Christmas Markets: Germany's Tourism Export. By Louise Osborne ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On The Latest Trends Tuesday, 10th December 2013
Exclusive Feature: It's the beginning of December and, like every year, Christmas markets have sprung up across Berlin, bringing a winter wonderland to the capital city's squares, one in Alexanderplatz, the centre of the former East Berlin, another in the court backed by Schloss Charlottenburg and the traditionally-lit Rixdorf market on the second weekend of Advent, to name just a few.
Dressed up warm in a thick jacket, a hat and gloves, I sip slowly on the hot Glühwein clutched in both my hands.
My friends stand around me doing the same as we listen to the music coming out of the nearby speakers and watch people push through the cold, routing through trinkets and wooden toys placed strategically at the surrounding stalls.
As well as the Glühwein, festive food such as crepes, waffles and ginger bread are on offer at the small shops pulling us past the colourful Christmas stars, the woollen scarves and gloves and the delicate ornaments adorning each stall.
But it's not just Berlin boasting the array of seasonal villages, complete with Christmas trees, carol singing and warm atmosphere, already this year I've been able to visit markets in Hannover and Lübeck, just some of the many Weihnachtsmarkts that become Germany's hottest tourist attractions every year also bringing in visitors from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and beyond.
Still, while Germany may be the most well-known for its markets, they have also become one of the country's biggest exports, with German-themed markets popping up across Europe and even in the U.S. in a bid to satisfy the growing demand.
In the UK, German markets with wooden huts selling hot bratwurst, mulled wine and traditional toys have become a common sight, with stalls set up in London at Hyde Park in the form of the extravagant Winter Wonderland complete with a giant ferris wheel, ice skating and Christmas circus, but also in smaller towns such as Bournemouth, where a small circle of stalls have offered wares "inspired by the Weihnachtsmarkt" for six years.
Meanwhile, in France, a giant viewing wheel lights up the surrounding city of Lille – a popular market with many Brits, who easily make the trip with the Eurotunnel – and in Paris, specialties from the various regions of the country are mixed in with the German traditions in the market stretching along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées as well as the market surrounded by high-rise buildings at La Défense.
Although I've not been fortunate enough to visit those in the U.S., according to Buzzfeed, they stretch across the country, with the authentic Christkindlmarkt springing up in Leavenworth in Washington, stands making their way to Denver in Colorado and Tomball in Texas, to name just a few.
Traditionalists have accused some Christmas markets, even some of those in Germany, of becoming little more than funfairs and so losing their traditional appeal. But, while the markets may have seen some change over the past years with more brightly-lit attractions appearing, many still offer the traditional wares and food that have made them so popular and, as the festive month goes on, I will be enjoying as much time at the markets as I can…until next year.
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Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
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