An evening trip to experience one of the most famous Christmas markets in north/central Germany.
Goslar is located in the Harz Mountains (land of the witches) to the south of Hanover (an hour with regional train). Me and my friends were visiting from Braunschweig (a 45 minute drive). It is a UNESCO city and a free imperial town in the state of Lower Saxony.
When north Germans talk about Goslar, their eyes widen with amazement. I am quite north German and can only second that. The town makes for an excellent day trip destination with history, culture and charm stamped all over it. Adding to its charm were the chill of december, dark alleys on mountain slopes, the flair of the witch-land, a full moon night and of course the festive decorations.
To Park: there is a big parking place right in front of the palace of Goslar. From there the market entrance is just a minute of a walk.
Coincidentally we reached the Marktplatz (city square) a few seconds after 6 pm as the Glockenspiel (Glocken: Bells, Spiel: games) started.
With and without the Christmas season, one of the highlights in Goslar is a kind of a cuckoo clock. It is mounted on the massive grey colored Kämmerei (Finance) Building. At 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 6pm a set of figures come out from below the clock and move in circles. They are supposed to be telling the story of 'mining in Rammelsberg' accompanied by echoing chimes. It is a major tourist attraction and many hands held up their cameras to film it.
We then helped our hungry, after-work ourselves right into the market. In the middle of the square is a fountain from the 12th century with an eagle perched on it, which marks the center of the square as well as that of the town. It stood there grand as always, amidst a host of huts selling delicacies.
The city square
An array of stalls ranging from those serving sauteed mushrooms with garlic sauce to the regional Flammkuchen (resembles a thin pizza, topped with fresh cream instead of tomato sauce) panned before us. Looked like every vegetarian's delight. I (am not vegetarian) chose a Spinat-Feta-Calzone (fried pastry filled with Spinach and feta cheese). It was the best calzone I ever tasted. The dough was just fantastic.
We later joined into a tiny queue to get ourselves some Kartoffelpuffer (Kartoffel: potatoes, Puffer: fried flat cakes). It is often served with Apfelmuss (Apfel: apple, muss: puree). Yum! When on such tours with friends, we try to share the food we buy, because that leaves room in the tummy to try out a larger amount of dishes.
When the locals say they are going to the Christmas market, they mean they are looking forward to an evening with Glühwein (hot spiced wine) and friends. We were no exception.
Every Christmas market has their own branded mugs for Glühwein. Often with a picture of the city or town you are currently standing in.
That is why there is extra caution money you need to deposit on them as many people collect the mugs from all over the country. I have seen some adorable collections till date.
A hut there offered something I had never heard of before. 'Heißer Holunder' (hot holunder. holunder are flowers). It came topped with cream. Looked weird but I found it tasty. My friends stuck to Glühwein.
And then we all had the same idea about what was next: time for something sweet.
No Christmas Market visit in Germany is complete without the regional favourite of 'Schmalzkuchen' (fried doughballs sprinkled with powdered sugar).
With Schmalzkuchen off the checklist, what next? One of my friends said there is a special forest on the other side of the square.
The Christmas Forest turned out to be quite an experience in itself. You actually have to make your way through the trees, ducking, squeezing by and trying keeping the branches off your face.
Inside it was quite dense and dark. The glow of the soft fairy lights hanging on the trees made it seem quite romantic. And what does one do once in there? Buy more Glühwein and chat!
There is something very nostalgic about holding a hot mug of Glühwein pressed between woolen gloves. The steam oozing from it's surface, the smell of cinnamon mixed with sugary alcohol and your feet which numb in sensation over time with the dropping temperatures of the night. At times the ritual is accompanied by hot chestnuts as a side snack.
''What a nice finale!'' We exclaimed. Yet we decided to check out the little alley with the Party sign before calling it a night. So out of the forest and back to the market square we went.
Making our way through the crowds, down the twinkling entrance... and voila! Apparently the regional choir group was performing a Christmas concert in the backyard. They had chosen Thursday evenings to perform. About forty singers and such a merry atmosphere. About almost 200 visitors clapped, cheered and made requests. We swung, jumped and even held up cell phone torches (due to absence of candles and lighters). The evening ended on the notes of 'country roads'.
And then we hit the road. Elated, gushing and more charmed than ever.