I’m on a 4-week 13-city cross-country tour throughout Germany, and beyond the hectic schedule, I’m definitely taking time to enjoy this opening week of the Christmas market in Koblenz, a city several millennia in the making at the special junction of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. Next to the Rathaus in the city’s Altstadt, stands are up with the usual array of food, drink, and a variety of wares to look and buy, including illuminated Christmas stars. Time I find me some Glühwein …
An annual trip to Germany generally involves a wander out and about and across the country, and little surprise to me or to my friends, the visit(s) generally coincide with the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) season.
Have you visited the Christmas markets in Germany? You’ll know if you have, because …
… there’s gotta be a big Christmas tree somewhere;
… there’s a murmur in the crowds, from the quiet escalating to the jolly;
… the klang of porcelain mugs;
… the smell of sweet liquor, grilled sausage, and fried potato pancakes.
By day or at night, people are subjected to the simple whims of the sights, smells, and sounds of the markets.
Short sensory list
• Sights of the Weihnachtsmarkt: bright lights; Christmas pyramid; red and yellow stars; unveiling of the Backwaren (backed goods) made especially for the holiday season.
• Sounds of the Christmas market: the klang of full mugs distributed and empty ones collected, shouts of laughter from conversations scattered throughout the area.
• Smells and tastes of the Christmas market: candied almonds, cashews, and peanuts; roasted chestnuts; balls of fried dough with powdered sugar; mugs of hot mulled wine, available in several fruit flavours; grilled bratwurst; fried potato pancakes with apple sauce.
When the Christmas season brings out special baked goods, it’s time to pay attention. In Heidelberg, my favourite café in the university town doesn’t hold back as photos of the “Backwaren” (baked goods) show. There’s something for everybody at Café Gundel.
And on it goes: small lifetimes can be spent, seeing, smelling, and sampling the entire collection.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Hauptstadt,
no residents were stirring, not even a tourist …
Well, except me, that is …
It’s little surprise many find themselves where they’re supposed to be on Christmas Eve.
Ever since visiting Berlin the first time in 2002, I’ve always entertained the idea of photographing the German capital city during winter holidays. The city slows down, becomes quiet, and sits back as if to take a deep long breath.
Crammed train stations seem cold, emptied of all who normally stream through the halls. The usual sounds of the city are muted by diminished traffic on the day before Christmas and by the sound-diffusing and -absorbing property of falling snow. City fixtures and Christmas decorations cast bright spotlights down on the ground layer of snow while diffuse glow of colour is scattered up to the cloud deck overhead.
Under blizzard-like conditions and little street traffic, I cannot deny myself this beautiful photographic opportunity.