The Nostalgic Christmas Market
on Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT it, an outdoor German Christmas market is the perfect environment for a psychopath. He or she can blend in with thousands of clueless merrymakers, many of whom are tourists unfamiliar with local customs, all strolling from stand to stand, eating sausages and candied almonds, buying candles and other craft items, and getting slightly sloshed on the hot spiced wine. People in this situation are perfect victims.
At least that is what an unnamed psycho thought on Thursday evening when he hit two Berlin Christmas markets with a satchel full of poisoned liquor bottles. According to the police, he entered the Christmas market at the Memorial Church in western Berlin at around 7 p.m. and approached a twenty-six year-old Italian student and his twenty-four year-old Slovakian girlfriend. Speaking in English, he told them that he was celebrating the birth of a daughter and offered them each a tiny schnapps bottle with which to toast his health. The couple accepted the bottles and drank. Moments later, as the men melted away into the crowd, they began vomiting and the woman collapsed unconscious. Both had to be treated in a local hospital.
Four hours later, the same man showed up at the Alexanderplatz Christmas market and played the same trick on three young German women. They raised the bottles, drank them down, and were also convulsed with nausea and dizziness. They also landed in the hospital.
On Friday, a twenty-four year-old woman and a twenty-six year old man also reported to the police that they had been approached by the same man on Wednesday, this time at the Christmas market outside the Opernpalais on Unter den Linden, and suffered convulsions after ingesting the spiked liquor. At last report, all seven victims had been released from the hospital by Friday evening and were recovering satisfactorily at home.
The police have put out an APB on the man, described only as being around forty-five years of age, five foot ten inches tall, and having short blond hair, and are warning Christmas market visitors to avoid accepting drinks from strangers – something most people wouldn’t normally do at other times, but hey, it’s Christmas! While the police has yet to name the poison involved, Berlin’s newspapers are reporting that it was probably gamma-hydroxybutyrate, also known as knock-out drops or liquid ecstasy. Assailants frequently use this substance in clubs and discos, where they spike victims’ drinks when they have their backs turned, and then proceed to rob and/or rape them.
The markets' organizers are livid about this "apparently deliberate poisoning of visitors to our Christmas markets," and with good reason: Christmas markets are one of Germany's most popular tourist attractions during the holiday season. The oldest, the Striezelmarkt in the Saxon capital Dresden, first opened in 1434. Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt, which started in 1628, is probably the country's most famous (Christkindl, meaning "little Christ child," has found its way into American English as "Kris Kringle"). Berlin has dozens of Christmas markets, the most elegant of which is the Nostalgic Christmas Market on Gendarmenmarkt.
Nuremberg's historic Christkindlesmarkt
dates back to 1628
So far there is no word on who the poisoner could be. I suspect he’s a classic psychopath who gets his kicks out of attacking the innocent. If, however, it turns out that he is somehow connected with Berlin’s mean-spirited anti-tourist movement, this bizarre story could take an ugly twist.
Until we learn more, take my advice and stick to the hot spiced wine. The almonds are good too.