OK I’ll admit it, I adore Christmas. Or rather I love our romanticized Victorian and Dickensian interpretation of Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill to all and the chance to make your living room chintzy without feeling too guilty about it! And of course buying those special people in your life something special.
Mrs Stace feels the same way and that is why at the weekend we drove down to Cologne for a day wondering around the markets (they have 7 there!) drinking mulled wine, eating wonderful German outdoor food (bratwurst, weird little potato cakes that drip fat as they are freshly fried, and pork on a stick – a meter of port BBQ’d on a stick that is!). And, yes, I have done another 10KM today to try and make up for it!
The journey there was fairly pleasant, the motorways in Holland were clear, and the autobahns were clear enough get there a little earlier than planned (even if not clear enough to see what the new car can do L). We got to the hotel too early to check in so we left our luggage with the concierge and went into the bitter cold to go looking for the first market.
Wow… Busy… Of course considering that it was the first weekend of the market it should have been expected, but there were places where you just couldn’t walk! Still, the general atmosphere was good and we took a quick look at the first 3 markets before moving onto the 4th (and the furthest away from the hotel, we though) and starting to really take a look. Whilst the atmosphere at this market, in the harbor, was not the best – the stalls were just white tents with no decoration – the goods that they had there were really interesting.
From little cats, to collections of baubles and a stall that sold little branches and trunks hollowed out with little windows. You put a tea light in the hollowed out bit and get the shadow of whatever is in the little window.
We walked back through two smaller markets, starting with the mulled wine and food at the same time J, and got some more knickknacks for home, and a couple of gifts for family. A few of the stalls had some great little tea light holders. An opaque glass, with a smaller painted glass in the middle. When you light the tea light the picture is projected onto the opaque surface, and jumps around as the flame flickers. Really cute. So a couple of those came back with us. They are really difficult to photograph, so sorry for the awful pictures below J
A bit more wandering and we decided that we needed a break. So a walk back to the hotel to see if our room was ready (it was) and if we could get the keys (we could). The room was gorgeous, and we collapsed on the bed for a quick rest. Well, it was supposed to. I fell asleep L I had been on the go for 10 hours at the time, and had driven 300km’s. Well that is my excuse and I am keeping to it!
One rest later and we were on the way again, it had got much colder! We walked to the angels market (quite a distance from the hotel) and it was definitely worth the walk! More mulled wine, more fried potato and more interesting stalls! There was one double sized stall that was so popular that it had a queue to get in! But it was worth it, the decorations there were really well made, and had price to match, but there was a nativity scene that was just too cute not to buy. I picked up one of the figurines and changed my mind! Until I realised it was the cost of the set, and not the single figure J
We finished there and stopped for a non-mulled wine drink (there are times when you just need something normal!) in a café before walking back to the other markets to see what they were like at night.
And got distracted by a department store. I miss department stores. When I was growing up Lewis’ always made an effort for the Christmas window displays, and I was always so excited to see what they had done for the grotto… And we past one that had done exactly that!
After a brief detour, and getting lost in the store, or rather getting lost trying to get out, we continued on our way. The first one did not disappoint with the lights and decorations.
And the wooden sculptures that they had there were beautifully illuminated, making them very impressive
And then back to the Dom Market, in the shadow of the cathedral! Ultra busy, lots of lights and really nice to walk around. The only problem was that by this point we had been on the go for a long time and the cold was really starting to get to me (it took me an hour after getting back to the hotel room to stop shivering, Mrs Stace was getting a little (quite) concerned) so we stopped for more BBQ’d food - a meter of port on a skewer each, really nice! I can say that Germans know how to make good outdoor food!
(Oh, and on a side note - I treated myself to a Sony RX100 camera for the trip. As close to a DSLR whilst still being ultra compact as you can get, none of shots used a flash! I'll do a mini review at some point I think)
A wonderful day out, and a really nice hotel to recover in at the end of it. The next morning was wet and miserable, and I felt sorry for the people arriving to do the markets in that weather! We jumped in the car after a too large breakfast (on holiday you have to don’t you!) and drove back home.
And of course… Spending hours the day before in the markets really got us in the mood so once we had lunch I started baking mince pies from the mincemeat I made at the start of November and we put our tree and decorations up. Ahhh…..
It's the most wonderful time of the year!