Sights, Sounds, Tastes
& Scents of Christmas in Munich
A Bavarian Treat To Tantalize The Senses
Story & photos by Beverly Cohn
ince the 14th century, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas,
Munich’s landscape has been transformed into a sprawling sea of Christmas
Markets called Christkindlmarkt, where holiday shoppers stroll through
festive, scent-filled streets, eating, drinking, shopping, and socializing.
The capital of the State of Bavaria, Munich’s primary
market, one of the over 20 scattered throughout the city, (including
a Medieval Christmas Market, Wittelsbacher Platz, and a gay pink Christmas
Market, Stephansplatz,) is located in Marienplatz and is home to more
than 140 colorful stalls or wooden huts offering an unending selection
of traditional Bavarian gifts, such as wooden toys, crafts, wood carvings,
ornaments, manger figurines, candles, and angels.
The pleasure of eating and drinking is easily satisfied
as a vast selection of mouth-watering traditional foods are readily
available such as baked apples, roasted almonds, ginger nuts, sausages,
roast pork with dumplings, spicy gingerbread, plum figurines, potato
pancakes, chimney sweep figures carved from prunes and almonds, barbecued
pork on a stick, or knockwurst wrapped in pastry, which goes well with
a stein of beer or mulled wine (gluewein.)
A short walk from Marienplatz is one of Germanys
largest manger markets, offering everything you need to create an authentic
manger. The Rindermarkt products include lanterns, the ox and donkey,
cherubs, and gifts of the Magi. Enhancing the Yuletide spirit, music
lovers are treated to an alpine concert performed every day from the
balcony of Munichs town hall. It is also the site of the Heavenly
Workshop, where children between the ages of six and twelve have
fun with arts and crafts or baking and decorating cookies.
For an non-shopping experience, pristine Berchtesgaden
-located at the foot of Germanys second highest mountain, the
Watzmann - is great for strolls along snow-packed hiking trails. Or,
if you prefer, you can ice skate, ski, or take a romantic horse and
sleigh ride. Christmas trees are decorated with small handmade, hand
painted wooden toys, angels, and real candles. A charming custom is
the ringing of all the church bells for 30 minutes at 3:00 pm every
Although a bit scary, not to be missed is the traditional
500-year old custom "Krampus Run,” which recalls the legend of St. Nicholas.
Twelve young people dressed as “Buttnmandl or Kramperl, in straw or
fur costumes and frightening fur masks through which long, red tongues
protrude, run through the villages clanging cowbells attached to their
waists and flicking birch switches, which is said to chase away evil
spirits. But beware, they are known to swat young girls on the knees
as a sign of fertility.
If it’s time for a sweet treat, head over to Paul Reber
GmbH, which has been family-owned for over 140 years and manufactures
its famous genuine Reber Mozart-Kugein. A luscious treat, they are filled
with pistachio marzipan made from pistachio nuts, almonds, and hazelnut
praline and then covered with milk or dark chocolate.
For another non-shopping experience, take an electric
boat ride on the crystal-clear, emerald green Lake Konigssee. As you
glide silently on this narrow, fjord-like protected lake, said to be
the cleanest in Germany, the picture postcard winter landscape will
beguile you with imposing rock faces, one of which is a gigantic sleeping
witch. Konigssees landmark is the chapel of St. Bartholomew, dating
back to the 12th century, along with the adjacent house, formerly a
hunting castle to Bavarian kings.
A unique market experience is Fraueninsel, which is
located on the island of Frauenchiemsee, in the heart of the Baviarian
Alps on Lake Chiemsee, the biggest lake in Bavaria, also known as the
Bavarian Sea. The only Christmas market in Germany held on an island,
the stalls are elaborately decorated and offer handmade crafts and culinary
delicacies. Here you can find Kaiserschmarrn – sugared pancakes with
raisins, and the kinder (children) can play in the fairytale tent where
they decorate Lebkuchen – traditional German Christmas biscuits, which
are crisp on the outside and filled with a soft, spicy gingerbread stuffing.
There is a saying in Bavaria that “eating and drinking
keeps body and soul together” and a Yuletide adventure will bear testament
to that old saw.