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Hamburg Christmas Markets

December 11-14, 2008

Written December 20

Dear Friends and Families,


The excuse for our trip to Hamburg was to see Christmas Markets and we saw and sampled plenty. It seemed like there were markets every few blocks downtown and there were even more out in the districts. We lost track of how many we saw, but here are picture collections from four of them.


Nearest our hotel, on the banks of the Binnenalster, we found our first Weinachtsmarkt and sampled our first (in Hamburg) glühwein. This Christmas Market had an "upper crust" feel, although I'm not sure why, since the glüwein, sausage, cookies, and cakes were pretty much the same as those anywhere. No matter, it was a good start.



The largest and most crowded Market was in the main town square, in front of the very ornate Rathaus (city hall).

The entrances to the square were welcoming but the crowds were off-putting, until we decided they were just part of what a Christmas Market scene should be. Plenty of hustle and bustle.
At one point, the crowd started to star up into the sky! What could be happening? Of course, it was Santa Claus and one of his elves soaring above the crowd in a sleigh pulled by Rudolf. Really. I think this mixing of Old Europe and New World traditions and characters is one of the reasons Christmas in Germany is so much fun for us Americans.

Of course, no market trip is successful without goodies and glühwein.
There are other traditions. The creche needs to be visited, just to remind us of the reason behind all the celebration. And, just above the crowd, a real Christmas choo choo circled around, reminding all of us of childhood Christmases (or at least movie-version childhood Christmas)
On the way out, we looked back at the Rathaus and saw images we will carry with us in future holiday seasons.


Alter Steinweg

Our bus-tour guide had recommended this small Christmas Market, just behind the five-star Steigenburger Hotel. It may have been my favorite. The crowds were smaller -- both in number and size, as there were cute little kids throughout. And food. And Christmas presents. Etc. Etc.

Food is universal at German Christmas Markets. (Actually, food is universal at ANY German street fair and there are street fairs throughout the year.) At Alter Steinweg, the food seemed even better, although we looked more than ate.



Each Christmas Market also seems to have a merry-go-round or a Ferris wheel. Alter Steinweg's was a wonderful antique filled with kids cute enough to have come from central casting.


St. Pauli

The St. Pauli district has an alternative to the cute Christmas markets of the rest of Germany. Here, on Reeperbahn Street, in the heart of Hamburg's red light district, a tourist can find the normal spiced wine and Christmas trinket kiosks, as well as some other spice and gifts.

Traditional burlesque? (I missed this tradition when I was growing up

Advertisement for Bavarian Glühwein. Nuremberg has the same wine, but different posters.

The "above 18 years old" section.

But, from a distance, St. Pauli's Christmas Market is as quaint and colorful as any other.

There were other markets, but how much spiced wine and cookies can a person have? Well, quite a bit actually and we will try to continue our 2008 Christmas Tour. Another story or two.


John and Marianne.


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