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We’ve ticked the box: Cologne Christmas Market, done!

by on December 21, 2009
 

I’m not one to turn down great offers, be it sushi or plums.

So when a friend asked if I wanted to go with her and her kids to a Christmas market, I said yes! For many reasons including the top one – I’d never been to a German Christmas market before.

IMG_4873Yep….so I’d never had Glühwein or Bratwurst, though I should confess straight up…things haven’t changed much. I didn’t get a chance to stand around sipping Glühwein though I had Bratwurst….but not at the market. Phew. Confession over.

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So, on Saturday morning, we left, and when I say we, I mean my 2 girls and I; and my friend and her twins: 2 mums and 4 kids, no dads.

We left the snow-sculpted…quite stunning landscape of the Netherlands….to laughter and amusement, from the kids.

IMG_4705Conversations like:

‘Look at the sheep, aren’t they cold’?

‘No, they’re not…they have fleeces, which keep them warm in the winter and then in the spring they get sheared.’

‘Oh…really, then how do they get the fleece back on for the winter? Is it sewn on with a sewing machine?’

And

Oh, there’s loads of snow in ‘Holland’….

A few minutes later, with surprise we hear ‘Wow, there’s also snow in Germany!’

Easy to explain to a child that the weather pays no heed to administrative boundaries!  Though it was weird…cause there seemed to be lots more snow in the Netherlands than in Germany 🙂

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We got to Cologne in great time. We drove past the market on our way to finding parking, which was relatively easy, straightforward and right in the centre, this was to our amazement and surprise.We could even see the great church in the distance.

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Things seemed to be working out too well. Especially for me who’s used to parking miles away from the action and talking the kids on lengthy walks before we get to the centre of our outing. We grabbed a bit to eat at a nice cafe, which served Spaghetti ice cream :-). Though we didn’t have any, it was nice to see.

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And then we headed to the first market, only a few minutes walk away. It was nice and not terribly crowded. This I discovered later on was the Alter Markt.

The Christmas market on the Alter Markt takes place in front of narrow-gabled houses of the Old Town Hall. It has an especially idyllic atmosphere because of its half-timbered stalls. Children in particular will find lots to do here. With a nostalgic children’s roundabout, puppet theatre, Santa Claus’ grotto and many toy stands, this Christmas market in the heart of the Altstadt (Old Town) has attracted young and old to Cologne for many years (German Christmas Markets organisation).

IMG_4792We saw loads of people ice-skating, but haven been ice-skating (quite tortuously) a few weeks before, I was super glad to only watch them have fun. That’s me…often content with life (where I have no choice, and when the prospect is not quite enticing enough!).

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The first thing we did for fun was go on a mini ferris wheel, or whatyoumightcallit.

IMG_4863 And the views were nice….not necessarily stunning but pleasant at least. Brightly coloured houses and rows of Christmas market stalls. It lasted about 5 or more minutes and we only had a couple of tense moments – one when mid-air, my 4-year old suddenly wanted to walk over to sit with me….with almost open sides to our ‘car’, I quickly said no! The second was when the spinning wheel came to  a stop and we were at the top….obviously waiting our turn to come down and be let out.

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Of course, I invoked sense and sensibility and eventually, we came down…to be let off by the gentleman on the left, as the guy in the bowler hat, let people on!

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I did forget to mention that the temperature was -10 degrees Celsius! And the reason I mention it is because, not long after browsing some handicraft stalls, my 6 year old started talking about the cold!

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This filled me with sheer terror, memories of outings gone past! We forged ahead, and saw loads of craft stalls…all remarkable and interesting.  Everything from UFO inspired key holders, with buttons for eyes (above) and oil lamps….quite grotesque but cute some how.

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A lot of the stall owners/sellers were garbed quite interestingly. Take this guy for example, wearing an animal coat. I did also catch glimpses of medieval dress and other ‘interesting’ clothing though.

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There was an antique…medieval feel to the market, for sure!

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After an hour or so of looking, we took a break for my daughter was frozen…with very liquid tears. Hot chocolate and some toast later, she had recovered sufficiently for us to continue. We started back with freshly roasted chestnuts and I learnt a thing or two about ‘roasting’ them!

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They were split across, on the rounded side only- no cross, no X, no nothing. They were easy to open – you pulled both ends apart and the chestnut was there, ready to eat – warm, de-skinned and perfect!

IMG_4937Thankfully, I asked the lady for a photo and she obliged…and went on to say she got upset when people took photos without asking!

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One thing I learnt about the market was that there were issues with taking photos. At a few stalls, I got…’Please don’t take any photos’ and one said ‘…especially not for internet use’! I was quite suprised though, but respectful and so you won’t see any ‘illegal’ photos here!

We strolled past some lovely wood trunk carvings;

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And stopped to admire some intricately carved woodwork;

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And purchase some kidware!

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A merry-go-round ride later, everyone was feeling alive and well…and ready to move on.

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And move on we did to souvenirs…and more souvenirs.

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Since my return from Copenhagen, I’ve started collecting fridge magnets, thanks to my friend who showed me what to do….since I don’t have a magnetic fridge door! Simple but….she has a magnetic board in her study and collects fridge magnets from all the places she’s been to. Some collect beer mats, and others badges….I think I like the fridge magnet one so far.

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The kids got nice funny hats…and have taken to calling themselves all sorts of names from Santa, to Reindeer…and Mrs Claus! Anything to keep them happy. I missed my chance to ‘Glu’ up…but I’m not much of a wine drinker, I prefer to ‘eat it’.

IMG_5097We proceeded to the Cathedral, where another Christmas market awaited us.

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This market was FULL. It does suprise me though that with the sheer amount of people milling about, the weather wasn’t warmer :-).

The market at the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive one of Cologne’s Christmas markets due to the backdrop of the imposing Cathedral. Beneath the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland you can find 160 attractively designed wooden pavilions. Here you can choose from numerous sweet delicacies, watch artisans at work and enjoy the “Original Christmas mulled wine” out of the festively decorated Christmas mugs.

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Loads of people really stood outside….drinking their wine and others moved on and about.

The markets are full of art and craft stalls.Some new stuff, some old, nevertheless interesting.

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There were also lots of waffle and creperie stalls…none of which we visited for I’d rather my waffles homemade are! The smell of barbecued meats pervaded the air, a very ‘meaty fragrance’ and everywhere, man, woman and child munched, and munched and munched!

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When we were done here, pretty much looking, we left but not before I bought some sugared, candied almonds.

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We stopped for dinner and then headed to the car…stopping to get some chocolates at one of the many specialty stalls.

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There were loads of light stores with fancy candle holders- everything from stone to paper lamps!

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All evening, I’d seen people chomping huge skewers of meat…reminding me of suya ( a Nigerian skewer of beef, spices with ground peanuts, garlic, ginger and chilies and slow roasted). We didn’t stop to eat though….maybe next time!

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And then it was time to head back to hotel….

IMG_5229Regardless of the tears, we had a great day. Would I do it next year? No…way. No. I’ve had my fix. I’ve finally accomplished and been to a place I’ve always longed to go….but that’s it. I can rest now….and I guess I should.

Bed time…and oh, stop by tomorrow will you? I have finally been able to put together some Christmas condiments – 3 to be exact:

1) Orange Clementine and Cranberry curd;

2) Poached pear and Cranberry sauce;

3) Vanilla scented Creme de Marron (Chestnuts) .

Stay blessed!

For more on the Christmas markets, read this. The markets close on the 23rd of December, 2009!