Mainz, Germany- Christmas market

Something that I have wanted to do for over the past decade was to experience a true German Christmas market. I have seen other cultures’ takes on the German tradition but I knew it wouldn’t be the same as seeing a true German market during the holidays. Finally, I was able to secure a trip to see what has eluded me my entire career, the Mainz Christmas Market. I had heard much ado about the gluhwein, bratwurst and wooden stalls.
We landed in Mainz in the morning and I opted on a short nap before heading out to the market. Those that had been before from my crew spoke of the magical nature of the market after dark, therefore I opted to wait and see it after the sun had set. It was Sunday night and the crew and I set out with most of that part of the Germany, it seemed, to visit the market. The crew was right though, the night atmosphere was one of beauty akin to a Christmas card. The tiny lights strung from high above the market like fairy lights gave off an ethereal view of the holiday night. The nip in the air lent well to a warm glass of gluhwein, a warm mulled wine. It was available in the original flavour as well as non-alcoholic. A bevy of other yule time brews are also available for those who do not favour the warm wine.
One of the parts I found most interesting about the market was how the cups and plates were handled. The prices you see advertised above the food purveyors do not include the deposit for the glassware. When treating one’s self to a mug of gluhwein expect a 1 euro deposit to be added to the purchase. This is a deposit on the glass mug and is refundable. To reclaim the money back simply turn in the mug to any drink stall when finished. When purchasing another beverage a fresh mug will be filled for the advertised price as the deposit was paid on the initial purchase, one simply hands over the old cup and cost of the wine. The last option is of course to keep the mug as an inexpensive souvenir of your travels. The design of the glasses had not changed in the past year or so at least, according to the others who had often frequented the Christmas market in the past, but when it does many keep their mugs and collect them. The plates brimming with pork work on a similar deposit system but the fee is slightly higher at 2 euros. The plates were plain so not collectible like the mugs. I noted all of those that received them returned them for their money back.
The stalls wove around the market square packed with so many holiday revellers it was hard to move at points. The wares ranged from honey and beeswax candles to wooden toys. Candy, nuts, and stollen (a traditional Christmas bread) tempted shoppers with a sweet-tooth. Trinkets, knickknacks, and all manners of gifts were also available for purchase at the many shops. My favourite, of course, were the food vendors harkening the hungry patrons with the cloying smells of potato pancakes, bratwurst on a bun, and raclette cheese on toast. The latter two made up my dinner with my crew. We simply purchase our choice of food and stood among the crowds doing our best to keep out of the way of those on a shopping mission. It was hard to navigate with food and drinks, so we chose to finish one before buying the other. I adored the nosh we ate that night. The bratwurst was unlike any that I had sampled before. Even with the pathways jammed we ran in to various colleagues in the throng. Some stalls were the traditional wood smaller stall; others were proper enclosed wooden stores. The most imaginative were the giant kegs turned on to their sides and furnished with dining tables and chairs. It made for a lovely, intimate, and hobbit-like eating area but it was hard to get a spot in them as they were all full with many milling about hoping to snag one and not have to eat their dinner standing.
I was able to purchase a few of my Christmas gifts at the Mainz Christmas Market that night. My bags left brimming with goods nearly as full as my belly when leaving the market that night. I did keep my mug as a memory of what was my first visit to a true German holiday market and hopefully the start of a collection. Fingers crossed for next year.