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After Terror Attack Last Year, Berlin Christmas Markets Open

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Germany, it's Christmas market season. The mulled wine is flowing amid the twinkling lights. But after a terrorist attack at a market in Berlin last year and the discovery of what police say could have been a bomb at a market near Berlin Friday, many Germans are understandably on edge. Esme Nicholson reports.

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: The Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt is one of Berlin's finest. On a Friday night, it attracts tourists and the office crowd looking to start their weekend with a mug or two of warm glühwein. Markus Munch runs a store here selling sausages from bratwurst and currywurst to simple frankfurters. He says business is a little slow despite the Friday night factor.

MARKUS MUNCH: (Through interpreter) It's a bit quieter than usual. But that's always the case in the first week. I'm optimistic it will improve.

NICHOLSON: Munch is a veteran vendor at this market. His shoulders tense a little when he hears that today police shut down a market in the nearby city of Potsdam because of a suspicious package.

MUNCH: (Through interpreter) You know, I can't really talk about it. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel.

NICHOLSON: Security here is tighter than usual, just like in Potsdam where the city's police chief, Peter Meyritz, announced earlier tonight that his officers had defused what they thought could be an explosive device.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER MEYRITZ: (Through interpreter) Our priority is safety. We evacuated the market for the sake of the public and the market vendors.

NICHOLSON: But some here feel that the police and media are overreacting. Forty-four-year-old Graham Motter from San Francisco is one of them. He's on vacation with his girlfriend and they've been Christmas market-hopping through Poland and now Germany.

GRAHAM MOTTER: It seems like whenever anything bad happens all of a sudden you have, like, four times the security on it. So I would think this would be the safest place in town. But I'm also a couple of drinks in, so I wouldn't take my word for it.

NICHOLSON: As the crowds become merry, it seems that the easiest way to alleviate anxiety about attacks is not to deploy heavy security but to ensure that the Christmas markets have an abundance of heavily stocked bars. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUFJAN STEVENS' "STAR OF WONDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.