Friday, 12 December 2014

Beer and Brats in Birmingham

Hi all.  Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but I seem to have caught a British bug.  Since I’m not feeling very well and because I have a bunch of beautiful photos that do a great job capturing our trip to another Christmas market here in England last weekend, this post will be more of a photo essay.  But first, a bit of history on the Birmingham Christmas Market.

Birmingham is the largest city in England outside of London with a population of over a million people.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from where we live.  We hadn’t been there yet, but I’m so glad we decided to check out their Christmas Market because not only was the Market wonderful, the city was amazing and I can’t wait to go back and explore it without the distraction of the Christmas Market.  The Market is actually called the Frankfurt Christmas Market and is the largest authentic German market in the world outside of Germany and Austria.  Many of the vendors are from Germany, as we could clearly tell by their accents.  In fact many of the signs for the food vendors were only in German, but since they were mainly selling sausages, pretzels and good German beer, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what to order.  It’s estimated that nearly three million people visit the Market in Birmingham each year.  It was a last minute decision for us to go to the Christmas Market, but I’m so happy we did.  After visiting the crowded Market in Bath a couple weekends ago, we weren’t sure we were up for it again, but hey – it’s Christmas, we are in England, and this is what they do here.  So off we went. 

Take an authentic German market with the beautifully decorated wooden Christmas stalls selling German food and drink, sweet treats and a plethora of trinkets, plunk it down in the heart of a metropolitan city with it’s amazing combination of old and new architecture decked out in Christmas lights and holly galore, and add a Ferris wheel and ice skating rink and you have a magical Christmas wonderland.  So come along and join us on our trip through the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham.

First stop, the ice skating rink sitting at the base of the Ferris wheel.  Notice the penguins on the rink.  That’s what people who don’t know how to skate get to keep them on their feet and they were working quite well.  The building in the background with the funky architecture is the Birmingham Public Library which is where we stopped next.

Next stop - the loo.  Mom had to go (yes, yes, worse than the kids).  Lucky for me, we were standing right in front of the public library and what better place to find a public toilet that is warm (so much more enticing than the porta-potties sprinkled throughout the festive Market).  So we popped inside and stumbled upon the most magnificent library I’ve ever seen.  Now, I really haven’t visited very many metropolitan public libraries so I’m sure there are plenty that are equally as amazing - but wow!  This library is quite something.  Once in the lobby, we had to take a very long escalator up a floor to get to the restroom and as we went up, this is what we saw.   There were lots of ohs and ahs all around.

The library is 10 floors tall, and the center of the first several levels are open to the top of the building, with bookshelves encircling the opening on each floor, and above that, a glass elevator that takes you to the very top of the building.  Beautiful, simply beautiful!  I will from now on be seeking out public libraries in the large metropolitan cities we visit.

Once we were back outside at the Christmas Market, we didn't get very far before we passed a Belgium Hot Chocolate stand.  Honestly, how could we say no when the girls asked for a cup.  For an extra pound or two, you can have a shot of Bailey's added and trust you me, I will be trying that next time.

Enjoying some hot chocolate with their new friend what's his name.  Honestly, I don't know who this is but I feel like I should, so if anyone can enlighten me, please feel free.
Welcome to the Christmas Market!  It stretches for several blocks right through the heart of the shopping district in Birmingham.  This is the largest food and beverage area at the top of the street.  The Market was crowded but, as was the case in Bath as well, this is the nicest crowd you will ever meet.  I don't know if it's the Christmas spirit that's gotten into everyone or simply the kind, mild mannered nature of the British, but even though it was slow going through the streets, there was no pushing, no impatience, no bad language, no sign of rude behavior of any kind.  Everyone was polite and gracious.  There were several police officers and security people patrolling the streets, but they could have fallen asleep with how boring their job was. 

We had to stop at the candy stall, with these beautiful jars full of every flavor you can imagine.

Further down the street, we ran into this gigantic Santa merry-go-round sitting in the middle of a beer garden.

It was impossible to walk by this colorful display of donuts without stopping.  We grabbed four to take with us for Sunday breakfast, and later, the girls each got one for lunch.  You just can't say no to donuts for lunch when they look like this.

I'll take that one!

Next stop - the brat stand.  As you may have figured out, we basically ate our way down one side of the street and right back up the other side (I neglected to get pictures of the German pretzel and yummy pizza buns we had already consumed at this point - sorry).  We are at a German market, so of course we needed to try a brat.  These aren't like our US versions however.  They are long.  Very long.  I think the sign below speaks for itself.

I'm not really a brat fan (yes, I just heard the collective moan of disappointment coming from Wisconsin).  Eric, however, loves brats and he was so very gracious to share his with me.  And my was it tasty!  And the bun - oh my goodness the delicious bun (seriously good old U S of A, why can we not figure out how to make good bread).  How do you eat a 1/2 meter long brat?  You break it in half and pile it all between the bun.  I will spare you the photos of me actually eating the brat, so here is a picture before we dug in.  I think someone else wants to share it with us too!

Apparently we were more into the food than the trinkets at this Christmas Market because here is yet another picture of a food stall.  The food stalls were just so beautiful though.

By the middle of the afternoon, our bellies were full and we had been walking around the Christmas Market for a few hours.  The girls were cold and tired and wanted a break.  They probably would have been happy to go home by that point, but I was determined to stay to see the lights.  This Market is beautiful in the daytime, so imagine what it would be like when it gets dark and all the lights come on.  Sorry kids - buck up.  We are staying.  Momma wants to see some lights.  We decided to take a break to give them some time to recover, so we headed back into the library, found the kids sections, the girls each found a book and a comfy chair, and they settled down to recharge their batteries with some quiet reading.  

Warm and rested, we headed back out to the Christmas Market.  The wonderful thing about the short days at this time of the year here in England is that you don't have to wait long for the sun to set.  By the time we headed back outside, the sun was down and the lights were sparkling.  

The girls enjoyed a German frankfurter.

Eric and I enjoyed a drink.  I had a warm mug of mulled wine and Eric enjoyed a German beer.

After enjoying our beverages, we walked back down through the streets of the Christmas Market to take in the lights. It was crowded, very crowded on a Saturday night, but with the lights, the smells and the atmosphere, we just didn't mind.  We made one last stop and got some chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick to enjoy (sorry, we forgot to take a pic) and then headed for home.  We'll be back Birmingham!  We'll be back.



  1. Leah's expression when pointing at the doughnuts is PRICELESS! She's get the Death Glare down!

  2. Hope you are feeling better Kris. Another amazing post, full of great narrative and wonderful pictures! You tell it so well I can put myself right there with you!