Merry Christmas folks! (it is technically still Christmas in Singapore at the time of writing)
I have always dreamt of visiting a Christmas Market – an attraction in most European cities for the month leading up to the jolliest day of the year. Christmas Markets have its roots back in the late Middle Ages where merchants in German-speaking regions of Europe gathered to sell their holiday snacks and wares in the town square and the adjacent pedestrian zones.
I had a night to myself last month while in Manchester (UK) as I was due to fly out from there after a week-long work trip in the North-East. While cracking my head on how I could spend my night in the city, I tried my luck by googling “christmas market Manchester” and viola, it just so happened to be the start of the Christmas Market season. I was in luck.
The lone 15 min walk through the streets of Manchester was intimidating. It was dark and some streets were absolutely shady! Nearing the city centre, the groups of people streaming towards it merged into huge crowds which eventually poured into Albert Square. Make-shift were stores decked out in their cooking equipment and ware with hoards of people weaving their way through them. The smell of mulled cider wine and charred bratwurst permeated the frigid air. I was crazily overwhelmed and definitely excited to finally be at a Christmas Market! Unfortunately, I was a little low on dough (did not expect my work trip to be extended) and ended up walking 5-6 rounds through the central market (“surveying the scene”) just so I could strategize on how I could spend my last 20 quid.
As I was alone, it was impossible to go on a food tasting rampage. So, after some careful consideration, I eventually zeroed in on the giant bratwurst hot dog (hey…I was starving from my long train ride in alright..), apple streusel with warm custard and a mug of mulled cider (a total MUST!). Bought a couple of cheeses too from the Dutch cheese vendor. Other interesting items that I thought l would have loved to get my hands on were: the pulled pork sandwich, spanish chorizo roll, paella, pancakes, cumberland sausages, Lancashire cheese potatoes and hot chocolate (they give you a popsicle-like block of solid dark chocolate and a cup of hot water, you stir it in. ingenious eh!). Sadly, I don’t have a bottomless pocket, or tummy for that matter.
Do visit a Christmas Market if you happen to be in one of the major European cities from Mid November to Christmas. I guarantee you a filled belly from awesome (mostly-German) heritage dishes made from local produce and a luggage full of interesting souvenirs. It will definitely be one of the most unique experiences in your life (for the non-Europeans of course 😉