This market is pretty big (maybe 100 vendors), but wasn’t crowded like those in the bigger cities. It was peaceful, with candles lit everywhere and a fire to warm yourself by. It was almost like a renaissance fest-cum-weinachtsmarkt. Many vendors sold handmade goods- socks, hats, decorations, toys, candles, honey products. A hand-cranked centrifugal swing ride looked fun for 1.5 to 10-year-olds (or so). The live nativity consists of a few different stations along a path where actors and animals portray the birth story of Christ. It is told in German and Latin, and presented at regular intervals (maybe every hour? half hour?)
When you walk in after paying, head to the left to see the simpler and more historical half of the market first. The nativity is also this way. The market makes a loop, ending with the castle courtyard, where there is a more common Christmas market atmosphere- kids can talk to Santa, there are lots of lights, a carnival-type carousel, and a few restaurants.
The food options were a little more varied than the smaller markets we’ve been to. There were the traditional Flammkuchen (similar to flatbread pizza), sausages, mushrooms, pea soup (which they had run out of before I got there, presumably due to its supreme yumminess), candy, and candied almonds. Lots of mead, gluwein, hot chocolate. They had bread-on-a-stick, roasted chestnuts, grunkohl (yummy seasoned greens and potatoes), yummy beer-battered cauliflower, and bratkartoffeln (yummy pan-fried potatoes) in the medieval section, as well as all the modern fried stuff, pizza, burgers, lasagna in the courtyard.
Since you pay to get in, toilets are free and clean. Parking: about 3 blocks away from the castle, you will see a large lot of parked cars with a sign that says “2€”. You should park there. We could not find any other parking. It’s about a 5 to 7-minute walk to the market from there. The drive was about 1:10 from Schierwaldenrath. Definitely worth it.
This is what a Christmas Market should be!
By Katherine Gallian