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Of Child-like Excitement, Christmas Market, and Hitler

It’s December. It’s that time of the year again when the world seems to spin at a slower pace, when things become mellow no matter rain or shine, and when reminiscing becomes inevitable. Living in Indonesia almost all my life, the Christmas tree I know are plastic fakes and snow is the Styrofoam particles shot from the highest story of a mall in the heart of Jakarta. But there was a time when I got to feel snow on my nose, sipping mulled wine to warm my veins, and find no shortage of sausage or cakes in a tinsel-filled outdoor market near Christmas time. I accidentally found a memento of such a time three years ago, which for some strange reason never made it to the blog. I sounded so child-like in my excitement – I have grown up a little bit by now but I fondly remember the excited kid I was. I decide to share the belated post as a homage to that wonderful time, to the wonderful friends I shared the memory with and to that child I am sure is still hiding somewhere in me. It is December after all, when it is okay to reminisce.

The nine of us were solemn as we approached the vast, empty concrete field. We were at the site where one of the most grotesque slices of the recent human history occurred. We were in the little known of Nuremberg, or Nurnberg in Deutsch, of Germany. Precisely, we were at the Zeppelin Field, where Hitler used to address his public and conducted Nazi party rallies. We were standing where Hitler once stood, and the feeling was overwhelming.

shuai hitler park

Right next to the field was the Hitler Documentation Center, which hosts everything there is to know about Hitler from his birth to his fall from power, although how he died was still a mystery even in the center. Films and pictures explained the meticulous method of building the Fuhrer propaganda, through angles of photographs and films and architecture as well as mobilizing youth. Newspaper clips from around the globe responding to his rise to power were also on display, showing how the world reacted to Hitler.

It was fascinating. It was emotional. It was what we came to Nuremberg for.

Yeah right.

The reason why nine students endured 11 hours bus ride (each way!) on a weekend with essays and debates due on Tuesday was that intellectual. Honest to goodness, the Nazi reminiscing was fascinating, but we were there for the Christmas market!

shuai tinsel

Christmas markets have always been a regular feature of the winter festivities in Europe, but this tropical girl had been deprived of that experience her whole life and would like to make the most out of it. And what would be a better place than Nuremberg, which is reputed as one of the best Christmas markets in the continent?

shuai santa

Most of the two days we spent in Nuremberg were spent in its Old Town area, where the Christmas markets were held. Oh yes, markets in the plural! There was one serious Christmas market with all the tinsels and food stands and there was another one for children, with joy rides and food stalls with fairy tale characters on their awnings.

shuai stand and church

Of course, I made everyone go to the kiddie one first. Amidst munches of crepes and fish burgers and cotton candies, we watched as children rode the carousel and the trains. I was sorry that I no longer look like one, so I couldn’t join the merriment by hopping into the merry-go-round with them.  But at least I could still take a picture with a life-size Nutcracker and pretend to be Clara!

The adult Christmas market was even more fun than the kiddie one! I discovered the delight of drinking gluhwein, a spiced hot wine that would warm you instantly, outdoors. Drinking is not complete without eating, and boy, we did munch like champions. Wursts, potato fried cakes with apple sauce, baguettes, cheese fondue, hot dogs, candied nuts, chocolates, Christmas cookies – and all eaten not only once but over and over and over again.

There was something about the atmosphere that made me feel excited, and despite of wearing a mafia-like wool black grown up coat, I really felt like a kid again. It felt good.

Den Haag, 1 March 2010

Gypsytoes – of a trip in November 2009

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