Lest I forget how fortunate I am to be living in beautiful Europe, with its rich, ancient history and fairytale charm, the Christmas markets – currently packed each night and day in Frankfurt – are a reminder of how fun it is to be living in a foreign country. Part of the fun is having a strategy to enjoy the best sections without becoming overwhelmed with the crowds, the blinding lights and the alluring smells of roasted almonds and popcorn. After many days of exploring the various sections of Frankfurt’s weihnachtsmarkt, here are my recommendations on the best way to enjoy the market.
1. If you come on an empty stomach, make sure you start with food first, especially if you are planning to enjoy Gluewein and other cold-weather fortified drinks along the way. Greasy is always a good start because it coats your stomach. On occasions when I have made the mistake of going straight for the Gluewein first, thinking that it would warm me up nicely, it did more than just warm me up. Put something greasy in your stomach. Start with Kartoffelpuffer, which is everywhere. I especially like the stand near the Haagen-Dasz Cafe, the one by the Jack Wolfskin Store. I think he adds a bit of nutmeg to his batter that makes it very interesting. If not Kartoffelpuffer, there are plenty of other greasy foods like Bratwurst, ribs, fries, etc. There is even a stand, behind the church at Hauptwache, with grilled Salmon on cedar planks. It’s tasty and healthy, but there’s nothing like Kartoffelpuffer to fortify your stomach, if you can handle it, that is.
2. If you consider the Kartoffelpuffer as your first course, then I would recommend Bratwurst or ribs as your second. The meat grill stand near the Church in front of Galleria Kaufhof offers a wide variety of options. I especially like their ribs.
3. After you finish your ribs or Bratwurst, walk a few stalls over in the direction of Galleria and enjoy a burning hot mug of Feuerzangenbowle. If you are a slow drinker and stand their long enough, you can watch the bartender pour the rum over the sugarloaf and see drops of the sweet dew fall into the mulled wine below. Be forewarned: Feuerzangenbowle can be much much stronger than your average Gluewein.
4. From here you can join the crowds and weave your way through all the stands between the Esprit shop down towards the River Main and the Roemer. Be forewarned: It will become more and more crowded as you get closer to the Roemer. If you need a little break along the way, there are several more Bratwurst, Flammkuchen, or French Fry stands, among others. If you are craving something sweeter, avoid the roasted Almonds, which always smell better than they taste, and opt for one or two Schokokusse oder Mohrenkopf, little puffs of chocolate covered marshmallows. They taste nothing like the packaged marshmallows I grew up with in the U.S. The Schokokusse are lighter, airier and definitely not as sugary as the marshmallows of my youth. You can’t miss the Schokokuss stand, just before you cross the tram street to enter the Roemerberg.
5. With your stomach well lined with Kartoffelpuffer, a Bratwurst or two, ribs, and Mohrenkopf, you should head over to the small area behind the Roemerberg and Schirn Kunsthalle. On a little incline near the U-bahn sign sits a small stand that sells excellent Gluewein produced by a vineyard. A friend of mine introduced me to the place the other afternoon. What I like about their Gluewein is that it isn’t from a bottle like what many of the other stands sell. Thus, their Gluewein isn’t sugary or syrupy when it gets cold. Of course, you shouldn’t let your Gluewein get cold in the first place; drink it slowly but fast enough that you enjoy it while it’s still hot or warm. Be forewarned: This place is packed like a rock concert in the evenings. During the day, it is more manageable and less crowded.