December 26, 2011

Weekend in Germany - Christmas Markets - Cologne by Day

Germany is famous for its Christmas Markets so we decided to fly to Cologne (Köln) to see what they're all about.  We arrived at Dusseldorf airport and boarded a packed train to Cologne. 
We managed to wedge ourselves into a corner on the stairs.  Fortunately, the ride was only 40 minutes long and was over fairly quickly.
We emerged from the train station and admired an amazing view of the Dom.  The church took over 500 years to construct.
We walked to nearby Hotel Buchholz and passed this crouching statue on the way -- thumbs up!
After dropping off our bags, we set out for our first Christmas Market.  En route, we passed stately towers.
The path along the Rhine was bathed in sunshine.
We passed a popular theatre staging Die Schöne und das Biest (Beauty and the Beast).
We passed some concrete features in a nearby park and veered away from the river towards the Dom.
This gentleman on horseback pointed the way.
We stood in the shadow of the Dom and admired the Gothic architecture.
We strolled past the Römisch-Germanisches Museum featuring stone sarcophagi along the walkway.
We stood for a moment to look up at the ornate statues surrounding the entrance to the Dom before turning toward more earthly delights -- the market!
Our goal was to browse around and then decide on a bite to eat.  We quickly scrapped that plan when we smelled and then saw the koelsche rievkooche -- amazing potato pancakes served with tart apple sauce.
With our bellies full, we did some window shopping at the various gift stalls.
Germans like their mustard.  I was amazed by these industrial sized containers of mustard (senf) hanging outside a sausage seller.
Hot roasted chestnuts also caught my eye.
The Dom was a gorgeous backstop to the market.
Even Santa put in an appearance next to the market stage.
We noticed that the musical performances were not scheduled to start for another hour so we took a stroll through the pedestrianized shopping area nearby.  I was mesmerized by Merzenich.  The selection of baked goods was simply astounding as was the throngs of people vying for a spot at the counter to make their purchases.
We went back into the market to catch some German shanty singers.  A handful of delightful old seamen took the stage and sang heartily in German.
I caught a snippet of the performance here.
There are seven Christmas Markets in Cologne so we decided to make our way to our second market of the day.  En route, we saw more deliciously ornate buildings with gargoyle embellishments.
We also saw some fun old-timey cars parked on the cobbled streets.
We soon arrived at gnome central -- the Altstadt Christmas Market.
The smell of grilled meats made our stomachs growl so we stopped for a sausage draped over a bun 2 sizes too small -- Yum!
We continued to drink in the holiday scenery and tried to spot as many gnomes as we could.
We'd already seen a ton of stalls at the Dom Christmas market but were amazed at the different varieties of things on offer in the Altstadt Market; including an endless selection of marzipan treats.
We spied a large male figure on top of a nearby building.
We exited the market and made our way through the Schildergasse shopping district.
Amazing bouquets of flowers were on offer in the center of the street.
We had definitely worked up a sweet tooth exploring the markets and stopped at Cafe Riese for a slice of cherry cake and espresso.
Even after overloading on sugar, it was hard to focus elsewhere with this large ice cream cone on top of the nearby shopping center.
We had crossed two markets off our list and were on our way to a third as the sun began to set.

December 25, 2011

Dublin Christmas Markets

Dublin comes alive at Christmas time.  Normally, there isn't that much to do on a Sunday afternoon in the winter.  However, on the weekend of December 17th, we managed to visit two Christmas Markets and two musical performances.  Our first stop was the Docklands Christmas Market.
It was relatively early so we opted for a cappuccino from Van-chino instead of mulled wine.
We also indulged in a steak sandwich from the Argentino Grill which came with a choice of delicious spicy sauces.
We admired an Animatronic Christmas scene and then made our way past blowing 'snow' toward the exit.
Our next stop was Cafe en Seine's weekly jazz performance.
We sat at the bar and enjoyed a pot of tea while listening to excellent jazz standards.
On our way to the Dame St. Christmas Market, we passed this large, novelty Connect Four board near Grafton Street.
Dame District Dublin sponsored a small Christmas Market on Dame Court for the first time this year.
Our favorite vendor was JoJo's Cupcakes. A lad with a bad ass motorcycle did a great job selling the tasty treats.
We tried the banoffee pie cupcake which was injected with caramel and just delicious.
We popped into the Stag's Head for a quick drink to warm up before our second live music performance of the day.
The interior of the pub was wood paneled and warm.
'Tis the season for hot whiskey.
We finished our drink and watched Mundy perform some funky, bluesy tunes before calling it a day.