackers to handmade wooden figurine “pyramids” which rotate, driven by rising heat from candles at the base. If you are looking for made-in-Germany quality, you can expect to pony up some Euros, as the ones made by hand in Germany are quite a bit more expensive than the more ubiquitous made-in-China variety found throughout the market.
At the far end of the shopping zone I came across an ice-skating rink set up for the season. Shoppers milled about on the two levels at the rink drinking Glühwein and beer while watching the skaters go round and round the rink in the chilly night air. Although it was a Wednesday, the market was crowded with shoppers browsing the stalls and going in and out of the many shops and stores lining the streets. The Christmas lights and decorations, busy shoppers, and decked-out store windows all added to the feeling of Christmas in the air.
As it got colder I headed towards Andechser am Dom, a restaurant and beer hall just off the pedestrian zone and in the shadow of one of Munich’s famous landmarks, the twin-domed Frauenkirche. There I met with some of my fellow crewmembers and finished the evening the perfect Bavarian way, with a glass of Andechs Beer. As we left the restaurant for the walk back to the hotel it started to snow. It was a perfect layover for getting into the spirit of the season