Sauer­kraut Christ­mas

Ger­man roots mean the fes­tive mar­kets in Philadel­phia and Bal­ti­more have a dif­fer­ent flavour travel2013

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - AN­DREA SACHS

SNIFF, sniff. On the third day of Ad­vent, I smelt some­thing un­usual at Bal­ti­more’s In­ner Har­bour. In­stead of a big whiff of fish or fried food, I in­haled the heady per­fume of eau de mulled wine, roasted nuts and bratwurst.

The sea­sonal bou­quet per­me­ates the air of the Christ­mas Vil­lages in Bal­ti­more and Philadel­phia, a pair of Ger­man-in­flected colonies fea­tur­ing crafts, lo­cal and Deutsch­land foods, toe- warm­ing bev­er­ages and dec­o­ra­tive lights as bright as a di­a­mond tiara. The spe­cial events trans­port the glee and the glüh­wein of the Ger­man Christ­mas mar­kets to the East Coast.

“It’s the spirit of the tra­di­tional Christkindles­markt,” said founder Thomas Bauer, from Nurem­berg, which holds one of the largest mar­kets in Ger­many.

Christkind the Christ­mas An­gel flew in from Nurem­berg to of­fi­ci­ate over the fes­tiv­i­ties, which are in their sixth year for Philadel­phia and the first for Bal­ti­more.

Both vil­lages cen­tre on a com­pact col­lec­tion of twee tim­ber huts the colour of ginger­bread, with white lights ic­ing the edges. In Philadel­phia, elfin struc­tures oc­cu­pied by 60 re­tail­ers en­cir­cle a tall Christ­mas tree in Love Park. The Bal­ti­more venue sits on the lip of the har­bour. A few of the 42 ven­dors brave the out­doors, in­clud­ing a pur­veyor of South Amer­i­can wool­lens, a mulled wine stand and a Nepalese shop of felt ob­jects. But most are tucked in­side a big-top tent il­lu­mi­nated by a Milky Way of lights.

I started my jour­ney in Philadel­phia’s won­drous land of Käthe Wohlfahrt, a Rothen­burg com­pany founded by a toy ped­dler. They sell hand­crafted hol­i­day pieces steeped in cen­turies-old prac­tices. Ev­ery item is gift-wrapped in a story.

Gather round, for ex­am­ple, for the tale of the Christ­mas pyra­mids.

At the Bal­ti­more out­post, I stopped by Karl Uebel’s nut stand. For the past five years, the Sch­we­in­furter has moved his fam­ily of five to Philadel­phia for the Christ­mas sea­son, where they sell such Old World spe­cial­i­ties such as roasted al­monds sweet­ened with su­gar and cin­na­mon. He wraps the snacks in pa­per cones. He presents ginger­bread, three kinds of stollen (cran­berry is the Yan­keefied ver­sion) and pf­ef­fer­nüsse.

Ar­ti­san Ex­change sells knack­wurst and a Ger­man-style smoked salami per­fectly shaped for a long-toed stock­ing. But a farm­er­sand-foodie col­lec­tive sneaks into Italy with a pizza topped with moz­zarella, sauer­kraut and smoked knack­wurst. Nearby, a woman pour­ing mulled wine into a mug uses a lo­cal Chadds Ford red spiced with car­damom, cin­na­mon, cloves and all­spice – a “zingy ap­ple pie” flavour.

For his Bal­ti­more stand, Allen Blanken­ship in­vented the new na­tional cui­sine of Germti­more by in­sert­ing a crab cake into a pret­zel roll. He also sells brat­apfel but tai­lored the baked ap­ple dish to mo­bile Amer­i­can din­ers.

For the bulk of their gifts and crafts, the vil­lages spin the globe. Throw a sausage mis­sile in the air and you could hit Janette’s De­signs, which stocks wool and al­paca sweaters, hats, mit­tens and ponchos from Peru, Bo­livia and Ecuador. Or you might bowl over a nest­ing doll from Gifts From Afar.

Silk Road Traders, in Philly, spe­cialises in ex­ot­ica from that leg­endary trade route. Owner Mark Met­ze­laar trans­formed his cube into an East­ern trad­ing post.

As the clock ticked to­wards clos­ing time, I raced through “Es­to­nia” for red-capped trolls and patterned socks, and “Nepal” for felt jew­ellery and fig­urines.

The vil­lages shut at 7pm, but the hol­i­day wasn’t ready to call it a night. Stand­ing near the dark­ened har­bour, I could still smell Christ­mas in the air. – Wash­ing­ton Post


GER­MAN TRA­DI­TION: Peo­ple en­joy hol­i­day treats and the scene dur­ing the an­nual Christ­mas Mar­ket in Philadel­phia.

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