In the summer of 1977 I moved, with my family, to Germany. Back then, I didn’t even know where Germany was. I was only eight. I didn’t really know the reason why my family was moving. I was told we were moving for my dad’s job – he was in the military. I had little to no comprehension as to what military was. In my world, military was just my dad’s job. It was no different from any job held by any other kid’s dad. I knew nothing about postings or peacekeeping services. I’d never even heard the term Cold War.
So to me, the fact that my family was packing up our entire house and moving, from our wee suburban community in the Maritimes, to a place that was going to take eight hours (in a plane!) to get to… was pretty much as exciting as things could possibly get.
My dad was stationed at CFB Lahr, Germany and we lived (to my, and my younger brother’s delight) in a village called Langenwinkel. Say it out loud. Now imagine being eight & five years old, respectively. I know. We giggled quite a bit, too. But for four glorious years we lived there. And, though we didn’t realize it at the time, we got to be incredibly spoiled little kids.
School trips included wee jaunts across the border into France to see operas or ballets at the Opera House on Place Broglie in Strasbourg. Week-long ski trips to places like Biberwier in Austria or Montchavin in France were commonplace. Volksmarsches (literally: peoples march; non-competitive fitness walking where participation merited badges and/or medals) took place every weekend through beautiful areas throughout the Black Forest (Schwarzwald.) My Girl Guide troup even took part in a jamboree that saw us travel to the Noordelijk Pinkster kamp in the Netherlands.
I have a lifetime of fond memories from the four short years we spent in this picturesque area of the world: Fasching parades, Oktoberfest, visits to the castles of King Ludwig II (how many kids get to visit the REAL Disney/Sleeping Beauty Castle?) playing foosball at the CYC (Canadian Youth Centre) on the Kaserne (which translates as barracks in German, but was where our schools, arena, curling club, gym, bowling alleys & Canadian retail shops were.)
With so much history and culture to soak in, there was always something going on for us to do. But one of the events that holds a particularly warm & fuzzy spot in my heart is the annual Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market.) These street markets started back in the early 1400s and have, since, spread to places around the globe.
This year, the tradition spread to my city and I was able to revisit that particular childhood memory (with my husband in tow) at the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market in the beautiful Distillery District.
If you’ve never been to the Distillery District, you really should put it on your To Do list should you ever find yourself in downtown Toronto. The former Gooderham and Worts Distillery is now home to a gorgeous 13-acre escape from the city, complete with cobblestone streets & gas-powered streetlamps; it’s cafés, shops & restaurants all housed within heritage buildings still standing in their original Victorian era industrial architecture. If there’s any part of Canada with an authentic taste of Europe – this would be it.
The decision to create a German-style Christmas Market here must have been a no-brainer. To tell the truth, I’m a little surprised it’s taken this long for it to happen.
The Toronto Christmas Market may have been slow in its inception, but it’s obvious someone did their research. The carolers & christmas lights alone added a happy, warm, get-into-the-spirit-ya-grinch atmosphere.
The live reindeer looked a bit uncomfortable & out-of-place, but the kiddies didn’t seem to mind. They were pretty taken with the Christmas tree maze and life-sized Gingerbread House as well. And, despite a sign suggesting it remain a hands-free zone, Hansel & Gretl’s home sported a roof with quite a few fingerprints & bitemarks adorning it’s rooftop shingles.
Shiny bits of pretty & holiday tchotchkes could be had at every stall, but the longest queue was at the Oktoberfest stall; we ducked around the corner to the Slovenian sausage stall because, for some reason, folks didn’t realize that the same bratwurst was for sale at both places – and we avoided a lineup of dozens.
Rounding out the authenticity of it all – a Biergarten; an outdoor, drinks-in-real-glasses, we’re-not-carding-anyone, come-one-come-all Biergarten. Spirits a-plenty were on tap (cocktails, schnapps & hot rum toddies), but we quaffed a Hefeweissbier (reportedly from the oldest brewery in the world) and followed it up with an oh-so-delish Glühwein (or: mulled wine – red wine spiced with cinnamon, vanilla & cloves and served warm.)
Needless to say, we went home feeling the Christmas sprit.
Have a wee gander for yourself: