Christmas Market in Our Little Town


This is a cauldron of gluhwein (mulled wine) over an open fire, sitting in a bed of wood chips and evergreen boughs, surrounded by around 200 people drinking the gluhwein, under large canopies. What could possibly go wrong?

A few blogs back, I suggested that small-town Christmas markets tend to have better offerings than big-city markets. I still stand by that – for Canada. Not so much for Switzerland, at least not so far.

Our little town’s Christmas Market booths are very much like those in Zürich. The downside of both is that aside from gluhwein, the emphasis was light on local handmade goods. On the up-side: Zürich had lively street performances going on, so the Big City wins this time around.

That is, unless one of the features of our town’s street market goes awry. A pedestrian corridor has been layered in wood chips, adorned with logs and evergreen boughs, in the midst of which the Swiss keep two hot fires burning beneath two large cauldrons of steaming wine. This is surrounded by about 200 people drinking the mulled wine, with most of the space protected under large canopies.

This is the kind of thing that would make Vancouver Island fire chiefs sit up, take notice, then pass out from horror.

Some day, this photo will appear on some "ghost" website, alleging ghosts walk the streets of Biel/Bienne. Note: Not ghosts. Just a slow shutter on moving targets on a dark street. Still, pretty cool photo.


Not ghosts, not at all.





Big city lights

Light's appear to float above a Zürich old-town lane. The lights are hung pendant-style on lines that dangle from cables strung between buildings on either side of the street. They look like giant fireflies when they move in the breeze.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Zürich’s Christmas lights have been clutched in controversy. It began when the Swiss, forward-thinking people that they are, decided their light display gobbled down too many watts, and so they put themselves on an electric diet, replacing the incandescent light bulbs with LED.

That led to a dismal showing the following year when the Christmas lights did not so much shine as that they glowed like dying embers. The city was cast into shame. This year, the city promised a return to glory with even better LED lights.

Depending on who you believe, LED lights consume about 1/10th the energy of their incandescent cousins, but only if you only use 1/10th the lights. I don’t know the math on the number of LEDs now strung along Zürich’s beautiful streets, but my guess is that the numbers and therefore, the power consumption has gone up. I can’t wait for the day that Zürich puts up ten times the LEDs it did in its inaugural LED year, thus nullifying their ‘progress.’

For reasons not known by me, LED lights also do not photograph well.

A posh outdoor cafe in Zurich.

There is some discussion among film professionals about images photographed in LED light as being flat and lacking texture. I don’t know about that, but a glance at my photos from our tour of Zürich suggest this is true.

At home, I am an LED nut, using these lights to add a lovely glow to my Christmas lighting decor, but the truth is, there are a lot more light strings running through my yard than there used to be, making me wonder if LED is the aspartame of the electric world. It’s meant to help us reduce kilowatts/calories, but in the end, we just consume more, but without the guilty conscience.

LED aficionados also praise LED lights for their longevity, claiming they last eight to 10 times longer than incandescents. I’m sorry to report that this has not been my experience. I have already had to replace LED light strings that were only five years old. This does not beat out my old incandescent twinkle-lights’ lifespan.

Nevertheless, Zürich’s display did look lovely, although a little dim. It will appear dimmer still in these photos, and that’s too bad.