Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen! We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, right? so not to late for all of this! Also I am extremely excited to announce another guest blogger – whose work I will probably have a lot of fun commentating – My Fiance, Ryan, who I have been discussing a whole lot lately…. which he now is very aware of as I just gave him access to this site….. Yep. Hi, babe!
Anyway, he’ll be going into more details on his life and I hope you guys enjoy and get to hear from him a bit more – partners are fun!
As the aforementioned fiancé living abroad in Germany, I am finally joining Taylor here on Leave-on-the-Wind as a guest blogger. Seeing as I will be spending 3 years as a Soldier in a foreign country, I figured it would be fun to support my fiancé’s blog with some OCONUS (Outside Contiguous United States) views. I get to experience Germany and Europe as a whole for the first time; while I have lived in a couple states and deployed twice to the Middle East, I haven’t spent much time in foreign countries that are not war zones.
I arrived in Germany a little over a month ago, disappointed to have missed Oktoberfest (The real one since we did manage the LA equivalent!), but excited for the next big holiday group event: The Christmas Markets.
Most major cities in Germany have their own Christmas Markets as well as some of the smaller towns but they are proportionally smaller versions. My first taste of the markets was in my local town of Ansbach, where a small market took place in a walking shopping district.
My friends told me it was a tragedy to attend any Christmas Market and not have some festive glühwein, a traditional Christmas beverage most commonly made from a boiled red wine mixed with various spices. I gladly purchased a glass, which instantly started warming me up on that windy, cold day that I have come to recognize as the common daily weather.
It’s taste was compelling, to say the least.
I have never fancied wines much – always feeling forced to enjoy them when offered a glass – but something about the glühwein really resonated with me. Whether that was because of the added spices, or the warmth it provided, I cannot say, but I know I went back for quite a few more cups of it.
Throughout this drinking process, I also discovered an interesting sales mechanism that seemed particular to the markets. Every glühwein seller will charge extra for the mug they provide the drink in, but if you later return the mug, you receive a deposit back or you may forego the deposit and keep the glass. Naturally I kept my first one as a souvenir of my first market. (Check out the pictures below!)
We wandered the market, making small purchases and enjoying the time with friends, as I practiced my meager German. I had come to think of this small, lightly crowded market with just a couple dozen stalls as being the standard of a Christmas Market.
Boy, was I wrong.
The next weekend, I had the opportunity to travel about an hour away to Nuremburg with a coworker, her husband, and their 9-year-old son.
Making our way into the market, I was floored by how many people I was seeing already – this market must be huge: it was. It had hundreds of stalls and thousands of people were milling around.
Most of the time, the market was a crushing crowd, as people pushed left and right to get through – certainly not for those who don’t do well in crowds, but if you can brave the ruckus, you are rewarded with stalls selling all kinds of goods; from handmade candles, to Christmas ornaments, to pastries, pretzels, and sweets. The smells of all the foods cooking was overwhelming, and I wanted a little bit of everything. I stand by my decision to start of with a pretzel and a glühwein and slowly try random pastries and other foods picked at random.
As we walked, we started in on a maze of stalls that seemed organized to lead you in a line from stall to stall as if in a brightly colored labyrinth. My group lost me more than once as I would get distracted by a beautiful bauble, a delicious smelling bag of tea, or the plethora of hanging Christmas tree ornaments. Finding them again, we would start back down the path again, seemingly wanting to buy everything they had to sell. (I talked about this way back when I was living in London; pace yourself and set a budget!)
In the end, not counting food and drinks consumed as we roamed, I managed to buy two ornaments for me and Taylor, a big bag of caramel apple black tea (which smells as sweet as its namesake), and a bag of fruit flavored sweets for my friend’s son. After hours of walking around, we spent some time listening to the band that was on a little stage in front of what looked to be a cathedral, and then called it a night.
Honestly, this introduction to a little bit of German culture and a wonderful evening out was just what I needed to help integrate me better into the place I plan to live, and I was glad to have the chance at some (very poor) German interactions as I butchered their otherwise beautiful language.
Thank God for Google Translate.
I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did and, again, welcome, Ry (as both a reader and writer)! So until next time around,
This is Ryan, writing for Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.