Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Cologne part 2: Christmas edition

Happy new year!

It feels strange to be filling in the second Cologne entry in the new year, especially since it’s been almost a month since the trip has happened, AND Christmas is over. That’s alright though. Everyone loves a bit of Christmas no matter what time of the year it is, right?

I suppose I should explain the lack of updates lately. During my last two weeks in Belgium (for now), my PhD work caught up to me and I was striving for space to breathe. When the winter holidays came, I hurried back to Bordeaux to participate in our annual Christmas Eve church evangelistic event, which by the way was a huge success. Then right after, without any break or rest, I headed to Nouans-le-Fuzelier (a little village south of Paris) with the Bordeaux Chinese Christian Fellowship for a 4-day Christian winter camp. We returned to Paris on December 29th and stayed there for two days, and finally headed back to Bordeaux on December 31st. Between the re-settling down and tidying up and year-end reflections, I haven’t had any time to sit down and write until now.

Oh, what an end of the year. If I’m not too overwhelmed by the end of the week, maybe I’ll do a summary entry. For now, let’s get back to Cologne.

So, Germany is the land of Christmas markets, because that’s where they originated. There were at least 5 Christmas markets within walking distance in downtown Cologne, and this is market #1, right outside the Cologne Dom by the central train station. Of course, this was the first one that I explored since it was right by my hostel. As soon as I dropped off my stuff I rushed to the market hoping that it’d still be open, seeing that it was 10pm. Well, although most of the booths were closed, there were still lots of people out and about – certainly not a lack of Christmas spirit in Germany!

Here is Christmas market #2. I forgot its name, and it was so close to another market that I wasn’t sure if it was one market or two different ones. It was here that I had my vin chaud, or hot wine, with amaretto, of course with a German name that I did not understand at all. More on that in a bit.

Christmas market #3 is ocean-themed, thus decorated with many ships and pirates. Even the guy who sold crepes was a pirate! Yarr! This market was right by the chocolate museum and was my favourite market out of all the ones visited. It was small, but nice, cute, and cosy, not so crowded because it wasn’t situated right in the core of downtown Cologne but close enough for a short visit. It was also here that I discovered the amazing gluhbier, and no Geoff, it’s not beer with glue. You’ll find out what it is later.

The last market is unique in that it is on a boat. Now, I didn’t actually go on the boat, and all I did was observe from the Hohenzollern bridge, but the boat was certainly a lovely mark on the Rhine river, especially at night. The whole scene felt like a fairy tale, actually, where a ball was happening on the boat and Cinderella was dancing with her Prince Charming. More romantic than Paris, I’d say.

So in the last Cologne entry I introduced some food that I had with a friend when she visited, but in fact, most of my meals in Cologne centered on market food. Greasy, unhealthy, tempting, but so incredibly delicious. I had so much market food in two days that pimples on my face literally popped out afterwards. Let’s get to some of these tasty wonders now.

The first thing I ate in Cologne was something called 1/2 Meter Fleischspieß which I later found out means “skewer with meat”. At 10:30pm, this was the only booth open, and the smell of the meat was so heavenly that it was impossible to pass by without getting one. I heard some English-speaking travellers commenting on the food, saying, “I don’t know what this is half a meter of but whatever it is, it’s half a meter of juicy goodness.” And right he was. It was so delicious that on the second day I was willing to line up 20 minutes to have it again. Unforgettable meaty goodness.

As soon as I saw someone eating Reibekuchen, I decided that I HAD to get it. Greasy? Yes, let’s go for it. These potato fritters may seem like your typical hashbrowns, but boy, they were so much more crispy and flavourful. When the saltiness of the fritters complemented the sweetness of the apple sauce, the final taste was a perfect match. I haven’t even gotten to the size of these giants yet. Each was the size of my hand and for 4 Euros you get three, plus the apple sauce. Did anybody say “unhealthy”?

Here we have bratkartoffeln which according to Wikipedia translates to “home fries”, but really the highlight is the sausage. Who goes to Germany and can say they’ve been there without eating sausage at least once? If you remember, I’ve had sausage in the previous entry, but having it at the market is a completely different experience. Yum yum!

Apart from all the tasty food, how can anyone forget the famous gluhwein (vin chaud in French and mulled wine in English) at any Christmas market? After having a cup at the Bordeaux Christmas market the previous year, Annie knew that she wasn’t leaving Germany without trying it there. So, what have we got?

 
The thing I loved about drinks at the markets in Cologne was that they weren’t just served in paper or plastic cups, but REAL cups. Of course you had to pay a cup deposit, but it was worth it as long as you don’t break the cup or anything, as the cup adds such feeling to the whole drinking experience, as if you’re really holding some SUBSTANCE in your hands.

Anyway, in Germany it was totally justified for me to pretend to be mute and point everywhere I go because I don’t know any German at all. So I pointed to something on the menu that wasn’t too expensive without knowing at all what it was and it turned out to be gluhwein with a shot of amaretto. Great. Of course I didn’t know that the small print meant amaretto, but heck, why not? Surprisingly though I loved the taste of the drink that I got. It was mulled wine but…better, probably because of the amaretto, I suppose? Alcoholic in the brewing, huh.

Then at the ocean-themed Christmas market I discovered the amazingness known as gluhbier. I asked the lady at the booth what it was and in her limited English she said something like “Belgian beer with two years cherry”. Um…cool? Whatever it was, it was a supremely delicious treat especially in the cold, as the warm beer washed through my blood. Oh Germany, you are just awesome ❤

Finally, here’s a series of random photos taken of the different booths at the markets. Most of these are in my list of “cute things that would be nice to have but are too expensive and are cool just to look at” because let’s face it, while they may be adorable and lovely, they’re way out of budget and most importantly, impractical. However, these little pieces of craft and handiwork are just so vibrant and colourful and irresistible! Eye therapy, whee!

This concludes my series of posts on Cologne which again, is long overdue. Where will Annie end up next? What surprises will 2012 bring? Only time can tell! (Cheesy I know…let’s end it here.)

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