Speed Read: The Carmel Christkindlmarkt
First step: Nail the name. In English, the German street-market moniker means “Christ child market.” But in Deutsch, “Christ” rhymes with “wrist.” For “kindl,” think of the Amazon e-reader. And say the last syllable as if you “marked” a gift off your shopping list. All together: Krist-kindle-markt.
Now grab a glühwein mug. Last year’s social media star, a scarlet boot-shaped ceramic mug filled with hot, citrus-y mulled red wine (pronounced glue-vine) was a best-seller to the tune of 10,000 mugs in nine days. It returns this year in green (start collecting them all!). But even cooler? The kinderpunsch mug, a train-shaped vessel for a nonalcoholic Christmas punch that’s “like grape juice, with the same spices glühwein has,” says Carmel Christkindlmarkt CEO Maria Murphy. The market ordered 30,000 of each.
But don’t wait in line if you just want a mug. There’s no need to freeze your face off waiting 20 minutes at the glühwein hut, says Murphy. If you just want the collectible vessel, you can buy one at either of the two guest-services booths.
Sip spirits beneath the new glowing, 30-foot-tall glühwein pyramid. The structure looks like someone stuck a windmill atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and it’s the only one in the country with a glühwein hut at the base, says Murphy. It’s based on tiny wooden Christmas pyramids that dot German tables—hot air from candles turning the blades at the top. Here, heat rises from the hut to propel the slowly spinning spangles.
A new layout will trim your time in line. When Christkindlmarkt (open Wednesdays through Sundays) clustered vendors in close quarters last year, it was aiming for warm and cozy, Murphy says. But then 150,000 people turned up. “We were floored,” she says. This year, the market increased the distance between huts and added a walk-up window to the ice-skate rental booth to prevent people from camping out inside.
Make memories without taking out a second mortgage. Last year, most of the lower-end items sold out in the first two weeks. “You only have $1,000 items!” people who came later in the month told Murphy. That wasn’t quite true, she says, but this year the market is emphasizing $20-and-under
trinkets among the 47 huts.
The alphorns are back. The instrument, which looks like a pipe that got hit with a stretching jinx and sounds like a mellow trumpet, will provide the soundtrack to the making of handblown glass ornaments, mittens, and gloves.
But we all know you’re really here for the food. Murphy’s own go-to is the lebkuchen hearts, soft-inside gingerbread cookies that you wear around your neck like a pretzel necklace at a beer fest. The market sold 10,000 of those last year. But you can’t go wrong with a raclette, either: an ooey, gooey, baked-cheese baguette.
The pretzels aren’t pretenders. Last year’s basketball game–style pretzels weren’t up to snuff, according to Murphy. “We improved the pretzels greatly this year,” she says. “They’re authentic Bavarian pretzels, and the laugen (lye) that makes the pretzel dark also causes it to split open, so it’s thick and soft inside.”
Really hungry? Gather ’round the schwenkgrill. This spitting, sizzling surface, open on three sides, serves up stacks of sausage and wursts.