By Jenny B. Davis
Nearly 200 identical spruce stalls – some more than 100 years old – draped with red-and-white-striped awnings stand in meticulous rows, filled with quality gifts and goodies that have enticed shoppers since the 1600s. Wooden toys and artisanal handicrafts. Only traditional foods. Even the town square setting, surrounded by narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses and a hilltop palace just up the road, seems specially chosen to ooze storybook charm.
Sausages on the Go
Crusty peasant rolls stuffed with three juicy Rostbratwurst (four if you’re lucky) and a squirt of mustard makes a tasty meal that’s easy to carry and warms the hands as it fills the stomach.
And, to Drink
Hit the glühwein stall for a mug of this steaming cinnamon-and clove-laced mulled red wine. Add a shot of rum, as is tradition, and you’ll understand why its name translates to “glow wine.” Part of the price includes a mug deposit – refill at will, then keep it as a souvenir or return it to the stall to get your euro back.
Conveniently, glühwein pairs well with Lebkuchen. This dense, soft cookie is the reigning dessert at Christmas markets across the country, and Nuremberg is famous for its recipe. Developed by local monks in the Middle Ages, the decadent rounds are made with honey and spices and baked on communion wafer-like bases called Oblaten – a strategy that made sense back when monastery kitchens didn’t come stocked with nonstick pans.
Bakers use a hardier Lebkuchen dough to create the Herzen (hearts) that hang from nearly every awning and post. These over-size, arguably edible ornaments come frosted with simple messages like Ich liebe dich (“I love you”) and are threaded with ribbon and shrink-wrapped for gift giving. (The dough can also be used to construct gingerbread houses, which Germans call “witch houses,” à la Hansel and Gretel.)
Nuremberg has its own hometown Lebkuchen variety, the Elisenlebkuchen. Made with nuts instead of flour, they come either lightly glazed and topped with a pattern of carefully placed almonds or drenched in dark chocolate.
In the just-for-kids’ section of the market, there’s a stall where Kinder can decorate their own oversize cookies with colorful candies, then wait out the baking time riding a spectacular Victorian-era double-decker carousel.
Want more markets? See what Munich’s Christkindlmarkt has in store.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2014.
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