Christmas Markets in Cologne

Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
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Trip End May 15, 2008


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Every year thousands of people flock to Cologne to visit the Christmas Markets here. At first Steve and I had no idea what the big attraction was until we experienced the magic firsthand. When I say magic, I mean Christmas through the eyes of a child...at least for me anyway. Once I realized that Santa Claus wasn't real and that reindeer didn't fly through the sky, Christmas kind of lost its appeal. The true meaning of Christmas never wavered but the excitement I once had as a little girl did. These markets brought that back. I don't know that I will ever experience anything like this again which is why Steve and I have been going to the markets every chance we get!

We got our first glimpse of what was about to come, when they began building the wooden enclosures for all of the little shop owners. Slowly vendors began to set up in preparation for opening day which was December 5th. As soon as they opened, the streets of Cologne were flooded with Christmas shoppers from everywhere...including Steve and I!

The very first thing I noticed when we walked into the markets were the Christmas Lights. There were lights everywhere. I thought downtown Holland was pretty during the holidays but it was nothing compared to this. In addition to the lights, they had huge Christmas trees all over the place and each tree had lights on it as well. At the entrance to the Christmas Market stood a twenty foot tall Santa Clause...the biggest one I have ever seen!

As we entered the Market, there was an old fashion carousel playing Christmas music as it whimsically carried children around on horses. I haven't heard laughter like that in a long time. I stood and watched in amazement and part of me wished I was a kid again.

Before we even got to the shops, we could smell the food. Steve was quick to point out that before we could shop, we needed to eat. And so we followed our noses until we found the food stands. They had everything you could think of. For those not into German food, they had pizza and hamburgers. For those of us who were, they had currywurst and pommes (Steve's favorite), brats, boiled mushrooms and onions, sausage and potatoes, and my favorite...weinerschnitzel.

Next to the food stands were little bars where you could get drinks. Steve and I fell in love with a winter beverage called Gluhwein. It is a red wine that is served hot like coffee. After we ate dinner, we each got a cup of Gluhwein and started walking around through the market. The very first booth we walked past was a chocolate shop. All you could see were a hundred different types of chocolates. It was unbelievable!

As we continued walking through the Market, we both realized how interesting each of the booths were. Since Steve HATES shopping, I figured I would get maybe twenty minutes out of him before he got crabby but it wasn't the case at all. He was actually enjoying it. Every booth we stopped at was unique. We saw booths that carried handmade scarves and hats (mittens too just for Steve!). We saw a booth that carried candles of every shape, size, and color. Another booth sold hundreds of different types of Christmas ornaments. And these were just three of the booths we saw...every booth was different and there were probably fifty booths in all.

Aside from the fact that this Christmas Market was amazing in and of itself, the best part about it is that it isn't the only one. As you travel throughout various parts of the city, each one has their own Christmas Market. So every time you visit one, all of the shops are different. We have had so much fun exploring these markets and so far it has been the highlight of the holiday season for both of us. And the biggest shock of all...Steve actually wants to go to the markets and shop. The other day he said to me, "Honey, we need to get to the two other markets soon before Christmas is here and it's too late!"

Christmas has taken on a new meaning for us this year. I feel "magic" everywhere we go and judging by Steve's new enthusiasm for shopping, I would say, he must be feeling it too (or he's had too much Gluhwein, I'm not sure)! Either way, when we walk around the Christmas Markets together holding hands, I feel like there still is a Santa Claus...that reindeers still fly in the sky at night. The childlike exuberance I once had comes back and I remember what it was like to be a kid again...MAGIC!
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