Given that in a few days time I will be on my way to the tropical climate of Southern Florida, I wanted to experience a bit of White Christmas with all its romance, snow, and glitter. For a Christmas market,some holiday traditions and comfort food, no better place to go, I thought, than the south of Germany. Munich’s Christmas market is nearly world famous, but I was looking for something special, much smaller and less commercial.
During the summer I had visited the small provincial town of Prien am Chiemsee, located about half way between Munich and Salzburg and had fallen for its rural charm on the shores of the fabulous Chiemsee. The Chiemsee is a great tourist attraction in Bavaria because of Herrenchiemsee, one of King Ludwig’s dream castles built (but still unfinished because His Majesty ran out of money) on an island in the middle of the vast, very deep and very cold lake. The sightseeing crowds stream to Prien there to board one of the ships which take them to the island.
But that’s in summer. In winter you find a very different picture. Prien goes into tourist hibernation and the natives are left to their own devices and to enjoy the holiday season in their own way. Just what I had in mind and I was not disappointed.
It didn’t matter that the weather God didn’t want to play. Instead of white snow and blue skies, I had drizzle and temperatures more resembling fall than winter. Prien’s Christkindl Market was in full swing. About a dozen kiosks were grouped around the church, dominated by a huge Christmas tree in the center. Although it wasn’t cold, it was pretty chilly because of the light rain and therefore the first stop for everybody was the Glühwein kiosk.
Glühwein is the German word for mulled wine, served hot, sweet, strong and heartwarming. For the first time ever, I saw ‘Kinderglühwein’ advertised, mulled wine for children without alcohol. A very good idea, because that way the little ones could feel like grown ups. I tried both and the taste is exactly the same, but of course, the effect is very different.
Duly warmed , I went in search of food. A local specialty is ‘Dampfnudeln’, which translates into steamed noodles, but has nothing whatsoever to do with noodles or steam. It’s a big lump of sweet dough which doesn’t look like much, but…the secret is in the sauce. Big spoonfuls of hot vanilla and chocolate sauce are ladled over the lump, then it’s put in the oven and served piping hot. It’s delicious, a calorie bomb and very filling. I only managed half because I absolutely had to try the waffles with whipped cream and butter with a sprinkling of ground walnuts on top.
Other kiosks sell hand carved toys and Christmas decorations and more food. Local sausages, an incredible variety of bread and rolls and cheeses. All organic and brought to the market by local farmers.
After a Schnaps or two, to help digestion, I was even able to sample some of the cheeses, the most exotic one with red wine flavor. The schnaps comes from another island in the Chiemsee, the Fraueninsel. The island is dominated by a monastery and the clever nuns make schnaps, called Klosterlikör as well as marzipan, both of which find their way to the Christkindl Markt.
Visiting the Christkindl Markt is a family affair and therefore there was even a small merry go round for the kids. Every body had a great time, they all seemed to know each other and the stranger in their midst was warmly welcomed and invited to share so many drinks that if I had accepted them all, I wouldn’t have been able to find my way back to my hotel.
As it was, I enjoyed the real thing, a Christmas market of old although the scales next morning showed 1 kilo more.
*All photos by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte