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‘Locals only’: remote Christmas Market tells outsiders to stay away after surprise influx

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‘Locals only’: remote Christmas Market tells outsiders to stay away after surprise influx
Photo: Bergischer Weihnachtsmarkt im Wald (Bergische Christmas Market in the Forest)
14:50 CET+01:00
When a flood of people arrived from as far away as Frankfurt to visit a small market in Overath last weekend, the organizers were caught completely off guard. So they've now told outsiders to "look for other options."

“We are and will remain a regional Christmas market in the Bergisches area, which is not suitable for such large-scale events," the operators said in a statement, Rheinische Post (RP) reported on Wednesday.

The Bergische Christmas Market in the Forest - in a more remote district of North Rhine-Westphalia called Overath and located in a forest - remains an attraction for local visitors, they added, stating that people from further afield in Germany should “look for other options” during the Christmas season to “avoid disappointment.”

Last weekend at its opening for the season, the 15-year-old Christmas market was overwhelmed when crowds of people streamed in. While it isn’t unusual to attract visitors from nearby Cologne, some people had come from over one hundred kilometres away - including cities in the Ruhr district, Aachen and Frankfurt.

Many eager to see the idyllic market for themselves subsequently took to social media to voice their disappointments.

One Facebook user on Sunday wrote: "After a good 1.5-hour traffic jam up to the parking lot, we finally made it. All hell broke loose so we couldn't even enjoy the Christmas market. Eternal queuing for food and mulled wine stands.”

After driving for one hour and looking for a parking spot for 45 minutes, another Facebook user lamented that when he finally entered the market at 4pm on Sunday there was no more hot chocolate, sausages and spit roast.

A Facebook post advertising the event is likely what triggered the influx in visitors, according to RP.

Just like every year, the market operators - the Mütherich family - created the event on Facebook along with posts including images of fir trees, wooden huts along forest paths, pony rides and a nativity scene.

But unlike in previous years, thousands confirmed their attendance online; 10,000 Facebook users said they would be attending and 144,000 people expressed their interest.

"I cannot explain why this has spread so virally this year," said Stephan Mütherich, one of the market organizers.

Smaller Christmas markets have probably increased in popularity as people are avoiding big cities in fear of terrorist attacks, Mütherich added.

In December last year, a man hijacked a truck in Berlin and ploughed into crowds at one of the capital's Christmas markets, killing 12 people. The man was an asylum seeker from Tunisia and the terror attack was claimed by Isis.

Last week the Potsdam Christmas Market was evacuated due to the discovery of a suspicious package which police confirmed was an "explosive." Those responsible for the parcel were found a few days later to be attempting blackmail rather than terrorism.

On Wednesday the public order office in Overath and the operators of the Bergische Christmas Market met to discuss improvements in preparation for the remaining two weekends the market will remain open.

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