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Berlin: An Evening at the Christmas Market that is Not a Christmas Market

At Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the first pre-Christmas market is in full swing. It sort of looks like an actual Christmas market, it smells and tastes like one, but some elements are missing.

Berlin, November 8th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Are we ready to hit the Christmas market? Sure we are. Let’s go! But, there is a weird aspect here. It is only early November, meaning the season has not commenced, and it won’t for another three weeks. Besides, Berlin’s Christmas markets usually start on November 22nd. So, what is going on here?

This is what everyone wants: ‘Glühwein’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Warm and Tipsy

At this location, they offer ‘Quarkbällchen’, which are fried, sweet dough balls covered with powdered sugar. What about those glacéed apples and those cute cookie hearts with messages that say “Grüße aus Berlin” or “Ich liebe Dich“? At Potsdamer Platz, they are selling those too. So, you want even more calorie bombs? No problem. At one of the stands here, they offer French fries and similar snacks that are being fried in a lot of oil. With all of these offers, this place should qualify as a Christmas market, right? Wrong. Calorie bombs alone are not good enough.

‘Winter World’ filled up on Sunday evening. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

At Christmas markets, most adult visitors mainly want a beverage the Germans call ‘Glühwein’. This hot wine punch warms people up from the inside, and it makes them tipsy quite quickly. At this event at Potsdamer Platz, people drink ‘Glühwein’ in different versions. The most popular one is made of red wine and contains some cinnamon. This year, a relatively small cup of it costs 4 to 4,50 euro. All of the hot wine punch people pour down their throats makes the whole place smell like Christmas.

For these ‘Quarkbällchen’ they use more oil than Saudi Arabia exports in a year. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

No Candles or Presents

‘Winterwelt’ (‘Winter World’) is what they call this event at Potsdamer Platz. As opposed to real Christmas markets, they neither sell presents here, nor do they offer candles or Christmas decoration. There are no children’s choirs that sing Christmas songs and there is no Christmas mood either. But ‘Winterwelt’ is popular anyway. On Sunday night, hundreds of visitors consumed their ‘Glühwein’ at bar tables outdoors. Others were sitting in two pubs set up in timber cottages. Parents let their kids climb a giant slide and race down again and again for 1.50 Euro per go. And most visitors gained weight consuming sweet treats of all kinds.

Children race down this slide on sleighs. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

In spite of skyrocketing Corona infection numbers, The Berlin Spectator’s reporter was the only visitor who wore a mask. A year ago, ‘Winter World’ had to close just after it opened when the second lockdown took effect. This time, there do not seem to be restrictions at this “Christmas market that is not a Christmas market”. It remains to be seen whether the ongoing Corona wave will end all Christmas markets and pre-Christmas markets again.

Greetings from the city of cities. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Real Christmas Markets

This spot at Potsdamer Platz is the right place for people who cannot wait for their share of ‘Glühwein’, or who want to make sure they can drink at least some of it because they fear a new lockdown could be announced soon. It is definitely not the place for those who want to feel an actual Christmas atmosphere.

In case there is no lockdown, Berlin’s real Christmas markets will be opening in about two weeks from now. As always, some of the nicest ones will be set up at Gendarmenmarkt, Red City Hall and at the ‘Kulturbrauerei’ venue. More large ones are supposed to take place at Breitscheidplatz and Alexanderplatz, two major Berlin squares. One of the most famous Christmas markets, a beautiful one located at Charlottenburg Palace, was already cancelled.

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