Young Travel Writer finalist Anda Pforr, of Rossmoyne Senior High School, celebrates the festive season at a Christmas market in Germany.
Snowflakes float like fairy dust in the hazy twilight. The cold wind pierces the layers upon layers of clothing I am wearing.
Christmas music from below is a distant twinkle to my ears and the marketplace looks like a spectacular white wonderland, with wooden stalls all lit up with small fairy lights.
I am standing 162m high at the very top of the Ulmer Munster, the highest steeple in the world, in the city of Ulm in south-west Germany on the banks of the river Danube.
The church is a masterpiece of architecture in fine Gothic style, built between 1377 and 1890.
From above, the surroundings look tiny and the people relishing the Christmas atmosphere like figurines in a doll’s house.
The inside of the church is cold and dark, creating a mysterious and sacred atmosphere.
Outside on the church square, the Christmas market is held from late November to just before Christmas Day, attracting about 37,000 visitors per day.
There are even small alleys named after typical Christmas symbols to help visitors navigate through the maze of 130 stalls. The variety of what is being offered is impressive. One of the most famous beverages is gluhwein, a hot, fruity alcoholic drink spiced with cinnamon - basically Christmas in a cup, perfect for warming your insides on a cold winter’s day.
There is even more choice when it comes to food; everything from the typical German bratwurst served with mustard to schupfnudeln, an unusually shaped pasta commonly served with sauerkraut and bacon.
And for those with a sweet tooth, there are countless stalls selling sugared almonds and the typical gingerbread hearts richly decorated with colourful icing.
There are two carousels to keep the kids entertained and in the middle of all this hustle and bustle of music, chatter, aromas and Christmas colours is a magical nativity scene with live animals, a donkey and lambs standing next to the lit-up figures of Mary, Joseph and the newly born baby Jesus.
There’s a famous tongue twister in German: “in Ulm und um Ulm und um Ulm herum”. And it’s true - no matter whether you're “in Ulm, around Ulm or round about Ulm", this is definitely a place to visit, especially at Christmas time.
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