Experience Germany Like a Local

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First Timer's Guide to German Christmas Markets

Christmas Tree at the Römer during Frankfurt am Main Weihnachtsmarkt

Last year was my first Christmas in Germany, and my first time visiting Christmas markets. I was emotionally surfing between being terrified of the crowds and anxious worrying whether I’d be warm enough to have a good time to bubbling to delirium level of excitement to drink authentic Glühwein and see a new facet of German culture I’d heard so much about. All of our friends and family wanted to take us to a Christmas market, so we ended up seeing four in 2017: Frankfurt am Main, Michelstadt, Nuremberg, and Hanau. I’ll share my favorite photos from each throughout this post.

Enjoying Glühäppler during Frankfurt am Main Weihnachtsmarkt

What to Wear to German Christmas Markets
As a Florida girl, I have thin blood to begin with. Anything 60 degrees Fahrenheit and below and I start layering. This is exactly what I ended up doing for the Christmas markets. I tried fleece lining leggings from Modcloth, and I could wear those under my straight legs jeans without anyone being the wiser. I really think they were a huge help to keeping me warm. When I put my thick boot socks on, I’d use the elastic from the sock to go over top the bottom of the leggings layer so no skin around my ankles were exposed. I always wore leather boots with two pairs of socks, a thin pair with the boot socks over those. Sebastian brought over air-activated heated insoles for his shoes. I tried them once, and I felt like they got too hot for my preference, but he loved them and used them throughout the whole Christmas vacation.

Frankfurt am Main Zeil Shopping Street Decorated for Christmas

When picking out tops, remember it's unlikely anyone is going to see them! Layer up, and grab anything you have that is thermal. Even though your coat may have a hood on it, look for a winter hat that fits securely on your head. Hoods limit your peripheral vision too much to be practical. Plan on wearing gloves as well, and if you’re planning on taking pictures look for the gloves that are convertible between being fingerless and mittens. All this being said, I was NOT miserably cold. I was able to enjoy myself, and of course the hot Glühwein (pronounced glue-vine) helped!

Michelstädter Weihnachtsmarkt

What to Drink at German Christmas Markets
Speaking of Glühwein...this hearty hot, spiced, mulled wine is the starlet beverage of the holiday season. Some Christmas markets, like Nuremberg's, the Glühwein is regulated, and all of the booths offer the same make. If you see a particular stall that has a longer line, don’t be fooled into thinking their Glühwein is better. In Nuremberg they’re all from the same manufacturer. But, other markets like Michelstadt you see the Glühwein is being freshly made in the background out of a slow cooker labeled Glühwein! It depends on the market you’re visiting. In Frankfurt am Main, they offer a hot, holiday version of their Frankfurt Äppler, called Glühäppler. Basically hot cider, which sounds odd at first, but tasted amazing.

Michelstädter Weihnachtsmarkt Glühwein

Trying Kartoffel-Käse Dinnede at the Hanau Weihnachtsmarkt

What to Eat at German Christmas Markets
Definitely go to the Christmas Markets hungry! There’s a breadth of choices. Michelstadt really pushes their boar specialities, Hanau we were encouraged to try (and we loved) the Kartoffel-Käse Dinnede. It's a type of flatbread pizza with sour cream, potatoes, and onions grilled. A safe bet is a Frikadellenbrötchen, a German meatball nestled into a sourdough bread roll. It's not messy to eat, and easy on the stomach for a night of drinking Glühwein.

Michelstädter Weihnachtsmarkt is known for their boar There's a vintage kids train at the Michelstädter Weihnachtsmarkt

Personal Safety at Christmas Markets
When planning a fun, festive night out at the markets pick a meeting spot within the market in case someone gets separated in the waves of crowds, and pick a meeting spot outside the market in case of an emergency. Sebastian and I were at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt the same night there was an attack at the Berlin Christmas Market. Overnight the security drastically changed in Nuremberg. Where there were open streets the night before, by morning large police vehicles and fire trucks were parked along any open area in order to shield the market area from attackers hoping to use vehicles for mass-harm. Don’t let fear keep you from the markets, but do be safe, smart, and plan ahead!Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt Carousel, Römer, and Stalls

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt offers a separate Children's Christmas Market and Global Market

Star Attractions
Each Christmas market we visited offered exclusive events or experiences in order to distinguish themselves from other markets. Nuremberg has the Christkind legacy, a special childrens’ market, a global market, and strict standards on booth decorations in order to keep the market feeling traditional. Frankfurt am Main has coordinated ringing of the Church bells, a stunning decorated tree in front of the Römer, carolers singing from the rooftop of the church, and alternative smaller markets within the city’s market. Michelstädt’s and Hanau's star attraction is a larger than life Christmas pyramid while you stroll through the tiny cobblestone streets.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

Craving Christmas Markets
I really fell in love with Germany's Christmas markets, and sorely miss them this year. I wonder why they haven't taken off in the United States? If you're looking for ways to bring German Christmas spirit home with you, read our earlier article here. Are you going to visit any German Christmas Markets this year? If you have any questions, we'd love to help! Leave a comment below or send us an email.

Michelstädter Weihnachtsmarkt boasts a Larger than Life Christmas Pyramid

Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt Carolers on the Rooftop

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Gifts for Travelers Going to Germany

I’m going to mix it up this year for our holiday gift guide. There are way too many generic traveler gift guides out there, most with the same items on it. So this year we’re focusing on only items that are involved with German culture, because at this point everyone has luggage tags, passport covers (if they want them), and a scratch off map. Travel guides? If you’re planning on traveling or your friend is, travel guides are such a personal decision, it's better to leave them to the traveler themselves.

Going back to our roots, that ‘Tourist’ is a dirty word, the more you know about the culture, the more likely you won’t feel like a tourist. Here are some gift-able items that will make you feel less like a tourist when you travel to Germany because you’ll know more about the culture and history. I promise they’re fun too! Or maybe you’re looking for ideas of what you want for yourself and add to your own Christmas list.

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Entertainment That Will Make German History Come Alive
I have two DVD series and a movie, all are German with English subtitles. Another great way to get an ear for the language too! Both of these series give you an inside look at the German’s perspective, which as Americans is incredibly hard to come by. Deutschland 83 a TV mini series revolves around the Berlin Wall and espionage, and a second season is in the works! Generation War a TV mini series covers World War II from four very different German experiences.

Finally, the movie Good Bye Lenin, also involves the Berlin Wall, it specifically covers the time period of what the East Germans experienced right after the wall came down. Everything I’ve linked to are playable on USA and Canadian DVD players. With foreign films, always be sure to check what regions the movies will play in. For these, the Blu-Ray versions are only coded for Europe, so stick with the DVD.

Books That Will Impart German Culture
In case you missed it, the best German Historical Fiction book and German Historical Non-Fiction book I read this year that I couldn’t put down.

German Historical Fiction: Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. Here’s my full review about Women in the Castle.

Historical Non-Fiction: House by the Lake by Thomas Harding. Here’s my full review about House by the Lake.

Insider German culture tips guaranteed to make them smile? German Men Sit Down to Pee by Niklas Frank and James Cave. You’ll think it's a gag, but actually very helpful! It’s a small, lightweight paperback easy to pack.

For the cook in the family, Classic German Baking by German American author by Luisa Weiss . This book has been tested like crazy to make sure you can recreate German recipes utilizing what is available in American grocery stores.

For the foodie who is also a history-buff, I recommend this beautiful hardcover with heavy-weight paper, Beyond Bratwurst: A History of Food in Germany (Food and Nations). I learned about this book from the blog A Sausage Has Two: Seasonal, Regional German Food and Culinary Travel, and I bought it for myself. It's gorgeous!

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

Thank you for reading!


Is Lufthansa Premium Economy Worth It?

A first-hand review from a passenger who upgraded for anxiety reasons. It explains the differences between the Premium and regular Economy for Lufthansa. Includes annotated photos of the upgraded finishes.

In the eleven years we’ve been together, I’ve personally flown with Sebastian on twelve vacations to Germany. We’ve been fortunate that our hard work has rewarded us so well. Although I’m not fond of flying for eight to nine hours over the ocean, I’ve always been able to ‘get through it’ because Sebastian was by my side. This year’s trip was unique in that Sebastian flew two weeks before I did, so I needed to fly solo.

What?!

Yup. Alone.

While all sorts of morbid, paranoid dust storms kicked up in my imagination, I tried to talk myself out of my irrational fears. Sebastian’s sister who is my age flies by herself all the time. Heck, I flew by myself to Australia when I was 15. But, that was before I grew up and knew enough to be afraid, that was before 9/11.

Sebastian knows me well enough to know how to outsmart my fears, and my paranoias. When he booked my flight from Florida to Germany, for the first time ever he upgraded my seat to Lufthansa’s Premium Economy. He flipped my ‘situation’ upside down, and tried to give me something to look forward to instead of dread.

It helped, and my curiosity battled it out with my fear. Sebastian himself has never flown Premium Economy, so I made sure I took notes of the differences and took pictures. I hope this post will provide some insight if you’re on the fence about upgrading, whether it be for anxiety-related reasons like mine, or just for more personal space.

Welcome to Your Lufthansa Premium Economy Bubble
Right away, you notice the upgraded finishes and larger armrest. There’s leather/pleather accents where in Economy there’s plastic. The arm rest is wider, and seemingly longer with it's slightly recessed cup rest at the end. In Lufthansa’s Premium Economy the seats recline further, warranting the need for the pull out tray to come from the arm rest instead of the seat in front of you. This took me and my neighbor some getting used to and mutual coordination, but it was much more comfortable than in Economy where I felt I had to lean forward to eat over the tray. Storage for your carry-on luggage above and below seems about the same as economy. Storage below the seat in front of you can be tricky with the the added foot rest, but the foot rest is definitely worth the trouble. I'm 5'5" with short legs, and it was comfortable for me, and I used it. If you have long legs, it might be a nuisance.

Also because the seats recline further in Lufthansa Premium Economy, there’s a need for a remote. Although I had movies on my phone, I used the on-board entertainment. The screen is noticeably larger and nicer than what I’ve had in Economy in the past. There’s a corded remote also on the arm rest, right next to where an additional side strap holds your complimentary ammenity bag. I noticed the headrest will go a bit higher if you’re taller and need a few more inches. Between the seat reclining further, the extra armrest space, and the foot rest, I slept three hours, my best yet.

A first-hand review from a passenger who upgraded for anxiety reasons. It explains the differences between the Premium and regular Economy for Lufthansa. Includes annotated photos of the upgraded finishes.

Additional Customer Service in Lufthansa Premium Economy
I was startled when the flight attendant asked if I’d like an orange and mango juice while the plane was still in the boarding process. He also helped my neighbor with her carry on luggage by lifting it up to the overhead compartment. With Lufthansa’s Premium Economy, you’re allowed a 2nd checked bag, so I had checked my rolling carry on bag. There’s a regular-sized bottle of water waiting for you when you board, so no need to find and purchase one after getting through security at the airport. You also receive a traveler’s amenity bag, which I mentioned earlier is tucked into your arm rest. At the time I flew, it was a Picard® pouch, and inside were a generic pair of warm, tall socks, an eye mask with Lufthansa logo, toothbrush and toothpaste, and packaged cleansing towelette.

Boarding Process
My only complaint with Lufthansa Premium Economy is that the boarding order is last. First on is the Handicapped, then Families with 6-year-olds and younger, next is Business Class, followed with Economy Rows 29-46, and then finally Premium Economy. The Premium Economy is such a small section of the plane, probably consisting of 25 passengers in total, that it really seemed odd to make us board last. With the extra checked bag allowance, I noticed I wasn’t the only one that checked a rolling carry on, so our boarding would have been incredibly fast. Especially given that a juice drink is served during boarding, why seat us last? It felt like a mistake.

Was Flying Lufthansa Premium Economy Worth It?
Yes, definitely. For the additional hour or two of comfortable sleep and personal space it was worth it. If you’re planning on working on a laptop, the pull out tray from the arm rest is perfect, and there’s enough space between the tray and the back of the seat in front of you that you can have your laptop screen upright. If it's a stretch financially, I’d recommend upgrading the flight only on your way to Germany, since that’s when you want to sleep, and then fly back to the States in regular Economy. Have you tried Lufthansa Premium Economy? What did you think?

If Premium Economy isn't an option for you right now, and you're looking for tips on how to sleep on the long-haul flight, we wrote about that previously here. For Sebastian especially, getting noise-cancelling headphones was a big game changer. He was able to sleep for 5 hours and was so happy he wrote a whole product review for them. With the holiday season soon upon us, that might be a great gift idea for your own wish list or for the traveler in your life.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

Thank you for reading!


Lufthansa Premium Economy
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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler