Frolicking in Frankfurt am Main at Christmas
Why are there shoulder-to-shoulder crowds braving heavy snowfall while packed in tiny slushy streets in Germany’s financial centre? It’s got to be the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt or Frankfurt’s Christmas Market.
Frankfurt am Main (pronounced “mine”) has a reputation of staid people concerned only with making money in “Main-hattan” and the apparent transgression of simply being “physically unattractive” compared to other cities in the nation. But the city’s people makes up for these perceived failings with a large Christmas market almost one kilometre in length. Frankfurters work hard and party hard, turning modern can-do energy into high holiday tradition.
Frankfurt’s Christmas Market begins at the pedestrian-only shopping area that is the Zeil just outside Hauptwache train station, continues south on Liebfrauenstrasse and Neue Kräme to Paulsplatz, meanders on and expands out to the “market’s centre” at Römerberg square in the heart of the Altstadt (Old Town), and south again onto Fahrtor towards Mainkai on the northern shore of the river Main.
With an obligatory Glühwein in hand, the compactness of a long continuous market packing a maximum number of people is a big reason why I enjoy this Christmas market. It’s an occasion I don’t mind crowds, although sometimes I wonder at the looks and smiles on people’s faces: this is Frankfurt?!
Another highlight is the 30-metre (over 100-feet) high Christmas tree at Römerberg. A third highlight is that with the earliest recorded mention of Frankfurt’s Christmas Markets in 1393, people in the subsequent six centuries know a lot about local Christmas customs; for example, their version of the humble Reibkuchen (potato pancakes) rivals those at other markets around the country.
With over three decades spent in Köln, one of my best friends in Germany loves the Christmas markets in his hometown Karneval City, but there are three reasons why the Frankfurt market is special to him. “It’s at this market where I met a woman for our first date, and she’s the one whom I eventually married,” says Ömer. “They’ve got the best Reibkuchen around. Finally, there’s a ‘Honey Hut’ where the local Imkerei (beekeeping, apiculture) sets up shop with various kinds of honey, honey liquor, and Christmas figures and candles made from bees’ wax.”
I could sip on that smooth honey liquor all day; Reibkuchen with apple sauce are light not oily; and I can understand how even a staunch Kölner can enjoy Frankfurt’s market.
To reach the city’s Christmas market by public transport, take the S-Bahn train to Hauptwache, or U-Bahn to Hauptwache or Dom/Römer stations. In the map below, the green solid line shows the approximate extent of Frankfurt’s central Christmas market, and the green tree marks the location of the large Christmas tree at Römerberg.
Andrew Couch and Alison Garland also provide deliciously colourful perspectives of the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt.
With three photos made by Ömer Kutbay (ÖK), I made these photos on 18 December 2010. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
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