This Christmas was special for a number of reasons:
1) Stephen and I's first as a married couple.
2) It was our first in Europe
2a) Our first more than a reasonable distance away from our families.
Fortunately, Stephen's family decided, since they missed the opportunity to come in October, to come spend Christmas in Europe with us! The Dicke's in Cologne were amazingly hospitable and invited all of us to spend the week of at their home. Such an amazing time!
Here are the highlights:
Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkten)
Fantastic! We wandered about some on Wednesday after Gib, Jenn & Cherrie arrived by train, but the weather was quite awful. The snow that was falling when we landed had by this time turned into a slushy rain that soaked us to the bone, despte wearing warm layers. There were at least four different markets scattered throughout Cologne: one under the Dom, the old market, the new market and a medieval style market near the chocolate factory. A very nice mix of traditional kitsch and newer crafts of all sort.
Most of Thursday was spent roaming through the various markets seeing all the things on sale and picking up last minute Christmas gifts and candies that Stephen hadn't had since he was a child. We even found our first ornament for our tree: a small nutcracker style soldier. We're very much looking forward to going for a whole weekend for next Christmas and getting to go through all the stalls a bit more leisurely. They had some of the most beautiful linens and crystals that I had ever seen!!
Really went above and beyond to make this Christmas a special one. I really can't put into words how nice it was with them. We got to learn a lot about their customs as a family and just had a really nice time relaxing and enjoying ourselves. I think we all ate more chocolate in those five days than at any other period in our lives. They even included us in their family gift exchange, much to our surprise and delight. Christmas morning, they had laid out huge plates filled with all kinds of chocolate treats for breakfast!
Christmas Mass at the Dom
Gib was kind enough to go to mass with me Christmas morning at the high altar in the Dom. Supposedly, the Dom is where the relics of the three wise men are laid and is a common place of pilgrammage. Christmas morning mass wasn't overly full, but had a very nice attendence. Unfortunately, my German wasn't quite good enough to understand all of the sermon, but the mass itself was quite beautiful and very nice. As we were leaving the church after mass was finished they began to ring the large bell, Fat Peter. Talk about amazing! The sound of that one bell, deep, round and rich, visably vibrated the pavement at our feet and the walls of the cathedral itself! Beautiful indeed!
The Town "Zons"
On Monday after Christmas, the Dickes took us to visit this old medival city, the town of Zons, first established in 1288!. We were the only non-locals about, but there was plenty to see and wander though. It's always amazing to see such old cities still alive with residents. It was well laid out with lots of plaques detailing the history of the city, which unfortunately I can't remember much of (teaches me not to bring a notebook with me on trips!).
After wandering about Zons for most of the morning, the Dicke's took us to a lovely local resteraunt for a traditional kaffeetable, which is kind of like English tea, only with much more food! It consisted of a samovar-type vessel each of coffee and tea, several different kinds of bread, a selection of cold meats, two different kinds of jam, honey, molasses, fresh butter, a sweet rice pudding, waffles, cherry sauce and whipped cream. Talk about amazing! The food was all really good and, of course, the company was excellent! The indoor decor was lovely as well, a kind of country cabin set in the rolling hills. Very picturesque. A great way to end a stunning trip and Christmas season.
I'm sure that there are plenty of things that I'm forgetting, but those are all the bits that come to my mind right now. Next time I must remember to take a notebook along and update much sooner after the visit! But those are the highlights at any rate. Gib and Cherrie, feel free to jog my memory!