Christmas markets in Germany

Kitsch is a Ger­man word and the won­der­ful, warm, colour­ful Christ­mas mar­kets of Ger­many demon­strate exact­ly what it means.

There were mock pine forests (trees nailed to the floor, Goslar); mock wood­en hous­es (every­where); mock stone ovens (plas­ter and fibre­glass, Leipzig); and mock snow (fibre­glass and glit­ter, Dort­mund). The stalls sell tra­di­tion­al wood­en toys, tra­di­tion­al sausages, tra­di­tion­al stollen, tra­di­tion­al cough sweets – you name it, if it’s ‘time hon­oured’ they’re sell­ing it.

And yet, it does­n’t feel nasty, or tacky or cheap.

On our first night in Ger­many, we found our­selves in the Christ­mas mar­ket in Dort­mund, sur­round­ed by peo­ple slight­ly tip­sy on glue­hwein. Every­one was cold, but had hot booze to keep their hands warm. There was a gen­uine and gen­er­al sense of well-being and togeth­er­ness, despite the fak­ery with which we were sur­round­ed. And we did­n’t give the absence of beer a sec­ond thought.

We’re no sub­scribers to the idea that we live in ‘binge Britain’, but the thought did cross our mind: could this ever work in the UK? Are we too cyn­i­cal, too prone to drunk­en idio­cy? It would be nice to think not…

Dark beer in Dortmund

Dort­mund is one of those places whose name is famous amongst beer geeks, but  where it’s hard to find any very excit­ing beer.

We did track down Hoevel’s Orig­i­nal, though, which we found inter­est­ing. It’s anoth­er one of those Ger­man local brands which has its own town sewn up but which you don’t see any­where else. Every build­ing, bus stop and bill­board in town has one of their glossy adverts fea­tur­ing a seduc­tive nymph.

Their brew­ery tap (see Ron’s pub guide for details) dish­es up the beer in per­fect nick. It’s served in a cus­tom glass (we love cus­tom glass­es) which they call a ‘Vic­to­ria’ – tall, and the shape of a trum­pet bell. To all intents and pur­pos­es, it’s an alt bier, being brown, nut­ty, fruity and alto­geth­er very like a smooth, tasty best bit­ter. Not real­ly worth going out of your way for – the alts in Dues­sel­dorf are bet­ter – but, as they say in Ger­man adverts, “Mmm­m­mm.… leck­er.” That is, tasty.  There’s also a cloudy ‘zwickl’, which was a bit home-brewy.

In con­trast, we also tried one of the local ‘pre­mi­um pil­sners’ which, in the case of most Ger­man brands, is a euphemism for ‘very bland lager’. Brinkhof­f’s No 1 is prob­a­bly the most bor­ing beer we’ve ever had. It had less flavour and body than tap water. Worse than Cruz­cam­po. Sheesh.

Our hol­i­day arrange­ments were pret­ty chaot­ic this time so we stu­pid­ly failed to pick up on Bergmann as rec­om­mend­ed by Adep­tus. If you are going to Dortmund/Muenster or any­where in that region, make sure you check his blog before you go!