Traditionally the Christmas markets in Germany open the first weekend of Advent.
My first visit to a German Christmas market, way back in 1987, will always be a magnificent memory for me.
I shall never forget the sudden overwhelming scents of cinnamon and nuts roasted in sugar, of mulled wine and punch, caramalised fruits and fruit cake, roasting chestnuts, fresh dates, roasted sausages, sauerkraut and schupfnudeln (finger-shaped potato noodles fried with kraut and onions). The wafting of all these delicious smells was so unexpected. I had had no idea! I was simply expecting the visual delight of stalls displaying all the little tree decorations and shiny baubles.
Visually it was, however, also much more than just glittery stands. The steam and haze surrounding the food stalls gave everything an ethereal glow. And the crowds of people, all looking so happy, with rosy cheeks from the cold, was a pure pleasure to see.
Then there were the sounds. Obviously a crowd has a kind of buzz, but there were also musical boxes and faint Christmas carols on the tannoy speakers, and the carousel music and the clanking of mugs full of hot drinks.
I remember eating a white-chocolate-coated banana on a stick, some cinnamon sugar roasted almonds, and some schupfnudeln with tangy sauerkraut. Washed down with a piping hot mug of Gluehwein (hot red wine and juice mixed with spices and sugar).
And I remember buying a couple of the little decorations from the amazing choice on the stalls…such difficult decisions!
And I remember feeling very small among all the hubbub.