You must be thinking, “She’s living in the past”, and yes I probably am. I know that to move on in life one must wave goodbye to bygones, but I don’t believe this applies to memories which keep me going into the future. Memories remind me of faces I do what I do for, of dreams I once told myself I’d achieve, of where I was before and how far I’ve come.
These memories were ones I shared with Mum and Dad. It was nearing the end of their stay with me in Munich and I guess You could say it was bitter-sweet as I tried to enjoy what little time we had left together.
It is almost a given that anyone in Munich – locals, tourists – would visit the Münchner Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz, the oldest Christmas market in the city (it can thus rightfully claim itself as the ‘original’). Now here are a few of my favourite moments from the few times I dropped by…
When the nearly 100-ft. high Christmas tree sparkles in the glitter of its 2.500 candles, the aroma of Glühwein (hot, spiced wine) fills the air and angel hair is glowing everywhere, then the heart of the Bavarian capital is under the magic spell of Christmas.
The beauty of a Christmas market is that a it takes away the idea of ‘mass production’ from shopping. Everything sold is handmade with a great dose of TLC (tender, loving care) – the cutting, sawing, screwing, carving, glueing, wiring, painting, … I found myself habitually picking up pieces and analysing them as if they were evidence… Ah I mean, how could I have not, I just loved the details. It truly was a marvellous experience seeing first-hand the incredible pieces one’s hands could produce.
Pardon me if I am wrong, but I do believe that this was a Great Pyrenees, or at least that was what I thought I heard my Dad exclaimed upon seeing this black beauty.
It’s not everyday that one sees a dog as big as this one, probably because they’re not easy to care for (considering their size, and thus there aren’t many homes around the world which can take them in), and Dad knew that an opportunity like this was not one to be missed, so he just went for what the youth in him told him to do… “May I take a picture with Your dog?” Dad asked, and got a smiley, slightly taken aback, but nevertheless excited “Yes, of course!” for a reply. Anyone would have been able to tell how much of a proud owner he was – the corners of his mouth lifted up into a smile and it widened into a brilliant grin.
In the midst of Bratwurst, Schnitzel, Matjesfilet and Hackfleischküchle, Münchners had the heart to make Vegans and Vegetarians feel included with a delightful Veggie Burger too. I loved this about Munich – how open-minded, inclusive and welcoming the people always are, even beyond the realm of food. It’s just so very heartening to be one of many in a community like this.
I can’t imagine a backdrop a grander more gorgeous than this one – the Mariensäule* in the middle of the square, and the Rathaus right behind it.
* The large column at the center of the square is known as the column of St. Mary. It was erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swedish invasion. The statue is topped by a gilded statue of Virgin Mary which was sculpted earlier, in 1590 by Hubert Gerhard. At each corner of the column’s pedestal is a statue of a putti, created by Ferdinand Murmann. The four putti’s symbolize the city’s overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy.
Ah yes, gebrannte Mandeln, i.e. burnt/ blazed/ fired almonds. Germans and Austrians (I observed this too while I was in Austria) seem to have this thing for ‘burning’ nuts – cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, chestnuts. Well, they don’t really ‘burn’ them, they really just ‘roast’ them. I haven’t actually tried them before for fear that I may just go on binge mode on them – nuts do this to me… nuts and blueberries, and sometimes Medjool dates too. However, my parents have told me that they taste wonderful, so if You’re ever in Europe during the Christmas period, be sure to get Yourselves a packet of these savoury, pleasant treats!
This was a second trip to Marienplatz’s Christkindlmarkt. This time it was only with Mum. Dad had to settle matters/ run some errands in Austria and had left us girls to our own devices. The weather was in our favour and so was my pile of homework, so we slipped on our favourite pair of boots and left the apartment filled with childlike joy and the yearning for adventure…
I stopped by this store and spotted a little adorable reindeer Christmas tree ornament which is currently on its way to a dear friend’s doorstep as I am typing away on my keyboard. I’m excited to hear about it successfully making its way to the pair of hands I intend it to belong to and to hear about whether he’d bring the same joy to her as it brought me upon making the purchase. Gifting is such a precious form of human interaction.
Mum and I walked past another shop selling gorgeous ceramics. They had tiny teeny tea cups, cosy mugs, beautifully intentionally unlevelled plates, bowls in all shapes but round (You know what bowls do to me!!! Got to ‘catch’ ‘em all! Pardon the poor Pokemon reference here!) and… an equally intrigued Xiulan! The very same Xiuyan who attended the same class as me for my third term in the language school. She warmly hugged me before we shared a string of “How are You?”, “How have You been doing?”, “The new term is going well for You?”, “And You, how is it studying Music in Munich?” (Xiuyan plays the piano wonderfully.) There’s just something about Xiuyan’s demeanour that makes it so difficult not to enjoy her company. Maybe it’s her smile or the charming thoughts she shares or maybe it’s the kindness one can see in her eyes… I’m so very lucky to have met her.
Mum was set to leave in two days, or was it just one? My memory fails me but what I do remember was unexplainably constantly wanting to take pictures with Mum with every change in the backdrop. It was like an urgency, as if I was trying to hold on to Mum, or at least what I could hold on of her: the beaming soul which radiates through her face in pictures. I just wanted to document every moment… how one doesn’t need much to feel truly and utterly happy.
I did the same with Dad before he left.
This Santa Claus was so sought-after, we had to queue to get a chance for this photo! It made Mum so very happy and I’m currently laughing as I recall how Mum laughed at herself when she examined the picture on my camera right after hahaha!
The sun was setting fast – it was barely 4.30pm and it had already looked like Singapore’s version of 7pm. We were just about to step upon the escalator which would have taken us to the U-Bahn station underground when I suddenly heard melodies being sung from the distance, from the other side of the main square in Marienplatz to be exact. The choir had emerged from behind closed doors and began belting out cheerful Christmas carols. Together with the cold, the lights, the mouth-watering scents of traditional dishes, the carols were the perfect way to seal the deal that evening.
We left with lips smiling and hearts overflowing with gratitude.
What an evening we shared.