I went to the center of Munich – Marienplatz – the other week, and it was almost unrecognizable. The Mariensäule golden statue in the center’s square was hidden behind small wooden shops, and a tall grand Christmas tree proudly stood in front of the Neues Rathaus. Decorative lights were on every building and hung above the crowds of people; the lights in front of the square made out a word Weihnachtsmarkt.

The Christmas markets opened as the city began its winter celebrations.

For a lunch break or after a long day many people head off to one of the Christmas markets for a glass of mulled wine and a Bavarian sausage or to do some Christmas shopping.

My friend and I decided to do the same one evening.

Our first destination was Odeonplatz, just one U-Bahn station away from the city center. During the winter holidays, a decorated red trolley called ChristkindlTram departs from there every 30 minutes in the evening.

The name Christkind comes from Christ-child, who brings Christmas gifts to kids in Germany, similar to the American Santa Claus.

While waiting for the trolley, we both got a glass of wine and a bag of caramelized nut mix. Glühwein – mulled wine – is the most popular drink of the holidays here. It is made from hot red wine mixed with citrus and spices and sometimes a shot of amaretto. White wine can also be used.

The mulled wine is never served in disposable plastic cups, but in the ceramic red mugs decorated with the name and the place of the market. A customer pays a small deposit, which is returned when they return the mug.

All the Bavarian snacks go well with the wine, which consist of the sweets and the sausages, sold at the market in more than six types.

The sweets include baked apples, roasted, gingered and caramelized nuts, ginger bread and a Stollen. A Stollen is a traditional German sweet type of bread with candied fruits and nuts inside, also popular with marzipan.

After a drink and a snack, the trolley came, and my friend and I hopped on it for a 30-minute ride around the city.

The trolley is targeted mostly towards kids, but it can be fun for everyone who is still in touch with their childhood. It is easy to do there with the children’s songs playing and a German version of a Santa Claus – Weihnachtsmann – walking around the trolley talking to kids. He came up to my friend and me as well, happily took a picture with us and gave us candy.

After the ride, we walked down the street to Marienplatz – the city center. It became even more beautiful with rows of shopping kiosks and was thoroughly decorated by Christmas lights. Half of the kiosks were selling wine and snacks, and half have a huge selection of Christmas decorations and souvenirs. Many of which are handmade.

A crowd of people stood near the Neues Rathaus – City Hall – listening to the clock play a Christmas melody at exactly 5:30 p.m., which happens every day. After the music, a priest and a choir appeared at the balcony and gave the crowd an inspirational speech about Christmas.

I have to be honest, my German is still not perfect, so I did not understand everything, but the people around me looked joyful, and laughter was heard from the wine booth. Music was playing, and the Christmas tree looked magnificent, and I thought this is the true Christmas spirit. I understood why so many Germans come here every day. The German Christmas markets are pure holiday magic.

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