A Weekend of Weihnacht
It is Friday morning in early December, and I’ve just arrived in Frankfurt, the bustling German metropolis often referred to as Mainhattan for its decidedly un-European plethora of skyscrapers nestled along the Main river. I have the joyous task of spending a long weekend introducing a good friend – and first time visitor to my home country – to all things Weihnachten. Naturally, I do take the matter seriously, for to me the lead up to the holidays is indeed a serious matter.
En route to Villa Kennedy, our yuletide home, we excitedly spy the first handful of festively decked out stalls peddling anything from gingerbread hearts to leather goods. It’s a good thing Christmas markets are even prettier after dusk, since jetlag gets the better of us and we curl up for a midday nap. By the afternoon, we’re ready to explore and venture through the pretty Sachsenhausen district, across the river to the (recently refurbished) New Old Town and make a beeline for St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral. A climb to the top of its tower is not only a great workout, but also reveals splendid views across the entire city.
To contrast the onslaught of delicious yet mainly unhealthy food coming our way at the Christmas markets, we spend our first night dining at Seven Swans, one of only two Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurants in the whole country. The outstanding dining experience is bookended by crafty cocktails at the downstairs bar Tiny Cup, housed in the same non-descript building overlooking the Main river (in fact, it is so well camouflaged, we actually walked past twice before ringing the doorbell).
We wake up on Saturday morning to find that we’ve missed breakfast, and quickly realize that we’re now able to focus our eating efforts solely on all the greasy and sugary market treats. And with a spring in our step we throw ourselves into the crowded madness that is a Christmas market on an Advent weekend. A brass band plays seasonal favourites from the rooftop of Old St. Nicholas Church, multi-level carousels spin smiling children on life size horses, revellers clutch sausages in buns.
For Sunday I have a special lunch treat for my uninitiated friend who’s never known the pleasure of a traditional German Christmas feast. First we take a quick train ride to the quaint town of Kronberg im Taunus, a short distance from manic Frankfurt. At the town’s time-honoured Zum Grunen Wald, the friendly staff pull out all the stops in creating a mouth-watering feed of endive salad, a whole oven roasted goose, sides of brussels sprouts and red cabbage, potato dumplings, and gingerbread creme brulée washed down with a glass or two of regional red. With a full belly we make our way through the park and up the hill on top of which sits the historical Schlosshotel Kronberg, a fairytale castle and fine place to stay (complete with its own miniature Christmas market).
Several gluehwein later, back in the city, my friend muses that this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I nod in agreement and take another sip.
Christmas comes but once a year, which is probably a good thing for Claudia’s digestion. Weihnacht drop her a line to talk about planning your own trip?