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Berlin: The Christmas Market that is Not a Christmas Market

It is certainly nice to look at Berlin’s first Christmas market with its lights, its little stalls and the good food offered there. Except it is not really a Christmas market.

This place looks like a Christmas market. It smells like a Christmas market. It does feel like one. But the impression deceives visitors. This is ‘Winter World’ at ‘Potsdamer Platz’, in the heart of Berlin. At this stage, in mid-November, this is the closest anyone can get to a Christmas market.

Marlene Dietrich’s Ice Rink

On a weekday evening, at dusk, a few people are having drinks at a small beer tent. Others are enjoying the eagerly awaited moment at which they could bite into German ‘Schmalzkuchen’ for the first time this year. Those are little cakes made of sweet dough which are being cooked in oil and served with powdered sugar on top. Oh yes, they do taste like Christmas.

'Winter World' was not too crowded on Wednesaday, November 13th, 2019.
Only few visitors came to ‘Winter World’ on Wednesday evening. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

‘Grüße aus Berlin’ (‘Regards from Berlin’) or ‘Ich liebe Dich’ (everyone should understand this sentence), it says on eatable hearts. They are basically over-sized cookies offered at any German amusement park. Since this is a Christmas market that is not a Christmas market, they seem out of place a little.

'Schmalkuchen' are little cakes offered with powdered sugar on top.
There is nothing better than ‘Schmalzkuchen’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The artificial ice rink set up at Marlene Dietrich Square, located 5 minutes from ‘Potsdamer Platz’, is still empty on a Wednesday afternoon in mid-November. Its operator sits there, in front of dozens of rental ice skates in all sizes, waiting for kids and other customers who feel like switching to winter mode, even though it will still be fall for another five weeks.

The Empty Carousel

Back at the area around ‘Potsdamer Platz’ station, some children are invading a huge slide set up there. On inflatable rings, they race down the construction, while mothers and fathers are trying to capture this first Christmas moment of the year using their smart phone cameras, long before Christmas.

The ice rink and Marlene Dietrich Square is empty, for now.
It wasn’t too crowded on the ice rink either. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The swing carousel is still empty. Its operator is staring out the window. Chances are he will be a lot busier in December, when Berliners will usually start to understand Santa Claus is getting ready to hit their city.

'Rothenburger Schneeballen' look like ice cream, but they are made of chocolate and other sweets.
Those ‘Rothenburger Schneeballen’ look like ice cream offered at a Christmas Market. But they are actually unidentifiable objects sold at ‘Winter World’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

But, whatever kind of market this might be, those ‘Rothenburger Schneeballen’ look delicious. They seem to be ice cream scoops, but they are not. Who knows what they are made of? All the meat, the mushrooms, veggies, pretzels and other food offered could fill the stomachs of far more visitors than the few who have come here at this moment.

A Million Christmas Markets

All in all, ‘Winter World’ at Postdamer Platz seemed like a rather sad place on Wednesday, November 13th, simply because it was evident the few visitors were not in Christmas mood or Christmas mode yet. The fact that the white layer Bing Crosby dreamed of was not there, at least not yet, added to that impression.

An empty swing carousel is waiting for kids at 'Winter World'.
The swing carousel is ready to go. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

But things will likely change soon. Starting on November 25th, Berlin will have a million official Christmas markets in all districts. There will be four in ‘Neukölln’ alone, two in ‘Spandau’, one in ‘Marzahn’ and many more in all other parts of the city.

Kids are racing down a big slide at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
Some kids raced down the big slide on Wednesday. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The most prominent Christmas markets will be set up at ‘Gendarmenmarkt’, in front of Red City Hall, at ‘Alexanderplatz’ square, and at ‘Potsdamer Platz’, where ‘Winter World’ will officially convert into a Christmas market on November 25th, 2019. The stalls in place right now will stay, and more will be added between the ‘S-Bahn’ train station and Marlene Dietrich Square.

Loads of mushrooms and veggies in a big pan at 'Winter World' are waiting to be consumed.
Nobody will starve at ‘Winter World’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Note: Expect more Christmas market coverage on The Berlin Spectator in late November.

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