Xmas Markets on the Rhine
Are You Ready for Some Xmas!
We headed off to Germany with the Rhine River at its lowest level in decades. A few days before our trip we got word about the river conditions and reviewed our options. River traffic will not be able to make it all the way up or down the river, so at the very least, we will need to change ships at some point. Deciding to go for it, we have arrived in Cologne. We flew into Frankfurt on the huge Lufthansa 380 and hopped a quick train down to Koln, the largest city in the Rhineland.
Although not being covered in the U.S., the Rhine is so low that there are sandbars in places and the water is less than four feet in others. Never a deep river under normal circumstances, a severe drought and no snow in the Alps has created the current situation. One particularly unsettling consequence is the revelation of unexploded ordnance from WWII strewn along the riverbed. Of significant note, is an “enormous” RAF bomb and two smaller bombs (at least one from the USA) embedded in the mud near Koblenz. The Germans plan to evacuate about ½ of that city (45,000) including hospitals, a jail and the train station, in order to diffuse the larger bomb this weekend.
We have come in a day ahead of our Uniworld River Cruise; now settling into our lovely hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst, in the center of the city and organizing our attack on the first of the Christmas Markets. Cologne has seven.
We started with the closest ~ the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kolner Dom (Cathedral Christmas Market). This market was festive and colorful, but did not really feature any distinctive merchandise. My favorite part was the plentiful food stalls and all their associated fragrances – licorice, gingerbread, warm pretzels, giant potato pancakes frying, nuts, chocolate, gluhwein; all in all, an amazing and wonderful assault on the olfactory senses.
But the best part of the day was yet to come . . . we wandered on over to the Alter Markt near the Old Town and were instantly transported back in time. Old fashioned wooden stalls, pine greens everywhere, woodland carvings, staff in period-costumes and beautiful lights and decor ~ all under the watchful gaze of the cute Koln Gnomes.
Back to the Excelsior for afternoon high tea – our chosen alternative for dinner tonight (did I mention we ate a cheese pretzel at the market?) A wonderful way to end the day ~ stuffing ourselves with all those wonderful goodies.
By the way, it’s really cold, our long-coats and gloves are perfect!