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Expat in Germany: December 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 5 Travel Destinations of 2010

Storm watching, which I could do for hours, makes the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, Vancouver Island,makes it one of my top travel destinations
2010 was another great year for traveling for me and my top travel destinations easily could have been a list of 100 items long, but after much consideration, here are my top 5 travel destinations of 2010 in chronological order.

#1 Top Travel Destination of 2010 - Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, Canada
In the winter months the small towns of Ucluelet and Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island are known for storm watching and we were treated to quite the show throughout our late December/early January stay.  In Tofino we watched surfers brave the frigid waters, barely above freezing, but clearly enjoying the waves, which were in peak season.  I couldn't convince J.P. to take a surfing lesson with me so we settled for a nice hike on the Wild Pacific Trail which provided plenty of storm watching excitement - from land.  See the official Wild Pacific Trail for more info.

#2 Top Travel Destination of 2010 - Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada
Waterton National Park is ~ 3 hours south of it's more famous neighbor, Banff National Park, but it is THE place to go for wildlife sightings.  I'll admit I'm biased, growing up just minutes outside the park, but I've seen bears here on at least 10 occasions, far more than I've seen in Banff.  The mountains are not as grandiose as those in Banff, but for what it lacks in size it by far makes up for it with wildlife, red rocks and a welcoming village feel.  In two short days, we saw elk, big horn sheep, deer, a moose with young twins, a coyote and evidence of a very recent cougar.  For more info see the government site, Waterton National Park
The wildlife, like this large herd of elk  is why  Waterton National Park is one of my top travel destinations

And this big horn sheep, which along with others munches on resident's grass in the village of Waterton National Park

#3 Top Travel Destination of 2010 - Stuttgart, Germany
I moved to Stuttgart, Germany in July from Calgary, Canada and the city has been very good to me.  It's not as rich in architecture or history as more famous German cities like Berlin or Munich are, but it still has several castles, a famous opera house, notable museums -most famously the Mercedes and Porsche museums and lots of interesting parks and cafes to explore.  With a population of just over 600,000 it's not an overwhelming city to get acquainted with, but still has plenty to offer.  Plus it's just a short drive away to hiking trails in the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps which is a bonus for me since I love to hike.  Coming soon is an iPhone app of a Walking Tour of Stuttgart which I wrote.  In the meantime, see the Stuttgart Tourism site for more info. 
The Schloss Platz, a great place to have a picnic in front of the new castle in Stuttgart, which I pass everyday on my way to German class makes this a top travel destination for me.

#4 Top Travel Destination of 2010 - PalauMost people have never heard of Palau unless they are scuba divers.  It lies between the Philippines and Guam and is an independent South Pacific Island Nation.  We were drawn to Palau since it is the world's first and only shark sanctuary and we wanted to support this initiative with our tourism dollars, hoping that other countries will follow suit.  We were rewarded with unbelievable diving - coral reef walls that disappeared deep into the blue teaming with life on one side and reef sharks gliding by us on the other side was a typical dive.  And one can never forget snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake where you snorkel with millions of non-stinging jellyfish, truly a unique experience. See Sensual Snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake for more info and  Palau Visitors Authority for more info.
Superb diving and snorkeling with millions of jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake make Palau a top 5 travel destination.
#5 Top Travel Desintation of 2010 - Odense, Denmark
I was in Copenhagen for the TBEX Conference which is a lovely historic city in itself, but I really fell in love Odense, just over an hour train ride from Copenhagen and the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen.  What makes this city with a small town feel so special is the locals pride in Hans Christian Andersen and their work to keep his stories alive.  Hans Christian Andersen statues from his numerous stories are placed throughout the city, and trying to figure out which story the statue is from is half the fun.  Without Hans Christian Andersen, Odense would still be a historic city with tree lined streets, but the community spirit evidenced everywhere you look is what really makes it special. See Top 10 Things to See in Odense, Denmark for more info.
The statues from Hans Christian Andersen stories in Odense help make it a top travel destination.

What was your top travel destination of 2010?

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

German Solutions for the Heavy Snowfall in Germany

The recent heavy snowfall in Germany has required Germans to get creative and from I've observed there is a good reason that Germany is often refered to as the "land of thinkers (and poets)."
An umbrella to keep you dry in a heavy snowfall in Germany
Use An Umbrella to Protect from the Heavy Snowfall
The snowfall in Germany has been a wet heavy snow and I've seen quite a few people using umbrellas.  It's not a bad idea, and it would definitely help you stay dry, but being from Canada where we have a lot of snow and don't use umbrellas except for when it's raining, I can't help but chuckle every time I see it.
Winter tires definitely make for a safer drive on winter roads
 Winter Tires Are Required By Law
This may seem logical and I'm sure helps prevent many accidents, but you may be surprised to learn that winter tires are not required in Canada where there is normally much more snow than in Germany.  My German friends shake their head in disbelief when I tell them this.
There's no need to buy a snow brush, just use a regular broom!
 Brooms Serve a New Purpose During the Heavy Snowfall in Germany
Most Germans have a tiny little scraper (by Canadian standards) for scraping ice off of their cars, which obviously won't work during a heavy snowfall.   I've seen several Germans get around this problem by literally sweeping the snow off their cars with a household broom.  It does the trick, but is funny to watch!

It seems the Germans have adapted quite well to the heavy snowfall in Germany!  How do you adapt to a heavy snowfall?  Share your tips below.

You may also be interested in:
5 Ways to Celebrate the First Snowfall in Germany

Umbrella photo courtesy of:  Cheech Exetar


Monday, December 27, 2010

5 Facts About Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany is similar to Christmas in North America in many ways but there are some differences which I found rather surprising after spending my first Christmas in Germany

1st Fact About Christmas in Germany - Santa Clause Doesn't Come at Christmas
I know what you're thinking, oh those poor German children, but don't feel too sorry for them, since while Santa Clause (Weihnachtsmann in German) may not come, Christkind (the Christ Child in English) is the gift bearer in Germany and throughout different parts of Europe. Christkind couldn't look more different than Santa Claus though.  He is usually depicted as a child and angel-like with curly blond hair.  As with Santa Claus though, children never see Christkind in action (hopefully).  It also should be said that the Weihnactsmann is becoming increasing more common as the gift bearer in Germany,  much to the chagrin of some people as the above photo demonstrates translating as "We believe in the Christ Child, don't give Santa Claus a chance."
One depiction of Christkind who makes an appearance every Christmas in Germany
 2nd Fact About Christmas in Germany - Christmas Comes Early
Children in North America would be so jealous of children in Germany if they knew they got their presents a whole 12 hours earlier.  Christkind comes in the early evening of Dec 24th and presents are opened that evening instead of waiting until the morning of the 25th.  It closely resembles Christmas morning in North America, but perhaps with fewer presents since many Germans are more practical with their spending and gift giving than many North Americans are. 

 3rd Fact About Christmas in Germany - There is an Extra Christmas Holiday
Or more specifically St Nicholas Day (the famous saint on who Santa Claus is based)  and he comes very early - on December 6th and he may even make house calls in person!  When J.P. (my German fiance) was very young he remembered St. Nicholas knocking on the door, then reading from his "Naughty or Nice" book, all the "naught and nice" things he had done that year.  He said he was afraid of St. Nicholas, but fortunately always made the "nice" list.  St. Nicholas is not nearly as generous as Christkind though usually only giving candy.
Christkind and Santa Clause, but there is a movement to keep Christkind as the gift giver and not the American Santa Claus as depicted in the top photo
4th Fact About Christmas in Germany -Turkeys are Safe in Germany
Many North Americans celebrate Christmas with a nice turkey dinner but you won't find a turkey dinner in sight at a German Christmas Dinner.  A roast goose is the traditional Christmas dish served along with some red cabbage, although wild boar may also be served in place of the roast goose.

5th Fact About Christmas in Germany - There's No (gasp) Snacking Nor Junk Food
Germans are not big snackers to begin with nor junk food eaters, but you definitely won't go hungry at a German Christmas.  You will likely have three filling meals and coffee and cake in the afternoon, but I feel this is worth mentioning since there will likely be no soda or chips in the house and if you do watch a Christmas movie you will likely be watching the movie, not snacking away endlessly while doing it.  For the first time in many years I didn't walk away bloated feeling like I had gained 5 pounds, so perhaps this should be the 6th thing to know about Christmas in Germany.

You may also be interested in German Christmas Markets:

German Christmas Markets for Children
The Stuttgart Christmas Market
5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market
What Does Hiking in Germany Have in Common With German Christmas Markets?

How to Celebrate Christmas While Living Abroad


Friday, December 24, 2010

German Christmas Markets for Children

German Christmas Markets are not only for adults, in fact there's just as much there for children - rides, games, toys, Christmas plays, children's punch so that the kids can have something to drink while the adults are enjoying their mulled wine and a festive atmoshpere.

Children's Rides at German Christmas Markets
The rides at each German Christmas Market will vary, but there's usually some sort of carousel ride and if you're lucky you may even find a unique twist on a ride.....
Carousels are a popular ride at German Christmas Markets for Children
Instead of a regular Ferris wheel this one is made of Christmas ornaments at the Stuttgart German Christmas Market
Keeping with the medieval theme at the Esslingen German Christmas market, this wooden Ferris wheel is pushed by two guys wearing medieval costumes
This is my favorite though at the Stuttgart German Christmas Market - it's a miniature train set - with a real castle in the background, and a train goes through it that children can ride on. 
Children's Toys at German Christmas Market
What would a German Christmas Market be without toys?  But what I like about the toys is that many of them are handcrafted and made of renewable materials instead of the usual plastic that many toys are made of.
Wooden toys handmade in Germany
Puppets are also a popular toy at German Christmas Markets
Wooden toys of all sorts are popular at German Christmas Markets, but when I asked J.P. if he grew up playing with handmade wooden toys in Germany he just laughed.  I'll take that as a no, but think if I had children I would be buying them these types of toys.

Children's Games at German Christmas Markets
Games  for children and adults are popular at some German Christmas Markets.
At the Esslingen German Christmas Market this was a popular game for children where you had to try and knock the egg off the log while being encouraged by a woman wearing medieval clothing.  It looked hard, but all the children I saw got some sort of prize which was nice.
Atmosphere of German Christmas Markets
The atmosphere of German Christmas Markets is festive and suitable for children and adults alike.  Each German Christmas Market has its own theme so each one is different.  The Esslingen German Christmas Market has a medieval theme and lots of medieval games to play which children seemed to enjoy.  The Stuttgart German Christmas Market is famous for its roof competition, in which each vendor decorates its roof in hopes of taking home the top prize.  Children would enjoy trying to pick their own "winner."
One of the roofs decorated in the Stuttgart German Christmas Market
 In addition, most German Christmas Markets have Christmas plays for children and special events for children so check ahead before you go.  There really is something for everyone at German Christmas Markets!
If you've taken children to a German Christmas Market please share your experiences below. 

For more on German Christmas Markets see:
The Stuttgart Christmas Market
5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market
What Does Hiking in Germany Have in Common With German Christmas Markets?

For links to forty different German Christmas Markets see:
Christmas Markets in Germany

You may also be interested in:
5 Facts About Christmas in Germany


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Celebrate Christmas While Living Abroad

Most expats feel pangs of loneliness at times, but the holidays can be the worst, especially if you're in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas.  I spent my first Christmas in Thailand crying most of the day, by the second year, I got smarter and realized that while no, it wouldn't be the same as Christmas in Canada with my family, it didn't have to be a complete bust either.  Here's how

1.  Have Christmas Dinner with a Local Twist
It may not be possible to have a turkey with all the trimmings so don't stress trying to recreate a "perfect" Christmas dinner.  No turkey?  A roast chicken makes a lovely substitute.  And why not add some local flair to your Christmas dinner?  In Thailand, we ate pad thai (a popular noodle wish) as a side dish.  No Christmas tree?  Palm trees look lovely when decorated.  No snow?  Build a Sand Man as pictured above?  You get the idea. 
The best part about this Christmas tree?  It's edible!

2.  Invite New People to Your Christmas Dinner
Besides your regular circle of friends, extend your invitation to other people you don't know very well, or perhaps at all.  Spending Christmas alone sucks and now is the perfect time to show your Christmas spirit with an invitation that will be appreciated, since Christmas is lonely for many expats.  You can ask your friends to invite other expats that they know, or better yet post an invitation on a local discussion forum so that interested people can contact you.  In addition for your generosity, you may just make some new friends.  To reduce the work and expense, you could arrange a pot luck, where everyone brings a dish.

3.  Invite Locals to Your Christmas Dinner
If you have ever been invited to a local holiday that you don't have back at home, you will know how much locals will appreciate your invitation.  I will never forget when I was living in S. Korea for only a few weeks and very lonely and lost when Chinese New Year came around.  A colleague who I didn't know very well invited me to spend Chinese New Year with her parents and husband.  Despite the language barrier, it was a memorable night where I learned to play a traditional Korean game,  got to see what Chinese New Year was all about, saw the inside of a Korean home, ate new but delicious food and deepened my friendship with my colleague who became a close friend.  Twelve years later, it's still one of my favorite memories of my time in S. Korea.  So just because someone doesn't celebrate Christmas doesn't mean they won't appreciate it.  It's also a nice way to say thank you to a local friend/s who have probably helped you out on more than one occasion.

4.  Buy a Gift for Yourself
It is Christmas after all!  I am a voracious reader so I always buy a special book for myself in advance and save it for Christmas day.  It's my way of saying "Merry Christmas" to myself and I thoroughly enjoy this present to myself.
Not a bad way to spend Christmas and it will make for a memorable one!

5.  Do Something Fun
My second year living in Thailand a few friends and I decided we needed to get out of Bangkok for a change of scenery and headed for the beach!  I spent Christmas day snorkelling and getting a massage on the beach.  On Boxing Day I started my scuba diving certification.  Sometimes doing something new or taking a local getaway is the best cure for the holiday blues.

Celebrating Christmas while living abroad will likely not be like celebrating Christmas at home, but it can be special and memorable in its own way.  Looking back at my Christmas's  snorkeling in Thailand's pristine waters has become one of my favorite Christmas's and certainly one of my most memorable.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elf Yourself - Great for Travelers

Is it just me, or does Christmas seem to sneak up on you when you're away from home?  Living in Germany, where I'm at a German Christmas Market weekly, I have no idea how this is possible, but here it is December 21st and I have yet to send one Christmas card, although I certainly love to receive them.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I received a lovely high spirited Christmas letter from my aunt which I enjoyed over a glass of wine reading about her adventures over the past year.

Of course, I could still send Christmas cards, which wouldn't be received until well into the New Year, but let's be honest, if I haven't send them yet, am I really going to send them?  Probably not.  Of course there are online Christmas cards, which are a good option for travelers, but my favorite is Elf Yourself, in which you upload photos of yourself and/or family members and your face is magically transplanted onto a dancing elf.

Check out the video of J.P. and me using Elf Yourself:  Expat in Germany's Elf Yourself Video. 

What I love about Elf Yourself is that it's free, you will laugh your socks off, it only takes a few minutes and you can send off an e-card with a personal message that is sure to give the recipient a chuckle as well and which children would also love!  Photos can be uploaded from your computer or from Facebook, which is great for travelers not be traveling with a laptop, and you can choose the dance that your new Elf Self will be doing.  Choosing which dance is the hardest part of using Elf Yourself, since they're all funny!  I choose the "singing" option, but there are also the Disco Elf and the Surfing Elf, which are free.  There are also other options available for a nominal fee. 

Have you Elf Yourselfed yet?

Note:  This is not a paid nor sponsored review, I just happen to really like Elf Yourself.

More Christmas Ideas for Travelers:
Online Advent Calendars - Perfect for Travelers 
5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hiking in Germany with Ruins and Castles

We set off on a 12km hike with the promise of a ruin AND a castle, all in one hike, I was excited, since there's not exactly a lot (well any) castles in Canada.  Our hike started 44km SE of Stuttgart in the town of Lenningen, but you could easily start in the town of Owen as many people do,  and reach the ruin and the castle in just a few kilometers.  This option seemed especially popular with families.
As is often the case when hiking in Germany, sooner or later at some point in the hike, you come across either sheep or cattle.  Germany has few national parks, so it's not uncommon for a part of the hike to pass by farms as this one did.  We stopped for the requisite photo opp and then headed off full of anticipation for the ruin which was only a couple of kilometers further. 
I loved the wooden bridge almost daring you to cross.  We were fairly confident there were no knights waitng to behead us so off we went, our imaginations running wild as we entered the ruin built between 1200-1300.
Up until this point, we had seen only a few other people.  This changed quickly at the ruin which appeared to be a popular picnic place for families.  We later discovered that coming from the town of Owen, this is a much shorter and enjoyable option for families, that combines history and nature.
Of course it wasn't all about the ruin!  We were hiking in calf deep leaves in some places and I couldn't resist taking a break to play in the leaves.  Is there anything that makes you feel more like a kid again than playing in leaves?  Now it was time for the grand finale - the castle!
I have to admit that I was disappointed by Wielandstein Castle, which in German is called "Burg Wielandstein", which is only a small castle, but  this wasn't the image I had conjured in my head.  I think I may just be getting spoiled when it comes to castles!  Nonetheless, the castle is still between 700 to 800 years old and it was a welcome rest stop though and there was also a restaurant inside.  We choose to sit outside and have a quick snack.  I later found out that the rest of the castle now serves as a hostel.  How fun would it be to sleep there?
And the view from the castle looking down into the valley was "sehr schon!" (very nice).
In summary, I would highly recommend hiking to Wielandstein Ruin and Castle as a day trip near Stuttgart, especially for families or couples.  It is a popular destination with Germans.  Despite being a busy day, the only language I heard being spoken was German and I like places that are off the tourist path.  Wielandstein Castle isn't by far the most amazing castle you'll ever see in Germany and in fact the ruins were much more impressive in my opinion, but it makes a great outing and a fantastic way to combine history with nature. 

For more on Wielandstein Castle (the site is in German, but you can use an online translator to change languages if need be)

More on Hiking in Germany:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Christmas Market in Stuttgart

The Christmas Market in Stuttgart is special, albeit it slightly unusual.  It's special because Stuttgart is home to one of the largest Christmas Markets in Germany, attracting weekend visitors from all over Europe and has been around for 300 years.  The Christmas Market in Stuttgart is nestled between the market square and the old castle and new castle creating a historical atmosphere.  But what really makes the Christmas Market in Stuttgart unusual is the decorating contest.  This isn't any old tree decorating contest, but a wooden roof decorating contest in which each of the 200 vendors decorates their roofs.  You be the judge:
Not surprising at a Christmas Market, Santa Claus was a common theme among many of the competitors
And of course Santa's reindeer 
Several polar bears also made appearances.  Perhaps because they also live at the North Pole with Santa Claus?
This sausage stand included some very clever advertising, which made me laugh out loud when I saw the giant sausage.  
But it wasn't all about Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Manger scenes were also common.
And then there were the rest!

I kept choosing a new "winner" in my head every time I walked pass a new booth.  But in the end, I think my favorite is the first image with Santa Claus and his sleigh and because the white things (which you can't see very well in the photo) are polar bears and being from Canada...well, I just couldn't help it.  Which one would you pick?  I will announce the "real" winner once it has been announced!

More on German Christmas Markets:

You may also be interested in:

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Intensive German Course, Stuttgart, Part 6

My Intensive German Course in Stuttgart has continued to be eventful, but that's the problem, I wasn't looking for an eventful course.  After four months, I've finally decided to change to another Intensive German Course in Stuttgart at another school.   It has been building for months - the lack of teaching - handing out grammar sheets is not teaching, the insults "I don't understand why you don't get this, it's not that hard", or "Why don't you know how to conjugate a $%&# verb?  You've been studying German for 3 1/2 months!"  But the insults in the Intensive German course  haven't been aimed directly at me - until now.  Two days ago I read a paragraph in German only to have our German teacher throw her hands up in the air and publicly declare my reading skills to be a "catastrophe."  So much for building my confidence.... I went home and cried. 

The next day, our other teacher who is very nice, but very, slow and very boring informed us that we have 2 1/2 chapters to cover before our A2 Exam next week so we would be extremely time crunched and that homework would be at an all time high - not including exam study time and that we would have very little time to review for the exam in class, as we did for the previous exam.   Hmmm....maybe because most days all we do is 2 grammar worksheets in 5 hours?  Either way, I was not impressed and met with the Intensive German Course Administrator that day.  To my relief, she was horrified when I told her why I was changing schools and apologized profusely.  Her validation meant more to me than it should have, but my confidence was still shaky.  

In retrospect, I wish I would have changed schools earlier.  I'm normally a "take charge" kinda gal.  Although I had previously tried speaking to the teachers and had formally complained to the Administrator before, I wasn't as proactive as I normally would have been and as a result my German isn't as good as I would like it to be.  This has me wondering, is our tolerance for B.S. higher when we're living abroad?  Are we so busy trying to adapt and fit in that we let things go by that we shouldn't?  Do you deal with challenges differently when living abroad than you do at home?


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

German Gingerbread

German gingerbread (lebkuchen) is tasty to be sure, and comes in more varieties than I ever thought possible but this year I am really missing good old plain gingerbread.

It all started when J.P. asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I asked him for the same thing I asked my mom last year when I was still living in Canada - gluten free gingerbread cookies.  I have a gluten allergy and gingerbread cookies are my favorite, but it's difficult to find gluten free ones.  Last year my mom lovingly made me a large tin of gluten free gingerbread cookies, which are not the easiest to make requiring at least four different types of flour to get the consistency right.  There was enough to last me months, but they didn't even last a week!  I knew J.P. wouldn't be baking them from scratch, he needs help just using the microwave  (no joke, the mircowave is new for him and he has no idea how long it takes to cook things in there) but I hoped he would figure something out.  A few days later a large box arrived at my door with the writing "gluten-frei lebkuchen" in other words, gluten-free gingerbread.  He was so disappointed that I had discovered this early as this was supposed to be part of my Christmas present. I was thrilled beyond words!
Gluten free German Gingerbread and other gluten free cookies - part of my Christmas present from J.P.
Nevertheless I insisted that I dig into the German gingerbread since I knew that it existed, I couldn't possibly wait until Christmas and besides, it would be fresher now anyway I said as I pleaded my case.   J.P. said if we were going to do it then we had to do it the German way and have our German gingerbread with coffee as well, which we did.  I didn't know where to start.  He didn't know what I would like, so he had ordered me every single kind of gluten free gingerbread they had, which was a lot! Yes, I know, I am a very lucky girl!  I am still working my way through it (it only arrived on Saturday), but I'm sure it will be long gone by Christmas.  So far I've tried the white chocolate covered German gingerbread, and two kinds of  chocolate covered German gingerbread, that's all soft and gooey and melts in your mouth. It's definitely the fanciest gingerbread that I've ever had and I'm sure German gingerbread would get top marks from chefs, but I can't stop thinking about plain old regular gingerbread men with perhaps a trace of white icing to give them a smile making me wonder whether they've been naughty or nice!

What do you miss about Christmas when traveling or living abroad?

Gingerbread men photo courtesy of:  m kashahara

You may also enjoy these other Holiday posts:
5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market
What Hiking in Germany Has in Common with a German Christmas Market


Friday, December 3, 2010

5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market

Going to a German Christmas Market is high on most tourists lists when they are in Germany in December, and many tourists come to Germany just for the Christmas Markets.  Before you go, read these 5 tips to make the most out of the wonderful experience of a German Christmas Market.
(Photo above of the Bonn Christmas Market courtesy of Stadt Bonn)
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market at Night
 Tip 1 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go at Night
While German Christmas Markets are open during the day, they really are most beautiful at night with all of the sparkling lights dancing about which really enhances the already festive atmosphere.
You can find Kartoffel Puffer - Fried Mashed Potatos at German Christmas Markets which will keep you full for hours!
Tip 2 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go Thirsty and Go Hungry
One of my favorite things about German Christmas markets are the food and mulled wine.  It appears I'm not alone in this judging by the crowds hanging out by the food and wine stalls.  German Christmas Markets are where special types of food are offered, many of which aren't offered at any other type of year.  Gingerbread and homemade truffles will tempt you around every corner.  It was at a German Christmas Market that I had my first Kartoffelpuffer, which is basically fried mashed potatos and is quite tasty but rather filling so I would recommend sharing it. And of course the mulled wine, which I've noticed has become quite a debate among my friends as to which German Christmas Market has the best one - as far as I can tell the Ludwigsburg Christmas Market appears to be unofficially in the lead.
Esslingen Christmas Market (Photo courtesy of Weihnactsmarkt-Deustchland)
Tip 3 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go to More Than One
Each Christmas Market in Germany is different reflecting local traditions.  The Ludwigsburg Christmas Market is celebrated for its ambiance, while the Stuttgart Christmas Market is celebrated for its size (one of the largest in Germany) and is known for its Black Forest Fruit Bread (not really to my liking, but it is popular).  The Esslingen Christmas Market has a middle-aged theme.  I would also recommend going to the smaller Christmas markets in addition to the bigger ones since they also have a different look and feel.  See  Christmas Markets in Germany for a listing of forty German Christmas Markets.  If the city you are in isn't listed, check out the city's local site since they may still have a Christmas Market that hasn't been listed as is the case with the Calw Christmas Market, a small German Christmas Market, but one that has the most delicious cheese I ever tasted.  We bought a huge chunk thinking it would last us two weeks, it only lasted three days and that was with restraint and there are only two of us.
German Christmas Market photo courtesy of:  Himmelstadlter Weihnactserlebnisse
Tip 4 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Go With Friends/Family
The German Christmas Markets become a place to hang out with friends and family and people meet here instead of heading to a restaurant or bar.  The German Christmas Markets have an ambiance you only find once a year so why not enjoy it and take it in with friends?  Note:  dress warm because you may get cold if you're going to be there for a couple of hours.
Puppet Show at Haidhausen Christmas Market (photo courtesty of Wendy)
Tip 5 For Going to a German Christmas Market:  Check the Schedule in Advance
German Christmas Markets often have entertainment - think choirs, Christmas plays, puppet shows, and German traditions, to name a few of the things you might get lucky enough to see.  At the Calw Christmas Market we got to see the Traditional Bread Cutting Ceremony, where a very long (at least 5 meters) piece of bread was carried through the Christmas Market and then served to guests.  I don't what tradition this represented and neither did J.P. but it was fun to watch and by checking the programming schedule ahead of time, you can increase your chances of seeing something really interesting.  (See Christmas Markets in Germany for a listing of forty Christmas Markets in Germany with links to each of their programming schedules).  

What tips do you have for going to a German Christmas Market?

More on German Christmas Markets:

You may also be interested in:

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