Travel

Heat Up Your Holidays with Kinky Festivities at Germany's XXXmas Market

Naked Santa, strip teases, pornokaraoke-and glühwein with roasted nuts, of course.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Santa Claus sits naked, drinking beer, and pouring liquor in glühwein. Nearby, two drunk men are caroling in front of fifty-odd onlookers. They’re not crooning along to “O Tannenbaum” or “Jingle Bells,” but rather performing something called “Pornokaraoke.” Oh, and there’s a topless drag queen named Ella Mortadella in a Santa hat, happily orchestrating it all. This is just another night at Germany’s most bizarre Christmas Market, the annual XXXmas Market, “Santa Pauli,” held along Hamburg’s Reeperbahn red-light district.

There are no fairy-tale-looking wooden stalls or angelic choirs at Santa Pauli; such romanticism has been replaced with a different kind of romance-one with, for example, a Christmas tree covered not in twinkling lights, but rather fluorescent dildoes. Instead of hand-carved nativity scenes, nutcrackers, or Räuchermannchen, the shops here make way for bondage-themed ornaments, body piercing jewels, skull décor, hand-carved splinter-free wooden dildoes, and holiday-inspired sex toys-think jingle balls instead of bells.

Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer

It’s a hedonistic take on the holiday season and a far, far cry from anything you’d find at Nuremberg’s famous Christkindlmarkt or Cologne’s stunning Dom Markt-or, really, any Christmas market in Europe. But what it lacks in sanctity, it makes up for in sin, because (at least in the neighborhood St. Pauli) you can’t have one without the other.

“The visitors don’t just get hot from the mulled wine,” said event organizer Jochen Bohnsack in an interview ahead of the first ever rendition. According to Bohnsack, the goal was to create a Christmas market that fit the personality of the St. Pauli region in Hamburg.

Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer

“Here, even Santa Claus and the child of Christ can live out their sexuality,” added Hamburg’s cult drag queen Olivia Jones. And it doesn’t seem much has changed since its opening, beyond growing larger and larger each year.Santa Pauli isn’t the only unique Christmas Market in the city. There’s also a doggie market (closed this year, sadly, but usually on the docket), and even an entire Winter Pride calendar complete with plenty of glühwein, DJs, and local LGBTQ+ organizations sharing their stories and collecting donations.

Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer

But here at the XXXmas market, the entrance sign reads: “Welcome to Hamburg’s Hottest Christmas Market.” “Hot” it is not-not from a climate perspective nor from a fleshy, Miami standpoint. You won’t find much bare skin among the crowds of giggling Germans wearing their thick jackets and pom-pom hats while cupping mulled wine. Aside from the compromising depictions of Santa that’d only embarrass Mrs. Claus and the elves, the atmosphere is, much like the other Christmas markets dotted across Hamburg, entirely jolly.

Photo by Julia Schwendner
Photo by Julia Schwendner
Photo by Julia Schwendner

Like any proper romp, the “Glühweinapotheke” bar is a perfect starting point to loosen any inhibitions. Resembling an 18th-century pharmacy, the faux apothecary lets visitors concoct their very own mulled wine elixir from an assortment of high-quality reds and whites from the Pfalz region. Using beakers and test tubes, bartenders dressed in white lab coats blend the glühwein to your taste, drop by drop, whether that be a Dornfelder mixed with plumb or a Riesling accented with vanilla, anise, and, for good measure, a hit of rum.

Venture a little deeper into an area called the “Strip Forest,” where every hour on the hour is a new strip tease performance. Here, you can succumb to some holiday boudoir as people of all genders titillate curios partygoers with their gyrations.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Santa’s face may be emblazoned onto sex toys, along with candy cane dildos, marzipan genitalia, and penis-shaped cookies-but not everything here is about the erotic. Plenty of local artists and craftsmen showcase their creations, whether that be hand-crafted wooden postcards, gorgeous photos of the city of Hamburg, knitted hats for adults and children, bread-baking kits from local bakeries, ornate lamps, adorable stuffed animals, the whole shebang.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
SANTA PAULI – Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Of course, there are the requisite German Christmas market treats like smoked salmon, roasted nuts, sausages, and fried mushrooms-though it’s easy to see how this could start getting a little raunchy, especially in the red-light district.

Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer

It’s a vibe that has existed in this area since the 1600s, when sailors came here in search of entertainment after their months at sea. Up sprouted bars, clubs, cafes, theaters, bordellos, you name it. You could find burlesque shows, circus performances, classical music concerts, and operas. Centuries later, by the 1960s, musicians and artists found refuge along the streets, which served as inspiration for The Beatles (who briefly lived here), and songs by The Police, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, the list goes on.

Nowadays, most of the grit from yesteryear has been dusted off, but an edge remains. And everything that comes with red-light life-the prostitution, drugs, and random squabbles-still do exist, though it’s hardly bothersome to the crowd of family-friendly faces (all 18+, of course) lining up to join the enclosed Santa Pauli festivities. Those “family-friendly faces,” though, quickly turn wide-eyed when we reach the evening’s ribald entertainment. Each night of the advent promises plenty for ogling.

Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer
Photo by Marius Roeer

This year, the team is practicing safe… celebrations and using a little extra protection such as requiring all guests to be either vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID to attend the festivities. “It’s a queasy feeling, like flying blind,” Bohnsack acknowledges to a local magazine. “Let’s hope for the best.”

At night’s end, you’re invited to enjoy some refractory period bliss on the winter deck. Here, you can sit beneath hanging Christmas trees and next to a bonfire while you sip a mulled wine dangerously titled “The Nutcracker.” It’s an unexpectedly gemütlich setting, considering the sea of sex surrounding, well, everything else.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Tom Burson is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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