Cologne Christmas Markets

Sunday 18.12.16
Since we ordered the flights 2 months back I couldn’t get myself to get excited for the trip. I had to keep myself focused on the clinical placement, work, exam, assignment and lastly the Christmas concert we organized and took part in. Today, however, with all those events in the past, I was able to think about the next few days and get genuinely excited! It’s so relieving to finally be on holidays, no college work or worries for 3 whole weeks, it almost seems too good to be true at this stage! Cologne (or shall I say, Koln) I’m ready for you!

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Monday 19.12.16: Day 1

16:50- Waking up this morning was hard, but so exciting! Fast forwarding a morning of packing and getting ready (gotta make these curls last as long as possible, dry shampoo I’m relying on you), we made our way to the airport with the Dublin Bus for the first time, marking the beginning of our adventure.

23:50- The journey to the Cologne airport was quick, simple and uneventful. Being from Ireland where our Luas has only 2 lines (which don’t even interact), we found the u-bahn very impressive, as always. Arriving at the Radisson Blu Hotel, our site of residence for the next 3 nights, I personally felt quite out of place due to how fancy and sophisticated it is. Not that I can’t be either of those things, I just didn’t pack for it.

We decided not to venture out so late at night, it was already 8 p.m., and so had dinner in the hotel restaurant which serves Italian cuisine. We found the menu did not have the biggest range to choose from, however we were both happy with our meals. I had crepes with 3 different Italian cheeses and himself had chicken with fries and 3 other extras, and for dessert we opted for the chocolate cake with mint sorbet and bergamot tea. While it was all very delicious, and extremely overpriced, I have to admit that my favorite part of that dinner was the fresh bread baked on an open fire stove, which was served warm and with olive oil.

After dinner we headed back to our room, enjoyed a nice hot bath and are now just chilling in bed. Looking forward to start exploring the city and markets tomorrow! Until then, guten nacht.

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Tuesday 20.12.16: Day 2

12.50- Currently on the u-bahn to town. The excitement is kicking in big time! Plan for the day is to see some of the city and then head to the big markets by the Cologne Cathedral, seeing that as well while we are there. Also, breakfast, must have breakfast.

20:40- First full day down! Exiting the train station we walked straight into a small winter market called  Markt der Engel in Neumarkt- our first taste of the stalls. For breakfast we opted for some deep fried grated potatoes and hot chocolate served in beautiful ceramic mugs, topped with whipped cream. One thing we regretted was not getting one portion of the potatoes to then be able to try out some more  of the delicacies available, oh well. We then wandered around the stalls, making a mental list of all the things we want to get and really just enjoying ourselves.

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We then spent the day walking around town, getting little bits and bobs. Late afternoon we headed to the Dom cathedral and approaching it we were absolutely in awe of its greatness and eeriness. After appreciating its stunning architecture, we explored the inside. With the sun beginning to set, the atmosphere inside was uncanny and the size and structure exceedingly ostentatious.

Following that we made our way to the Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom located right around the corner. Walking through the numerous beautifully ornamented stalls positioned around a grand pine wrapped in lights, the scene was simply spectacular! We roamed around, making sure we saw every single stall and circling some more times than we intended, while sipping on hot chocolate and savoring different tasty delicacies.

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When we felt we could eat no more and certain we saw everything, we headed back to the hotel. Here we relaxed, enjoyed the benefits of the sauna and steam room and then returned to the room to lounge.

22:50- Just back from a late night, unexpected dinner outing. Dressing up to pop down to the filling station across the road for some snacks, we, instead, searched nearby restaurants and off we ventured. ‘Vapiano’. Oh. My. God. My new favorite food place! At the entrance we were handed a plastic card each. Then, after choosing a seat in the very chic dinning hall, we chose our dishes from the menu and, walking right up to the chefs across the bar and ordering, watched our food being prepared from scratch right in front of us.

This being our first time there, we naturally had no idea how the system worked but the staff were totally awesome. After ordering a pasta dish I was instructed to stand to one side where another chef asked me what and how I want my food to taste like and just like that, I watched my food come together to be the most amazing, flavorsome, well-balanced dish I had tasted in a long, long time. To me, food itself has to be an experience, and that was exactly that.

Wednesday 21.12.16- Day 3

13:22-We had quite a late start to the day today, but hey, this is a holiday and on holidays you sleep in. We then made our way into the city center and had breakfast in Cafe Relchard with a view of the Dom. I really liked this place. Not only was its location perfect, being a 2 minutes walk from the front door of the Cathedral, but its style was just, *sighs*, beautiful.

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21:30- What a day! I’m going to have to motor through it as I could write a full blog on today alone. Following breakfast we walked straight to the Cathedral and made our way up to the very top. Now we have a knack with getting to the very top of all places well-known, however, this was, by far, one of the longest and hardest climbs we have done so far. Considering the height of the construction, a frightening 157 meters, one would expect a lift, but oh no, the Germans make you work for it. Succeeding a half an hour climb up a narrow spiral staircase (that accommodates those climbing up as well as down), then a metal staircase, and then another, narrower stone spiral one (this is certainly not a place you would want to visit if you get vertigo or are afraid of small, compact places), you finally get to the top and are able to enjoy the best panoramic view of the city imaginable. Little tip if you are planning on climbing to the top- do those extra squats and cardio, they will serve you well.

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Following the climb down and a burning desire to never see stairs again , we did the Coach City Tour, which, very conveniently, started right by the Cathedral. This was our first time ever doing one of these tours and we thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It was an hour and a half and brought us to places such as the Chololate Museum (Schokomuseum), the Hard Rock Cafe, the Zoo & Flora, the Odysseum and many more. The general impression we got of the city was that, although it had many places worth visiting, they were very spread out throughout the town and situated in some very random locations.

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After the tour we headed to the markets!! It was beginning to get dark so it was the best time for the festivities. We started off with the Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom again and got some lovely delicacies to munch on. Then as we were leaving, a couple made their way to the stage and started playing live Christmas tunes which worked wonders in bringing the crowds together to watch and join in the singing. We then made our way forward, stopping at a little, nameless, market separated from the main one by nothing more than an apartment block. The general vibe here was very jolly and cheerful with young and old people alike singing along to the live music and just generally having a great time.

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Following from that we walked to the Heimat der Heinzel in Altstadt which was a sight to behold! The street decorations were absolutely stunning and we were able to really appreciate the view on the Ferris Wheel ride at the edge of the market. Quick snack and off we went to our next and last stop which was the market in Heumarkt (in retrospect, I think these last 2 were actually one big market, but I’m not 100% certain. Oops) . This one was certainly different from the rest with it’s big ice rink in the very center and the lovely bridge reaching over a section of it. Although I must admit that neither of those things felt very safe after 2 sips too many of the (very tasty and too good to pass) mulled wine. But hey, it’s Christmas, it’s allowed. One thing I just have to comment on is just how great everyone was at the ice skating! The activity is clearly much more popular here than it is back in Ireland, which I am totally jealous about.

At that stage of the evening the cold won over my excitement and we headed back to the hotel, savory pastry in hand. We then defrosted in the steam room and sauna, full and content with the day’s adventure. Sad to be leaving tomorrow, but sooo excited for Christmas now!

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23:35- Just back from another amazing dinner in Vapiano. We simply couldn’t leave without revisiting the place. Totally obsessed!! Seems like we’ve been eating all day long but I promise, we have not.

Thursday 22.12.16- Day 4

22:05- So we got home a little while back. It’s been quite a long and very tiring day. We had a late morning, yet again, and were out of the hotel by 12. We then had a lovely breakfast in Riese after which we revisited the Markt der Engel where we bought all the little pressies and souvenirs to bring back home. After that we just roamed the city, no plan, no destination, but to me that was a time well spent!

Following that we went back to the hotel, enjoyed a hot drink, collected our suitcases and,  mentally prepared for the journey ahead, made our way to the airport. Skipping the confusion at the train station, an almost forgotten school bag and a late flight, we arrived back in Dublin safe and sound.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. I absolutely loved all the markets and their general Christmas atmosphere. They were without a doubt an experience I will never forget! If I had to choose a favorite, I think the Heimat der Heinzel in Altstadt would be it. However, each market was individually amazing and I really and truly enjoyed each and every one of them!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you had the loveliest day! xo

-iMarina

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