Me and my boyfriend decided to get away for Christmas last year, escape the family politics and horrendous television repeats. As much as I would miss my mum’s turkey gravy which really is the best, I thought this was a great idea. We thought about Scotland, then decided that although a log cabin would be lovely, we would undoubtedly get stuck in a snow drift and starve to death unable to escape. What could we do instead? So I looked at Christmas Markets and after experiencing German Christmas markets in Birmingham and London, I suggested we go to Germany, and so we settled on Berlin as my boyfriend lived there for a couple of years when he was younger, and Berlin is supposed to have some of the best and biggest markets.
We hoped it would be snowing in Berlin, but it wasn’t. Instead it was bitterly cold with that awful constant drizzle which left us freezing to the bone, but that did not deter us from walking miles all over the city. And we walked miles!! The U-Bahn was really effective, easy to use and quite cheap and we used that occasionally. We did the tourist attractions of The Reichstag, The Brandenburg Gate, The Berlin Wall Memorial, and Alexanderplatz, but what we really came for were the markets.
The markets run from November – January, and some are open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so there is always somewhere to visit. The first one we visited soon after we checked into our hotel was Alexanderplatz market. This is a winter wonderland with rides for the kids, a petting zoo and ice rink. I have never been ice skating in my life and the thought terrifies me. Looking at the rink, it didn’t resemble ice, just slush from the amount of people, but they had big penguin supports for the little ones to hang onto. I would need a giant penguin support!! There was a ferris wheel for panoramic views of the city, and a pavilion set up for dancing and music.
My favourite was Gendarmenmarkt (1 Euro admission), close to where we were staying. We went there on Christmas Eve and it has the backdrop of the French and German Cathedral which is illuminated at night, and the Concert House. There are many booths and heated tents where you can watch wood carvers, goldsmiths and toymakers at work. There are plenty of places to stop and heat Bratwurst or salted pretzels (my favourite) and drink gluhwein (the delicious German mulled wine – well needed to heat you up on a bitter night). There were gorgeous handmade chocolates which we devoured along with roasted nuts. Heaven!! There is also a stage full of entertainment of acrobats, musicians, dancers and jugglers, along with a manger and little donkeys giving children rides. I fell in love with the tiny baby donkey right at the back of the trail, he was too tiny to have a child on his back, but he followed the other donkeys so as not to be left out. So cute!! The atmosphere is electric, and it’s a great place just to wander around, people watch, drink and eat.
Christmas morning we caught the train to Charlottenburg Castle market. It was crowded even for Christmas Day. In Germany Christmas Eve is celebrated more, so families are out and about on the 25th. The castle is the backdrop for this market which is illuminated in colour at night, but we visited during the day. There are selected arts and crafts, handicrafts and gastronomy inside cabins and glass pagodas. My boyfriend was content to stuff his face on Bratwurst, and I was content to stuff mine with pretzels and gluhwein.
We were in Berlin for 4 nights, and there was plenty to keep us occupied, along with the tourist sights and a city packed full of markets, it’s definitely a worthwhile break for Christmas. I had schnitzel for Christmas dinner which was lovely, and although I missed my mums cooking, it made a great change to get away. I also got to take back some delicious stollen cake and chocolates.