A few weeks ago, Hubby and I went on our traditional pre Christmas trip to Berlin to experience the wonderful Christmas markets there. Of course, I ought to have blogged about this before Christmas but you know how it is in the busy Christmas rush - the time just runs away from us. But before Christmas is finished, I thought I'd share some of the magical atmosphere with you.
From the last weekend in November, Berlin is full of Christmas markets, one larger and lovelier than the next, but none is as beautiful as the market at the Schloss Charlottenburg.
When darkness falls, the castle is illuminated by colored lights, and looks like something out of a fairy tale.
It would be easy to imagine Cinderella on her way to the ball here, wouldn't it?
Through the windows one can glimpse the Christmas tree under the angel that adorns the building's dome.
Proud statues guarding the entrance.
And sweet winter clad angels light up the dark winter night wherever they go.
It's such a wonderful place to just wander around and soak up the yuletide spirit.
Some have dressed up in beautiful old-fashioned robes. Long capes are probably nice to wrap around oneself when it snows like this.
There is always the opportunity to warm up with a cup of steaming hot Glühwein, served from large brass cauldrons.
Or maybe something from the grill? You can get good food at all the stalls. Hubby really enjoys the half-meter sausages that are folded twice and served in a baguette, while my favorite is fried mushrooms with garlic sauce. The hot pancakes with sugar and cinnamon make a delicious dessert. This time we also sampled the deep fried camembert with cranberry jam. It was sooo good!
Of course, there is a huge variety of roasted nuts, nougats, cheeses, pastries and glazed fruits to choose from.
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ..." don't taste particularly nice, I think, but they smell wonderful.
Christmas carols in German oompah version...
...or played on the barrel organ. I was allowed to crank the handle on this one.
The stalls sell everything, including children's toys. Here are the traditional (and costly) Steiff teddies, which can achieve incredible prices among collectors. Genuine Steiff teddy bears, always have a brass button in their left ear. They are so lovely these old-fashioned teddy bears. One of them almost ended up in Norway. Maybe next year ...
Something that did end up under the Christmas tree was this lovely green enamel soap dish. This stall had everything a shabby chic heart could desire, and I was allowed to choose several Christmas presents for myself.
The soap dispenser in the middle is now adorning our bathroom.
I also got five different scented soaps.
There were many vintage signs to choose from. I got a little heart-shaped one with roses.
It's not just the markets that are decorated for Christmas. In front of the Brandenburg Gate, the large Norwegian Christmas tree lights up the square.
The old East German main street Unter den Linden is now the place to go for luxury cars. Santa has apparently upgraded the sled this year. A Mercedes 500 K Roadster undoubtedly has a little more sex appeal than Rudolph and company. I would willingly be a Santa babe, if I could get a ride in that car.
But even more modest vehicles may have merits. I fell for this snow-covered bike on the 18th of March Square.
It is obviously too early to plan the Christmas of 2011 when last year's Christmas is barely over, but if you'd like to experience the world's most beautiful Christmas markets, take note of this travel tip. In late August cheap tickets are usually put out for sale, and there are lots of hotel bargains readily available. We have gone there for years now and have never paid more than 500 GBP (for two) for a four-day trip, although we have always stayed at five star hotels in the middle of town. Just remember to bring an almost empty suitcase, because one can easily get most of the Christmas shopping done. In particular, at the KaDeWe department store, which in my opinion is just as nice as Harrod's. But with prices that don't require you to be a multi-millionaire to be able to shop there.
We always bring home one really nice thing for the Christmas tree from here, but it's not easy to choose one among all that glitter and bling.
A highlight of the trip every year is to see how they've decorated the Great Hall of the store.
And to meet the real Santa Claus, of course.
Although we are already in the new year, I hope you still have a little of the good Christmas spirit left inside you. :-)