I’ve never really been a Christmas person but Germany’s Christmas markets will make even the most cynical person, or the grinch himself, believe in Christmas. There are Christmas markets in every German city; they are typically set up in some type of plaza or park, and they generally consist of aisles upon aisles of outdoor vendors, a decorated Christmas tree, and other types of festive decorations. The Christmas markets are open for the entire month of December and close just a couple days before Christmas. These markets are filled with little wooden huts selling everything from Christmas toys, to homemade soaps and candles, to grilled sausages or fried dough that are ready to be eaten up. Some of the better Christmas markets that I have been to have had rides, like a ferris wheel – so you can view the whole market lit up in Christmas lights, carolers, and / or an ice skating rink. The magic just simply cannot be described.
Think Christmas in a cup, Glühwein is my favorite thing about Weihnachtsmärkte – the very reason to go in the first place. There is nothing better than having a mug of steaming hot wine cooked with fruit, cinnamon and even a shot of amaretto or rum while standing in the blizzarding cold. A mug of Glühwein is a must have experience in one of Germany’s Christmas markets. Some of the markets sell the wine in beautiful mugs too. When it comes in a beautiful ceramic mug, you have the choice to return your mug, after you finish your wine, and receive a deposit back (usually a couple euros) or take the mug home with you. Some of the Christmas markets only sell Glühwein in disposable styrofoam cups, so if you come across a unique mug, I recommend you leave the euros and take it home as a really cool souvenir.
In the grocery store or at a bbq, you will probably come across some vegetarians or people who just like cheese, like me, buying and / or eating ‘grillkasse’. Grillkasse or grilled cheese are basically these thick cheese patties that you fry on the pan or grill. I have no clue how these things stay together, like a patty, and don’t leave cheese melting all over your pan, but they do and eating them as is or in between a roll tastes delicious.
Germany is incredibly successful at manufacturing and selling a magnitude of bio, or organic, products in the vast majority of its grocery stores and at an affordable price. Never I have seen so much natural and organic food stores in small and medium sized cities than I have seen in Germany. You go you eco-friendly health gurus.
A store just for wine and liquor, not at all unusual, but imagine one of those large stores predominantly filled with beer, now that is something special. For me these German beverage markets are like Aldi stores (also German) but for drinks. In many Getränkemärkte, you will find isles of crate after crate filled with many different types of German beer; it’s intimidating but hey it’s Germany, what do you expect.
I find that the vast majority of European brands seem to sell jeans and pants that are strangely high rise, made out of really thin material, and / or just plain uncomfortable. With that being said – Esprit, who was originally founded out of California but has been based out of Germany since, is the only exception to my pants generalization. Esprit is the only European brand that I would buy jeans and chinos from, it’s affordable for the quality and it reminds me somehow of J. Crew. You can’t go wrong there.
I don’t know how to describe DM besides saying imagine a large toiletry shop that sells everything from their own laundry detergent, to their own hair oil, to makeup and does so at an extremely affordable price. When I lived in Germany, from 2014 through 2016, DM sold really nice scented body wash for as cheap as 55 euro cents per bottle. It’s hard not to love a place that knows how to make simple work like DM does.