Glühwein glory: Behind the scenes at the German market

By Jen Lau & James Booker

Pouring glühwein to merry customers is all in a day’s work for Christmas market sellers, but MM’s Jen Lau and Jimmy Booker discovered what it is really like to work behind a stall as they got to know the people who help to create Manchester’s winter wonderland.

The glühwein stall on St Ann’s Square is one of the busiest on the market, but manager Michal Gorka took the time to show us around.

From behind the bar you get a real grasp of the buzzing atmosphere that emanates from people as they relax, have a drink and fill themselves with that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from the comfort of Christmas.

First of all, you have to know what products you are selling, so sampling the stalls famous German-made gluhwein (similar to mulled wine) was a great start to our shift.

Alternatively, customers can also try the non-alcoholic version called kinder glühwein which tastes really sweet in comparison.

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK: MM’s Jen Lau tries her hand working the market stall

The stall had a great mood and the staff seemed happy to be in Manchester as they have come from a variety of different places to work here, including Germany, Poland and France.

Manager Michal is from Poland and it is his fourth year working at the market, but he had previously lived in Manchester for one year.

“I love Manchester. It’s a really great city here and I enjoy coming back every year,” said the 26-year-old.

Owners Anja and Andi Manke came to Manchester 13 years ago when the first German market opened in St Ann’s Square in 1999, before it expanded into other parts of the city centre.

They run eight stalls (mostly food and drink) on the market and feel that they know Manchester just as well as their home city of Bremen.

Andi explained: “The people themselves are very friendly and open – I really like the Manchester accent!

“The markets attract all sorts of people from Greater Manchester and even further afield. They want to come to the city centre and shop at the markets for themselves.”

At night time, the market transforms into a surreal escape as the bright lights and warm glows contrast with the cold Manchester weather.

The stall even holds live music performances on some evenings to keep revellers entertained.

German wheat beer and lager are top sellers at the moment, but we are assured that the hot drinks will become more popular as the weather turns chillier.

The bar also serves a deliciously rich hot chocolate which can be mixed with a selection of flavoured liqueurs.

All of the drinks they sell are from Germany so consumers feel a sense of authenticity, as if they have just stepped into a traditional European tavern.

Dave Scott, 25, from Preston, said: “I think it’s really nice to come here every year. My friends come from all over to visit the market. We enjoy sampling a few beers and having a good time.”

However some feel that the market is too expensive as Alan Brown, 40, visits the market every year but feels that it is getting to be too costly.

“I just had to pay £11 for two cups of gluhwein which is outrageous and overpriced. They’re playing on people’s sense of Christmas joy – they’re like London prices.

“Also there are no local people working on the stalls. I was just served gluhwein by someone from Poland, not Germany, so there might as well be locals from Manchester working at the stalls,” added Alan, from Durwen.

Although stallholders this year agreed to freeze their prices at last year’s prices, so there has not been a rise.

Friends Lianne Probert from Wirral and Lucy Milligan from Warrington described the Manchester market as the best they have ever visited, as others were on a much smaller scale and not as enjoyable.

Lucy, 22, said: “I’m really enjoying it here. It’s amazing with a really good atmosphere.”

“It’s a bit pricey so you can’t come all the time, but we’re only spending one day here so we’re not that bothered,” added Lianne, 29.

The Manchester market has been voted one of the top 10 best markets in the world and after the friendly and welcoming reception that we received, we can certainly see why.

The German market on St Ann’s Square is open from 10am to 8pm every day until 21 December.

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