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Bev Cohn: Christmas in Munich

Christmas sign in Munich

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.

holiday shoppers in Munich

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.

Christmas stall at night, Munich

traditional Bavarian Christmas gifts for sale

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.)

crowd listening to an alpine concert at the Munich town hall

selection of traditional foods on sale

A short walk from Marienplatz is one of Germany’s 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 Munich’s 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 Germany’s 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 afternoon.

handmade, hand painted wooden toys with Christmas trees in the background

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.

sweets at the family-owned Paul Reber 

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. Konigssee’s 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.

Lake Konigssee in winter

former hunting castle near St. Bartholomew chapel

the chapel of St. Bartholomew along Lake Konigssee

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.

Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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