In November 2012 I stopped over in Munich on my way home from Tbilisi, Georgia. In Germany most Advent/Christmas markets open the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent. Austrian markets open earlier. Last year the German market opening day was scheduled for Nov 30. Since I thought I would miss the Munich market I planned to catch a fast train (“Rail Jet” at 200 KM per hour, about 125 MPH) for Salzburg and its three markets. I did that but Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: Two of Munich’s Christmas markets were in full swing while I was there. I asked the man who sold me Chimney Cake (“New this year, from Transylvania”) why they are open when all on-line publicity says they would not open until Friday night he said: “Vell, the first Sunday in Adwent is usually the last Sunday in Nowember. This year it is the first Sunday in December and ve must decide if ve vant a short Christmas Market or a long vun. Ve decided long, yah? Don’t believe vat you see on Internet.”
A third Munich Christmas Market, the “Pink Christmas Market,” had not yet opened. It is a market mounted by the Gay and Lesbian community. I asked someone what that market was like: “You know, like Halloween only it’s Christmas.”
The official choirs, bell ringers, angels’ pageants and the like and all don’t start until “opening weekend” but there was a Piano Quintet busking (with an actual Grand Piano outside), and a brass band playing carols (after members drank their gluhwein and had their pics taken with Santa.) There was also an organ grinder who was not grinding. It was an elaborate rig with a mechanical monkey and a snare drum but he had the “hood up.” Inside I saw a keypad and LCD display. It was computer driven and the computer was on the fritz.
In Munich I bought a stocking for Liam that says, “Lieber Nikolaus, ich bin besonders brav (Nachstes Jahr!)” Google translates it as; “Dear Nicholas, I have been particularly (and here Google translate gives me several options) good – behaved – obedient — upright. (Next Year!) Of course “next year” Liam is scheduled to be a terrible two, but we can hope.
With increasing numbers of American tourists (they keep the Danube cruise ships running through the market season) I hope the markets can retain their local crafts and food character, although some of the food is not so local. I notice more Balkan food at these German markets than in the past. I already mentioned Chimney Cake from Transylvania. There were also kebabs and Bosnian sausage.
Senses sated, the lingering memory smells, tastes, sounds, sights and textures comforting me, I began the 22 hour journey home to Sitka for Christmas.