PUBLISHED: 09:13 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013
At Christmas, Kingston comes alive with festive spirit. If, however, you happened to be visiting for the first time, you might think you've accidentally stepped into a Berlin street. MATTHEW WILLIAMS discovers more about the town's German Christma...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2008
At Christmas, Kingston comes alive with festive spirit. If, however, you happened to be visiting for the first time, you might think you've accidentally stepped into a Berlin street. MATTHEW WILLIAMS discovers more about the town's German Christmas market
For the past three years, a Kingston Christmas has been a little more continental than your average Surrey town. Every year, the toppling telephone boxes and the Toilet Gallery are somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of an enormous pyramid in the Ancient Market Place and the German Christmas Market that comes with it, bringing bratwurst, stollen and glühwein.
"It's like a small traditional village in the Black Forest," says Gorden Bulla, who with his business partner Sven Schmidt has been creating markets like this in the UK since 2003. "But what really makes the market special is the centrepiece wooden pyramid. This is a true German Christmas decoration, which nearly every family in Germany has on their table during Advent - much smaller versions, though, of course! Our three-floor pyramid hosts the bar in the ground floor, a family of deer with Santa Claus in the first floor and stunning decorations around the top."
Markets have always played a big role in Kingston's 800 years and, in 2008, the Ancient Market Place has already welcomed in Chinese New Year, taken a trip to the Caribbean, displayed dragon boats and showcased local talent at carnival time.
Come December, the German Christmas Market opens, alongside the fantastic Christmas light switch-on, and from the first day, the lovely smell of mulled wine, roasted almonds and the delicious bratwurst sausages waft through the area.
"As well as all the wonderful German food and gifts, we also play Christmas songs from all over the world, including, of course, many German carols like Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum," says Gorden. "There is a very large German community in the Kingston and Richmond area and so we always get a lot of German-speaking guests and assistants there."
In among the traditional German-style wooden chalets, the farmshops sell an enormous range of salami, bacon and ham, while the bakery is a great place to pick up some gingerbread. Other stalls have moreish crêpes and waffles. And as well as all the food, it's a great place to pick up an interesting gift for a loved one or friend, with wooden decorations, handmade metal figures, amberstone jewellery and traditional ceramics all on display. It is the country's famous drinks, though, that hold key importance to the festivities and no doubt act as a convenient winter warmer on the colder days.
"Nothing is more important than our glühwein, which is served in little ceramic boots," says Gorden. "We not only have the original Christkindl mulled wine from Nuremberg but also have flavours like blueberry and raspberry. We also serve a punch for children.
"Regulars always ask about the Oktoberfest bier from the Paulaner brewery in Munich. This is one of the most famous breweries in Germany and, like the Bavarians say, they make the best beer of the world."
So, if you're searching for something a bit different this Christmas, you don't have to go all the way to Berlin. Instead, why not check out a market a little closer to home.
- Kingston's German Christmas Market is held in the Ancient Market Place and runs until Sunday December 28. It is open daily from 10am to 8pm.
While you're at the Christmas Market, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy in Kingston - check out our reasons to visit Kingston