Sunday, November 28, 2010

A little slice of Germany (and Christmas!) in the Midlands

We decided to take a quick train ride up to Birmingham to check out its famous Christmas market -- the biggest outside Germany, apparently. It seems that Birmingham is always a waypoint for us, as we fly on to other destinations, so it was nice to spend some time there; it really does feel like the country's second largest city, particularly the area we were in, swelled as it was with the market crowds.

At times you couldn't move, the pavements were so packed. Not a big deal when you have a piping hot mug of mulled wine warming your mitted hands and smelling so wonderful. And it was a feast for the eyes as well, of course: from the stunning traditional carousel in Victoria Square, to the displays of miniature German villages and nutcrackers -- Tea brought some of that home with her, of course.

Something I didn't expect was the wide range of German beers. In fact, it so struck me as wandering in Munich, that when Tea said that the market was known for its rare German beers, I replied, "What? I'm sure we could get a dunkel or Weissbier on any corner." Honestly, it really is a little slice of Bavaria. (Well, Germany, I guess, as they had K├Âlsch as well, which is associated more with Cologne -- where we're going next month for yet another Christmas market!)

We had a fantastic bratwurst shortly after arriving -- even the roll it was in was so wonderfully crusty and fresh... My mouth's watering just remembering it -- but started to think about a sit-down supper as evening approached. Thanks to Tea's handy CAMRA Beer Guide application, we found that a former Pub of the Year, The Wellington, was just a block off the market. That board on their website is current; they have it up on a big screen, and you order by pump number. The place was packed with folks and good cheer; just a great atmosphere. You don't see many milds around, so I ordered a pint of Hobson's Mild and Tea went for a Baskerville from the local Two Towers brewery. Both were excellent.

The Wellington doesn't serve food, though, so after that we were back on the street in search of a restaurant. Luckily, Thai Orchid is pretty much across the way. Their Tom Yam Goong (#11) was probably the best Thai soup we've had -- delicious!

The market was still in full swing as we finished up, so we got another mulled wine for the train ride, then continued with the supermarket brand when we got home, watching Love Actually and part of Elf before packin' it in.


Check out my Picasa album for more pictures from the evening.

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