On food and Christmas Markets

This weekend was lovely. My parents arrived on Saturday afternoon, after I’d spent a lovely, if occasionally stressful, couple of days in Dresden with Laura and Zöe (I can’t get the umlaut over the ‘e’ so if I at least attempt an Umlaut, she might not be annoyed – if she even reads this…). We wandered around the Christmas markets and had a very nice meal in the same restaurant the she, Dan and I had been to a month or so ago.

[For those of you who are unaccustomed to the idea of a Christmas market, imagine wooden cabins arranged in a very precise manner in a market square, filled with barrels of mulled wine, displays of slippers (house shoes, you heathen), half-metre grilled sausages in tiny buns, sugar-coated-and-then-roasted almonds and all sorts of wonderous delights that cause the entire square to be filled with aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and grilled meat and the whole area is alive with the electricity emanating from all involved, culminating in what we would call “good cheer”.]

Dresden’s Christmas market was so-so. In all fairness to Dresden, Laura and I barely saw the “real” market, but what I saw seemed lacklustre and, although all German Christmas Markets are welcoming, it wasn’t the sort of place that felt homely. A good Christmas Market should be homely AND welcoming – like going to a friend’s BBQ in the summer, except colder – so you’re all wrapped up in several cosy layers –  and if you so much as suggest to the chap working the grill that you know better than he does, you will not get served and will have to endure the German December evening without a half-meter sausage or buttered corn on the cob. Leipzig has a very good Christmas Market.
Of course I’m biased. Leipzig is my adopted home when I need to take a break from taking a break from people by staying in the village. I’d like to imagine that, one day, I’ll have a nice flat in Leipzig and will be able to just wander around the streets, enjoying the combination of consumerism from those “bloody Wessies” (West Germans) and the way that Leipzig is still able to maintain its quintessential feel of being a city in the former GDR (East Germany). It’s nice to dream.

Leipzig’s Christmas Market is spread out along the pedestrianised zone leading to the market square at one end and, at the other, to Augustusplatz which is the home of the University “Church”, the Theatre and the Gewandhaus, which is a cultural hotspot, frequently hosting Operas and Ballet performances. The smells that come out of Leipzig’s market are wonderful. The stuffed sweet waffles, the hash browns that are being shallow-fried in so much oil that they may as well be deep-fried and the smoked salmon from the Finnish contingent which is “smoked” on-site. I hasten to say “smoked” because, upon closer inspection, the salmon hung up on wooden planks with a fire in the middle was being cooked rather than being just smoked. It was absolutely delicious and goes perfectly with a glass or two of Finnish Glögi – their equivalent of Glühwein (mulled wine) made from berries rather than grapes – and the spicy honey and mustard dressing on the side.

After sampling the salmon, we made our way to Zill’s tunnel – a well-known and established Leipzig restaurant. I’d been there before with my dad in early September and was just as pleased as I was last time. The food was much like Dresden’s Christmas Market: so-so. We sat down at just before seven, ordered shortly thereafter and didn’t get our food until just after eight o’clock. By the time the food had arrived, I was so hungry I didn’t care how it tasted. Zill’s Tunnel is a very traditional restaurant which specialises in typical Saxon cuisine. This means that they haven’t changed the menu for years. Granted, the stuffed Rindfleischroulade was decent and the Schnitzel was definitely Schnitzel, but any chef who still serves his dishes covered with parsley sprigs ought to realise that the Wall has come down and to get out of the 1980s. I’m sure I could rant (or talk) about food all day, especially the food at Zill’s, but I shan’t. It was a pleasant meal with a long wait to be served.

I’ve been mulling over an idea for either the Leeds Student or the Leeds Tab wherein someone gets very drunk and reviews fast-food takeaways in Leeds. The big names – McDonalds, Burger King etc. – would be off the cards, but the independent retailers would be fair game. The majority of people who visit these establishments do so when they are very drunk, so why not review their food when in the same state as the majority of their customers? It probably needs some tweaks logistically speaking, but I think it could work well.

I’m playing with the idea of Paris in two weekends’ time. I could do to go and visit mes anges from last year’s committee. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Liebe Grüße

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