If there has been any consistent theme to my 20s, it has been missing out on the Christmas season because I tend to live thousands of miles from my family. The first time this happened was back when I was studying in Freiburg, aged 21. However, when your adopted city offers Germany's fourth largest Christmas market, that separation sadness is greatly minimized.
Now, I love Christmas. I mean, I love Christmas. As in, people hate being around me in November/December because if you are with me, we are absolutely listening to Christmas music and going on an adventure to admire pretty lights. So imagine my delight when, upon researching the city I was moving to, I discovered that it has one of Germany's top Christmas markets! I arrived in the city in August and patiently but excitedly waited to experience my first European Christmas market. When the day finally arrived, I was not disappointed.
Every year, the Weihnachtsmarkt's doors open the last week of November and it continues through Christmas. It's open from late morning to evening each day. My school was a 15 minute walk from the market, and it was a popular lunchtime destination for students and staff alike. My personal favorite food offering were Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus - potato cakes with applesauce. You could also get potato cakes with curry sauce (imagine currywurst sauce, not tikka masala) or garlic sauce. There were also many other traditional German fare options. It was here where I tried my first German sauerkraut. I always hated the stuff growing up but figured "when in Germany." It was also my last German sauerkraut. I just can't do picked cabbage, y'all.
The wooden stalls themselves, strewn about over four blocks of central Freiburg near City Hall, were not tremendously different from what you would find at any Christmas market across Europe. The peddled wares ranged from hand-crafted wooden figurines to sweaters to toys of every possible type. My favorite thing to buy was the Christmas-themed cheese - just look at that tree!
I knew that I wanted to get my Christmas shopping done at the market. My original plan had involved buying things from the stalls, but this changed as soon as I discovered the existence of a simple yet brilliant shtick: glühwein (mulled wine) mugs. The glühwein cost €7 and came in glass mugs that had various artistic depictions of Freiburg on them. If you handed the mugs back in, then you would get €2 back. "So, all I need to do is drink mulled wine and then I'll have pretty glasses to give people for Christmas?" I thought. Considering that glass mugs are much more useful than most of what the stalls were selling, I decided to take one for the team and consumed a whole lot of glühwein during the month of December.
As with all Christmas-related activities, while the Weihnachtsmarkt was fun during the day, it truly came alive at night. I unfortunately did not snag any pictures of the market after dark, but you can imagine the magic in the air when exploring wooden stalls covered in lights that are surrounded by German architecture.
Of all the European Christmas markets I have since visited, the only one that I enjoyed as much as I did Freiburg's was Barcelona's. And really, that was mostly because of the pooping Christmas figurines that are ever-so-popular in the unique land of Catalonia. There is just something very special about a Christmas market in Germany, made even more special when that market is in such a sweet city as Freiburg.