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TOP DOG: Tallinn’s Christmas market consistently ranks among the best in Europe.
TALLINN - For some people Christmas is a time for rejoicing and a rush of fun-filled activities; for others it’s a time for delectable meals, shopping in crowded malls, exchanging gifts by the side of beautifully adorned trees.
Christmas markets are a big festive tradition all over the world and a huge attraction for anyone looking for a pre-Christmas holiday. They are an ideal place to get your Christmas shopping started with plenty of gift ideas and traditional food and drinks to sample. There are lots and lots of Christmas markets around the world which are becoming more and more popular year by year. Last year, the online edition of the reputable English newspaper The Times compiled a top 20 list of Europe’s best Christmas markets. The top position on this list has been given to the Christmas market in Tallinn.
Tallinn’s Christmas market became a yearly tradition in 2001. It has already established itself as amongst the best-visited Christmas markets in Europe. Certainly what it lacks in tradition, it makes up for in atmosphere and ambiance.
Starting on the first day of Advent (normally the last weekend in November), Tallinn’s Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) becomes busy with more than 50 merchant stalls where visitors and locals admire and purchase products by artisans from all over Estonia. Surrounding an enormous Christmas tree decorated with lights and colorful decorations, these vendors sell a variety of original products including felt wool hats and slippers, buckwheat pillows, wooden bowls, wickerwork, elaborate quilts, ceramic and glassware, little sea-grass animals, homemade candles, wreaths and other decorations.
Traditional Estonian folklore groups put on shows featuring singing and dancing and are common on the cobble-stoned square daily, especially on the weekends. Traditional Estonian holiday food is also served at Tallinn Christmas market, such as pork, sauerkraut and blood sausages, hot soups, stir-fries. Other traditional treats include gingerbread, marzipan, various local honey, cookies, nuts and sweets. Hot mulled wine poured from large wooden barrels keeps the crowds warm as well as the children-friendly Santa Claus, who wanders, by stirring up his own brand of Christmas cheer.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive, particularly under the blanket of snow that the northern latitude brings each December. Although the outside temperature drops quite drastically this time of year, the city’s carnival atmosphere and hot wine tends to hide the chill.
Tallinn Christmas Market was opened on Nov. 19 this year and will run through Jan. 9, 2011. The market is open 7 days a week. This winter, the Christmas market, which has been on Town Hall Square for the last nine years, will be moving to Rotermann Square. The new location is by no means accidental – the Rotermann Quarter, an architectural pearl in the heart of Tallinn, is the perfect setting for the little huts and the Christmas tree that people are already familiar with. The same good-natured Santa Claus will be there, along with his merry helpers; there will be a jam-packed entertainment program and a variety of winter and Christmas-themed contests; the Christmas tree decorating competition will be held once again and, for the first time in Estonia, there will be a singing Christmas tree right in the center of Tallinn!
As part of the festivities, make sure you visit Otepaa Christmas market in one of the most beautiful cities in Estonia, where you will be able to find beautiful handicrafts, seasonal food and much more. The title of ‘winter capital’ is being bestowed on Otepaa for the 14th time in 2010. The market will also host its own entertainment program, which you can enjoy by the bonfire as you try some tasty bear soup with nut cream.