Eye on the World: German Christmas Markets

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For approximately five weeks beginning the last week in November through the week of Christmas, cozy market squares and old town centers across Germany are filled with wooden huts selling handmade mementos, the aroma of grilled sausages and holiday spirit. The German Christmas Market or Weihnachtsmarkt is a centuries-old tradition where droves of locals and tourists alike gather together for chargrilled bratwurst, gluehwein (a mulled red wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves, sugar and orange zest) and conversation. I spent a few afternoons and evenings, while on a recent press trip to Thuringia, wandering about Christmas Markets in Erfurt, Weimar, Schmalkalden and Eisenach, gazing into the diverse assortment of stalls selling everything from handcrafted figurines and wooden sculptures to baked goods and chocolates.

Of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without holiday decorations. It looked as though every church, shop window, street, and nook and cranny in the quaint Thuringian towns I visited were garnished with sparkly ornaments, shiny trinkets and shimmering adornments. In Neuhaus am Rennweg, I met a 6th generation glass blower, Willy and his artist wife Ines, at their Christmas decoration shop, Der Christbaum. Each and every corner of their bauble factory was blanketed with delicate bulbs, bells, tree toppers and replicas of original Lauscha Christmas tree decorations, whose intricate designs date back to German holiday traditions of yesteryear. Take a journey through some of Thuringia’s Christmas Markets via my photo diary of the trip. At the end of the slide show the last 13 photos demonstrate how Willy turns a single white glass rod into a majestic reindeer.