AUGSBURG, Germany (Dec. 12, 2013) -- In the year 15 B.C., Romans founded a garrison camp where the Lech and Wertach rivers meet. They named the city after their emperor, Augustus. Today, that city, the third largest in Bavaria and the third oldest in Germany, still carries the name of its once-ruler.

Augsburg, though famous for its antiquity, serves as a destination for many visitors during the holiday season due to its Christmas market. It was for this reason that U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's Outdoor Recreation program visited the ancient town Dec. 7.

The Christmas market is held in the town square with a giant Christmas tree and a two-story Weihnachtpyramide, or Christmas pyramid. The large Christmas pyramid, like its smaller tabletop counterpart, has figurines that move within it and a propeller at the top. Augsburg's Rathaus, or city hall, overlooks the market. Strings of lights blaze the soft-lit illusion of warmth over the bustling crowd of tightly wrapped tourists.

Like many other Christmas markets, vendors in booths sell a variety of goods, some Christmas-related, some not. Visitors can find toys, knickknacks, cooking equipment, locally produced honey, cold-weather clothing, candle holders and other crafts. If in the mood for Christmas goods, there are tree ornaments, children's Christmas books, figurines of angels, nutcrackers and more.

For a trip in early December, the Ansbach group enjoyed temperatures several degrees warmer than freezing. Despite the relatively warm weather, attendees still purchased warm beverages, including Glühwein, a hot mulled wine, and Kinderpunsch, a non-alcoholic drink. Many traditional Christmas foods were available as well, including Lebkuchen, a variety of roasted nuts, skewered chocolate-covered fruits and more.

Grace Suarez, her husband Alquin and daughter Angela, had only been in Germany for a few months. This was their first Christmas market, and one of the priorities was to try German cuisine. They tried the Dampfnudel, a steamed dough ball, which was covered in vanilla custard.

"This one was just the dough, and it was good," said Grace. "We want to see places because we want to try the food."

The Rathaus, beneath which the market takes place, offers its own attraction to market visitors. The hall is famous for its Golden Hall, or der Goldener Saal. The name of the hall is accurately descriptive of its ornate, golden walls and ceiling, a literally bright example of Renaissance interior design.

The Rathaus closes to tourists at 6 p.m., but during the Christmas market this means that the visitors amass tightly outside the front of the building. During the market, a bizarre pageant takes place. A host of angels, actors and actresses dressed in wigs and wings, pretend to play along to music from a speaker on organ, trumpet, lute and other instruments. The host beams smiles over the crowd while moving as if they were mimicking less the celestial beings they are meant to and more the decorative apparatuses of a timepiece.

The crowd cheers and claps at the conclusion of the event. After a few hours at the market, the Ansbach group left the market at 8 p.m. During the ride through Bavaria, the families talked and slept on the way back.

Outdoor Recreation visits another Christmas market this weekend in Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg sits close to the border with Germany and because of changing hands between the two countries, reflects the culture of both France and Germany. Visitors to this Christmas market have a chance to see a German-flavored French Christmas market.

To learn more about this trip, call Outdoor Recreation at 09802-83-3225 or DSN 467-3225.

To learn more about Christmas markets in general, visit www.army.mil/article/115094.