T’Was Many Nights Before Christmas
When I moved to Germany back in April (God, was it really that long ago already?), there was only a small number of things I was really looking forward to – one was the availability (not to mention the price) of beer, which had been relatively restricted in Malaysia. Next after that, was the availability (again, to say nothing of the price) of good meaty meals, something which I also seriously lacked in Malaysia. Then, there were a few other things before the next one, Christmas Markets. Christmas markets, from experience, basically combine the previous two things in one delightful sub-arctic atmosphere. So it was with a certain element of joy that I noted the Christmas market opening in Frankfurt last week. We went along (of course) for the first night – but unfortunately things weren’t off to a great start. Since I travel from what is essentially another city every day for work, I didn’t arrive home until around 8:30 in the evening, and it turns out that the Frankfurt Christmas Market finishes every night at a rather family-friendly 9pm.
So we arrived, looked around, I grabbed some food and with that, the shutters came rolling down and we suddenly found ourselves standing in a rather spooky empty fairground atmosphere.
Not ones to give up at the first sign of trouble, we went again on Saturday (much earlier this time) to get a real taste of Frankfurt’s very own Christmas market and hopefully finally get a long-awaited Christmas market beer.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Frankfurt’s a large city; a large and easy to get to city. Not just for Germans, but for pretty much everyone in Europe. Look at the photo on the right and see if you can spot the problem – it was like most of Europe had been tipped out into the square. At one point, a marching band had set up at the area that seemed to show the most opportunity to turn into a bottleneck and began playing. Sure enough, within moments, human traffic came to a standstill as some stopped to watch the impromptu performance, others were at the information stand asking for directions (probably on how to escape), while still others were lined up in the ever-growing queues trying to buy something at one of the many stands that were also crowded into the same tiny space. After I got crammed in nicely behind a woman with one of those double-sized prams, with some elderly visitors to my left and some Americans who seemed to be in no rushÂ to my right, I began to think that I’d be with the marching band right to the very end. Getting a beer slowly went out of question, along with buying the first Christmas steak-in-a-bun (I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated German name for this meaty treat), and just escaping became the main thing.
Finally, after there was sufficient movement to allow me to elbow my way out of the blockade, I moved in the direction of the roundabout and from there towards a dark alleyway (as I say, anything to make good my escape) and vowed never to return to the Christmas market on a weekend, recalling all the brochures I’ve seen in travel agents in Ireland throughout my life touting the experience of visiting the ‘German markets for a weekend break’. So, consider this a warning to all tourists thinking of visiting the Christmas markets – yes you’ll love them, yes they’re very awesome but yes, you’ll also irritate me strongly by being there and forcing me to fight my way through relentless crowds just for an innocent steak-in-a-bun and a Christmas beer. On the bright side, the Christmas markets located just right in the middle of the old town alongside the Cathedral, and taken altogether (and imagining in my head that my elbow wasn’t being knocked every 2 seconds by some more crowds), the place looks lovely and is enough, even in November, to make you feel like hanging a stocking up in the living room overnight and seeing what happens.
If I’m really lucky, I’ll find a beer and a steak in there the next morning…! Until then though, I’m going to try again in the middle of the week and hope I’ll actually be able to move this time…