on March 28, 2010
Germany – 15/12/09The first snow flakes of winter were spiralling through the air. So Rebecca and I wrapped up warm against the chill and headed out to Manchester’s Christmas market.Christmas markets are a particularly continental trend. They act as tourist magnets across central and eastern Europe – I myself have visited one in Krakow. And 11 years ago Manchester City Council decided to get in on the act. Touring stall holders from Europe were invited to come over and sell food, drink and crafts. Local enterprises joined in. And they have been growing ever since. In 2009 the markets covered Albert Square in front of the town hall. From there they spread down Brasennose Street to Spinningfields (where an ice rink had been set up), and from At Anns Square along New Cathedral Street to Exchange Square. They seem to get bigger and better all the time. And quite frankly they are brilliant. The arrival of the Christmas markets at the start of December is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year among Mancunians.Obviously I had peeked in at them already, and had managed to find stalls selling food from Switzerland and Luxembourg. Other stalls served grub from across Europe (Austrian pancakes, Dutch waffles, Spanish paella) and the UK (Welsh beers, meat and pies from Savin Farm in Cumbria, toffee from Duerden’s of Burnley). But the other commonly-used name for the markets is ‘the German Market’. So I was determined to use the evening to tick off German cuisine with my little Deutsch sprech-ing companion.We started off in Bavaria. German herren in natty braces and pointed felt hats tended a large charcoal brazier. Above it a grill was suspended, and on the grill bratwursts and currywursts sizzled. We stepped up and ordered two bratwursts at £4 each. We were each served a thick curving sausage in a crusty roll. The ends of the sausage jutted out either end. We were then free to add ketchup or mustard. The bratwursts were crispy-skinned, with scalding hot moist meat within – just the thing to warm one up on a winter’s night!What it needed was a hot drink – preferably alcoholic. Thankfully there wasn’t a shortage of stalls and bars serving mulled wine or eiswein (they are licensed to serve until 8.45pm only though). We headed over to Zum Lustigen Rudolph, a fancifully decorated large rustic-style chalet. Pride of place went to an animatronic mounted reindeer head on high – in a rich baritone ‘Rudolph’ sang a selection of Christmas carols. We joined the throng to order hot mugs of wine (they are served in Manchester Christmas Market branded mugs - £5 gets you a mug of wine, but if you return the mug you get a £1 refund). They have eiswein in different flavours. Rebecca had an apfelwein, flavoured with apple; I ordered a himbeerwein, flavoured with raspberries. It tasted like hot Vimto. These were hot and strong – certainly enough to have made us feel tipsy if we hadn’t already had that bratwurst.We had a wander around the market, taking a gander at the different stalls. After a while I personally felt it was time for pudding. Thankfully 2009 saw the return of the strudel stall. Here there were a variety of filled pastries, hot out of the oven, to be served with or without custard. I wasn’t in the mood for a cherry strudel, and I had tried their forest fruit strudel the year before. So I thought it only fitting that I had a slab of traditional apple strudel for £3. This was large enough for two easily – though Rebecca let me down by only taking a couple of forkfulls. Still, I just about managed to pack it away. The layers of pastry were flaky and crisp, the filling piping hot and sweet. The markets are expensive, but they are now an irreplaceable part of a Mancunian Christmas. They seem to get bigger and better each year – and 2009’s was certainly both the biggest and the best. Hurrah for Germany’s hearty and warming cuisine! It may have been designed to keep the fat on your bones on cold Thuringian nights, but standing in a cast pool of light, huddled up in scarves and gloves, watching the first snowflakes of the year spin and twirl it also served to officially announce that Christmas was here.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009