There is nothing quite like an open-air Weihnachtsmarkt to get you in the mood for all things festive. Thanks to Bluestone Vineyard in Bridgewater, the surrounding communities could enjoy this German-style “Christmas Market” for the sixth year running on Saturday, Dec. 2. Though authentic European markets are hard to beat, Bluestone tried, at least. Kind of.
During the season of Advent, street markets decorate the plazas of European cities four weeks leading up to Christmas. The markets usually pop up in a city’s town square, with a towering, glittering Christmas tree surrounded by rows upon rows of artisan tents selling goods and hot seasonal food and drink. The idea originated in Germany in the late middle ages, catching on quickly with its neighboring countries. The first recorded Weihnachtsmarkt opened in Bautzen in 1384, then in Frankfurt in 1393, though the first “December Market,” a Weihnachtsmarkt ancestor, was held in Vienna, Austria 100 years prior.
Regardless of who started the tradition, I was excited to check out Bluestone’s Weihnachtsmarkt to see how their version would measure up to the markets I saw in Vienna and Prague on cross cultural last fall.
The rural landscape alone set the event apart from its urban cousins across the pond. Bluestone Vineyard sits on a hill in the countryside just out of Bridgewater, surrounded by those friendly mountains and farmlands familiar to the Shenandoah Valley. The grapevines clung to their posts with knotty fingers, keeping watch like gargoyles. The air was crisp and fresh — something you cannot find in a bustling city.
Fröhliche Weihnachten — the first sign greeted me on our drive up the hill. Merry Christmas to you, too, happy German sign. At the top of the hill sat the Bavarian Chef food truck with its braided maid smiling on the side, the smells of bratwurst and sauerkraut tapping at my car window.
Bluestone hosted another food truck on site, but the Bavarian Chef seemed by far the most popular for its array of German food options. The menu was full of nostalgia for me: schnitzel, bratwurst, frikadellen, knackwurst, leberkäse kaiser, reuben, potato pancakes, and cinnamon-sugared pretzel bits for dessert. Prices ranged from $5-10. I ordered the “sausage im brötchen,” a brat on a baguette drizzled with sauerkraut and mustard.
The presentation of my brat was the prettiest thing I have ever seen come out of a food truck in a styrofoam clamshell. The colors popped: purple cabbage garnish, roasted red peppers, golden mustard drizzle, all against the warmth of the brat tucked in a bed of sauerkraut on a toasted baguette. I never thought I would call a bratwurst beautiful, but there you have it.
The flavors did not disappoint, either. Peppery, salty, vinegary, salty, then sweet — with the crunch of the bread, the crisp encasing of the brat, the slippery slurp of the sauerkraut, I could hear the Hallelujah chorus. Singing in German, of course. My only problem was trying to fit the whole thing in my mouth, and I ended up covered in mustard and sauerkraut juice without a napkin in sight.
To top off the festival of flavors, I snagged myself a mug of hot gluhwein for $6 from the market, its cinnamon spice just right, like Christmas in a cup. The market itself was nothing much to write home about, knowing what alternatives decorate the streets of Europe, but they did have various tables with artisan trinkets, jewelry, and leatherwork for sale.
I enjoyed Bluestone’s Weihnachtsmarkt for the nostalgia factor, the attempt at celebrating German culture, the food, and the novelty factor. If you cannot make a trip to Europe to get the real thing, I suppose this will do. If you ever spot a Bavarian Chef truck, though, I highly recommend a visit. They have two permanent locations in Fredericksburg and Madison, Va.
Bluestone plans to host their seventh annual Weihnachtsmarkt early next December.