Bucket lists. Everyone has them, but they are a special part of a traveler's life. Just as we cross one amazing adventure off the list, we add another, to the point where it sometimes seems impossible to satisfy our insatiable appetites for new experiences and places visited.
At the top of my bucket list since I was a little kid has been to travel to Europe for Christmas, if for nothing else, to experience the wonderous German-style Christmas markets. Ever since I read a child's book about Christmas around the world, I have been intrigued by how other cultures celebrate all holidays, but particularly Christmas. I fancied myself strolling through open squares, window shopping through adorable little stalls selling hand carved wooden ornaments, and sipping spiced wine while I munch on gingerbread cookies.
I will have to wait to live out my dream of attending the European markets, but the two that are set up in New York City; one at Union Square and one at Columbus Circle, do a nice job of holding me over until then.
While both holiday markets boast many of the same stalls (outreaches of small, privately owned local shops), there was a distinct difference between the two. The one on Union Square was a bit smaller, had a few sections of live music, and food and hot drink vendors interspersed throughout the stalls. It was easier to get around and thus, enjoy shopping, but it just wasn't quite as festive.
A short subway ride up to 59th street and one comes out onto Columbus Circle. After getting past the pedi-cab drivers who assume I'm a tourist (perhaps its the giant camera around my neck), I emerge into the delights of narrow alleyways lined with more vendors selling such varied items as homemade soaps, tibetan handcrafts, and microwavable pillow pets. The food stall section is much more delineated at the market at Columbus Circle, where one has the choice of Hong Kong Street Food, Korean BBQ, Domo Taco (nothing too Christmasy here folks), and then of course, the European favorites of apple cider, nutella crepes, and gourmet meatballs. Okay, maybe that's more of a hipster European favorite. But what Christmas market would be complete wtihout a German Delights food stall selling the invenerable German Bratwurst sandwhich to be washed down with Gluewhine (warm spiced-wine).
If one cannot make it to Europe for the holidays, in my opinion, New York City is the next best thing.