I have long wanted to visit the outdoor Christmas markets that spring up in city squares in Germany.
The thought of wandering outdoors in northern European winter weather usually cooled and dampened that desire, or some other practical consideration got in the way.
This past week as I trolled the live webcams on my iPod Touch I joined Germans and Hungarians, Austrians and Bulgarians as they strolled bundled up in their coats and caps sometimes in new-fallen snow, sometimes in the rain, enjoying the strings of lights and garlands, sparkling Christmas trees, a Gingerbread-house-styled booth, an impromptu ice-skating rink, lines of little stalls with families queuing up no doubt to buy some warm treat, toy or decoration.
For me one of the greatest values of IT and Blogging is their immense potential for increasing one’s awareness of other cultures when firsthand, personal contact is unavailable. As one after another Christmas market popped up on my screen I began to realize that most of them were in Eastern European countries that had until fairly recently been communist: Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic. During the Cold War such countries were always portrayed as dour, soulless, no joie de vivre: the last place one would expect to find Holiday festivities.
That cultural shock was like the one I had many years ago when, while traveling in Southeast Asia, I had the unexpected delight of finding that some of the most lavish, creative and cheery Christmas and Easter displays and festive crowds I had ever seen or mingled with, were in the streets, shopping malls and hotel lobbies in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hong Kong.
So, once again, the internet has caused me to adjust some of my cultural perceptions, or shall I say, misconceptions. I trust a lot of others are correcting theirs too as they look out on and participate, live, in this wide, surprising world.
* Click on pictures to enlarge *