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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Saarbrücken Christmas Market by the Castle

Lots of Christmas markets (Weihachtsmarkt) this time of year.  Some last more than a month, others just a few days.  Look around.  You’ll find plenty, big and small, sometimes more than one in the same city.

Here’s a partial list for Rheinland Platz Click on the brown lettering to get the dates for a specific market

And another partial list for Saarland:
Click on the red lettering to get the dates for a specific market.

Weihnachtsmarkt is pronounced Vie-knocks-marked, but in English or German, it’s a wonderful tradition for the holiday season.
Unlike the United States, where anything suggesting religion is carefully scrutinized before being beheaded, the Germans are unabashedly fond of Christmas and its many celebratory reincarnations.  Nativity scenes are shamelessly displayed.  Join in the fun, or embrace The Grinch.

Remember, this is Germany.  No matter the occasion, the waft of roasting meats and baking bread lusciously fills the air.  Beer and wine flow freely and the click of heavy mugs lets you know you’re in the right place.  My kind of Christmas celebration.  Vendors line the streets.  Artisans display their wares, with everything from intricate tree ornaments to handsomely carved furniture, olive wood kitchen implements, homemade chocolates, and a thousand other things that suddenly look like a fabulous way to spend money and keep the snarling relatives at bay.

Roasting Chestnuts

Castle is in the far background
In the city of Saarbrücken (Bridge over the Saar River) you have a bunch of choices.  We picked the Weihnachtsmarkt in the plaza of the Saarbrücken Castle.  Is the castle historic?  Yes and no.  Lots of castles on this site, dating back to around 1000 A.D.  Dukes, Duchesses, wars, revolutions saw so many deconstructions and reconstructions that the history is difficult to follow.  The current buildings got a facelift and architectural changes in the late 20th Century and are used as offices by the Saarland government.  Still, they stand straight, white, and with a certain majesty.  The cobblestones are a nice touch and it’s the perfect place for a market, which also wanders down the surrounding streets.

But, no matter which Weihnachtsmarkt I pick, I always find something different, something that strikes me as “Hey, never thought of that.”  In some cases I’m pleased that I never thought of that, but often I’m surprised.  

This time it was hot beer.  Glühbier, it’s called.  The thoughtful folks who provided this warmth on a chilly day in Saarbrücken were Belgian as was the Glühbier.
The beer comes out steaming!

Most of us have sampled Glühwein.  Wine with spices, and sugared, then heated.  You can also get it with a shot of this or that, which is always a good idea, but only if you’ve found another driver for the sleigh.   Even with more alcoholic infusions, I can only take one mug of Glühwein.  A bit sweet for my taste.  But, it does get better with age, so wait five minutes, then have another.

Glühbier is a different beast.  You may think fruit flavored beer is sweet.  Not if it’s Belgian.  They add the fruit flavoring before fermentation, so the sugar from the fruit morphs into real beer, with a fruit flavor.  Heat the fruit beer up and you’ve got Glühbier.  First time I tried it, I was ready for another.  Instantly addictive.  A side effect is that suddenly your other hand feels empty without a Brat.  Easily remedied.

Glühbier!  Succulent, with just a bare bite of bitterness.
One thing I really enjoy about a German Weihnachtsmarkt is the attitude of the people.  Happy.  Smiling.  Hail fellow well met!  You well may wonder about the origin of that greeting from medieval times.  Well, join me for a Glühbier, grab a Wurst and let’s talk about it…

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