Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dusseldorf Christmas Markets

Brrr! With freezing –7C temperature outside, I’m writing this entry in our warm living room while enjoying the soothing Twin Peaks sound track in the background ;-)

We just came home from Den Haag visiting Madurodam and watching a 3-D film in Omniversum. I hate to be the bringer of bad news but I have a very unenthusiastic review about Madurodam which will come later, while I got inspired to listen to Twin Peaks tonight. They were playing them as lounge music in Omniversum while we wait for the film to start.

The first Christmas market in Dusseldorf we visited in glittering silvery white decors and lights... really nice. I like the elegant simplicity.

And because the holiday season will soon be over, I thought it best to first write about my Dusseldorf Christmas Market review before I plunge into my memorable Prague experiences (actually I have not finished uploading the Prague fotos).

I picked Dusseldorf this year because it’s quite near to the Netherlands; about 2 hours drive from Utrecht via Arnhem – Oberhausen. Munster and Aachen were on my mind too, with both cities just about 2-3 hours driving distance from Utrecht.

The second Christmas market we came across have the little baby angel theme, and this time in grand gold colors.

Seriously, my enthusiasm for visiting Christmas Markets this year has dwindled down a little bit. I am not really sure why, maybe because there are so many things crowding in my mind, or could it be because I have seen them in Prague? Hopefully, the eagerness will come again next year and we’ll go to either Munster or Aachen.

The little baby angel theme and this is an open bar on the street with a revolving carousel on top adorned with life size figures of ponies, angels and a snowman.

If you are to ask me if I buy stuff at these markets? The answer is NO. My joy is simple, to walk around, bathe in the festive atmosphere, drink gluhwein and eat traditional German chows. Dutchman always says that these Christmas market vendors are only selling rubbish, needless bits and pieces, trinkets and ornaments that you will only use once, twice or never at all. Most importantly, they cost more than buying from a normal store. I have to agree with him partly though. Being a minimalist, I’m not a fan of knick-knacks in my home but I quite fancy those hand-made, ostentatious and glittering Christmas decorations for the tree. There’s originality in them and I haven’t seen the same vendors selling the same thing anyway. Come next year I will buy a new set of tree decors, hand-made ones from the Christmas markets.

This is the third Christmas market we saw, little replicas of traditional houses. I particularly like this store selling bright coloured lanterns. Christmas lanterns reminds me of the Philippines. We call them PAROL there, a customary Christmas decor for each home, usually hang on the balcony, terrace and front door. I once made them at school for a project.

There are about 5 Christmas Markets in Dusselfdorf I believe, and we visited them all. The first market was all icy white in design, the decors, the lights, all in glittering silvery white. I kind of like the simplicity, yet elegant style. We had bratwurst here and gluhwein before moving on to the second market which was just right across the street with the little baby angel theme.

More pictures here: Dusseldorf Christmas Markets, Germany

The main town square, the fourth Christmas market we visited. The impressive building with the clock in the background is the Rathaus - Dusseldorf City Hall.

The third market is an interesting one. Cute little replicas of traditional German houses (more like Dutch houses to me?) that looked like doll houses. This market leads to the main town square where the big market, the fourth market is housed in typically Christmas red colored wooden huts. The square was filled to the brim and it was almost impossible to move about without squeezing yourself in and elbowing others as you wiggle slowly through the crowd. We spent some time drinking gluhwein here while watching with smile the jovial swarm of holiday Christmas market goers. The atmosphere was really nice, very inviting and warm.

Me drinking gluhwein (mulled wine) - spiced hot red wine, a typically holiday season and winter drink in Europe.

The last and fifth market we visited was on the other side of the town center. We crossed over the canal and the theme here is quite the same as the last one in the main town square, but this one has a nice mix of green and red colours representing a very Chrismassy spirit.
There were some events in the city too. We checked out this cross country skiing competition and nothing surprising, the participating countries are the usual suspects: German speaking and Nordic countries. We didn’t linger there longer than needed and off we went searching for a place to sit down and eat.

And this is the fifth and the last Christmas market for the day!

We had dinner in a busy terrace with huge stand-alone aluminum lanterns that also functions as heaters warming our cold back necks. Right across from where we were seated just 5 meters away to our right is a choral group serenading the public. Perfect spot! They played a few songs before they retired for some drinks in the café beside ours.

Here in the last Christmas market, I found the most interesting vendors: one selling artistic, colourful, hand-made bird houses, and another one roasting chestnuts in an old locomotive wagon, very ingenious and creative!

The evening was good so far until we were back in the car and on our way to the Netherlands.

Well, let’s just say that the Dutch concept of traffic is quite simple: a single highway stream that interconnects to the rest of the highways. This highway is designed and tasked to lead and exit you accordingly to your village, town or city center destination. Fundamentally speaking, the driver will always follow one single highway before exiting to his or her desired destination.

The langlaufen - cross country skiing competition in Dusseldorf.

Unfortunately, the Germans have a different concept, a bit complicated which unexpectedly does not sound very German at all. Their highways are simply not interconnected. They have several main highways and they have single highways too that lead you directly to the city centers. This is not the first time on the road that we (or I) got confused. In addition to this, there were not enough directional signs in the city centers! Ugh.

Last year, from Siegburg we were led straight to Cologne center. We had to turn back and luckily we found the main highway going back to the Netherlands quickly. However, this year, we got totally lost, and for more than an HOUR!!! AAAHHHHH!

We circled Dusseldorf for ages looking for the highway exit sign, and half an hour later, we found ourselves driving towards the center of Duisburg. At this point, you can imagine Dutchman and me shouting at each other, lol! I told him, “Can we just pull over to the nearest tank station and ask?” But instead this is met with a stern NO! Can someone please tell me why men always resist this very simple cry for help -- asking directions?

SIGH. We could have been home by 11PM instead of past midnight. Think it’s about time to seriously consider upgrading my Nokia Navigator from a Benelux version to a European version.

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