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Steve Chiotakis: This time of year, Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, part of a tradition that dates back to the middle ages. Visitors come in from all around the world, but is the economic downturn affecting business this year? Not so much — things are still bustling in Deutschland. From Cologne, Emily Schwing reports.
Emily Schwing: Cologne’s gothic cathedral looms over one of the most popular Christmas markets in Germany. Small wooden stalls decked with festive lights surround a giant Christmas tree. The square is filled with people eyeing handmade wooden toys and sampling the gluhwein, a traditional spiced wine.
Marian Lespiau, from France, munches potato pancakes and licks grease from her fingers.
Marian Lespiau: We won’t change our Christmas plans a lot. We’ll buy little things, a lot of little things, so we’ll still have fun, but with little things that don’t cost too much.
Lespiau is holding onto her money this year, as is Eileen Magee. She made the weekend trip from London, but there’s not much left over for Christmas gifts. So she’s giving jars of authentic German mustard and handmade pottery.
Eileen Magee: You try to make it a more quality gift and that’s why the handmade things, they’re special, and it means more than maybe the quantity of what you’re buying somebody.
People also come to the Christmas markets for the atmosphere, and even a financial crisis can’t change that.
Randolph Shurrman is the organizer for the Cologne Cathedral Market:
Randolph Shurrman Perhaps they don’t buy a car, but to buy a gluhwein or to eat a bratwurst or to buy small gifts, the people need it every year and they want it and for that they will have enough money.
People like Ron Tabac. He made the two hour trip from the Netherlands for the weekend. Tabac says he is worried about his pension and increasing mortgage payments — but not today.
Ron Tabac: For me it’s maybe a problem, because I’m retired, and maybe inflation, my pension is not going up with the inflation. So that’s maybe a problem. But so far here in Cologne, it’s perfect, and we are enjoying ourselves and maybe sometimes we think about the crisis, but not today.
From the Christmas Markets in Cologne, I’m Emily Schwing for Marketplace.
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