18 December 2006

Christmas Markets

'Tis the season for Christmas markets! Every year between late November and early January large towns in Belgium (as well as countries in other parts of Europe) celebrate the season by holding giant markets full of food, crafts, jewelry, and all sorts of holiday goodies. The Kerstmarkt (as it is called in Flemish) in Leuven is in its nineteenth year and takes place on the Ladeuzeplein and the Herbert Hooverplein.

My husband Z flew in on Friday morning (!!!), and on Saturday night I decided a trip to the market would be the best way to subject him to all of Belgium's fine gourmet offerings at once. It was a chilly evening, and the air was just heavy and damp enough to carry the aroma of roasted nuts and spiced wine across the Stadspark to my front door. Our ten-minute walk was one of great restraint and we imagined eating our way from one end of the 140-stall market to the other. Little did we know that just about every living soul in Leuven and the surrounding area had the same idea. Think half-time at a high school football game in a small town in Texas, and you'll get the idea.

Despite the "duh" crowd mentality, even more intense here in Belgium than at, say, Cedar Point(interesting that the residents in such a crowded country wouldn't have yet mastered the simple task of "getting out of people's way"!), we happily set off on a tour of the offerings before settling on the following wholesome, well-rounded meal:
  • two glasses of spiced "gluhwein"
  • two cheese croquettes, flash-fried in a vat of (possibly day-old) oil
  • one huge cone of french fries, complete with a pink-ish dipping sauce simply called "Samurai"
  • one serving of pumpkin soup, served in a bread bowl
  • one syrupy-sweet sugar waffle
  • beer (not at the market but after at a favorite pub, At the Bebop, across the street)

The feast in itself was pleasurable enough. Unfortunately the entire market experience was marred by truly terrible muzak blasted on loud speakers, and the mainstage offerings which were even worse than your average small county fair.

Sunday we breezed through Antwerp's Christmas market, Wednesday is for Brussels, and Saturday we may even try to go to Aachen, Germany, just over the border and supposedly home to one of the best markets in Europe. I will try to post as I go!

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