Okay, it isn’t the same as wandering the Weinachtsmarkt in the shadow of the centuries old Köln Cathedral, however, there’s a certain charm to the market.
I’d known about the German Christmas Market in Vancouver for a couple of years (it first appeared in 2010) but had never got around to paying it a visit. Despite the indifferent weather, I was determined to check out the 2012 market and I finally made it the weekend before Christmas.
The market seems to have built up a good reputation for offering something just a bit different and, having experienced markets in Mönchengladbach and Köln a number of years ago, I was curious to see how the Vancouver version stacked up against the real thing.
Finding the market was easy. Right outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at Georgia and Hamilton, the market is well placed, just outside the downtown core with easy access by transit and plenty of nearby parking too. Being a relatively new attraction rather than something that is part of the city’s history, the market occupies what is normally open public space, but the area is temporarily walled off. And that leads to the disappointment; of having to pay to enter. I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons for needing to provide financial support, it’s that paying to access a Christmas market just doesn’t feel right to me. I really hope the market thrives, the walls are torn down and that there’s open access in years to come.
I wanted to experience the market after sun-down as that’s when the atmosphere is best, so I arrived late afternoon. As I’d known about paying to enter, I’d taken advantage of a Groupon, getting a fair deal for entry, Glühwein mug, a non-alcoholic beverage to fill said mug and a carousel ride thrown in. Oh, and access to the VIP (pre-paid) entrance too.
Once inside I was transported back in time. The wooden huts, seasonal music, Nussknacker (in fact, plenty of Nussknackers), the smell of Bratwurst and Glühwein and even a smattering of German accents. Okay, it isn’t the same as wandering the Weinachtsmarkt in the shadow of the centuries old Köln Cathedral, however, there’s a certain charm to the market. It works. The mix of wooden ornaments for sale, the traditional foods, the covered, standing tables to eat at, the clink of mugs, wide-eyed children; it all brings out the feel good festive mood. The good mood gets amplified come sun down too. I was wandering between the traders huts, browsing and reflecting on past experience. For fleeting moments I was back in Germany which I guess indicates how Vancouver stacks up against the real thing. Its not Germany but there again it’s not meant to be. The Christmas market is still very Vancouver, the cultural diversity of the city ensures that. However, the west coast replicant does a sterling job of bringing a little bit of Weinachtsten to BC.
So, even if you’ve no need to buy gifts or decorations, it’s worth taking in the sights, smells and sounds of Vancouver Christmas market. Just make sure you sample the Glühwein and Bratwurst.