Last night I went to the Essen Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market for the uninitiated) with a couple of friends (Rebecca and Julie - both expats) with the express purpose of sampling a little glühwein, there was no intent to shop, merely a desire to immerse ourselves in the festive spirit(s).
We made a beeline for the stand we hear about every year from those that have both time and opportunity to make multiple visits to the markt and therefore get to sample everything that's on offer. This is my fifth Christmas here and therefore my fifth chance to explore the yearly market and this is the first time I've been to this particular stand*. This is glühwein, but not just any old glühwein, oh no, this is flaming glüh!
The owner of the stall loads up mugs with glühwein and places them in a row on the counter, then he lays a funny triangular spoon (with holes in it) over the top of each cup and puts a sugar cube on each spoon. Spirits of some kind is then poured liberally over the row of loaded mugs and this is then lit. The flames die down and more spirits get poured over the mugs and the flames go higher. When the flames die down again they are extinguished, the spoons removed and the drinks distributed to the waiting patrons. The resulting beverage is very warm and tasty although the cups are rather sticky.
After finishing our first glühs we took the mugs back to the stall intending to claim our pfand** back and sample another stall. The stall holder had just done a round of drinks and had three cups over, cooling on his counter. Wouldn't we like another one he asked, no, we told him, we were off to try somewhere new. Then he started bargaining, three flaming glühwein should be 10.5oE and Julie bartered him down to 6E.
When we'd finished our second glühs we were hungry and definitely only wanted our pfand back from the stall, definitely no more glüh.
But again he had just dispatched a round of flaming glühs and had three left over***. This time Julie was wiser and started lower, we paid 2E for three.
Clearly years of being married to a money market dealer have paid off, all in all we got nine glühs at 3.50E each for a total of 18.50E a saving of 13E, if certainly helped that Julie is French and can make German sound sexy with her accent.
It has to be said that we are all little on the sluggish side today, it's probably a very good job that the market shuts down at 9.30 on a weekday evening otherwise we'd have never made it out of bed, let alone the house!
* the same stands come to the exact same spots year after year.
** pfand is the term used here to refer to the deposit paid for the item.
*** and it's not like he could see us from where we were standing to the side of the stall while we drank, he had no way of knowing we were about to come back.