Froehliche Weinachten! Merry Christmas from Germany everyone. Our second Christmas in Germany. Crazy how time flies.
Well temperatures are certainly getting icy here in Europe, but guess what? No snow yet. That’s right, this time last year we had already missed several days of work for snow, but this year we’ve only had a few dustings. Nothing that has stuck, or survived the few rainfalls we’ve had since. Craziness. Well Jack Frost better get with the getting, I’ve got a snowboarding trip in two week’s I’m looking forward to, and we need plenty of white powder for me to wipe out into.
Now, as I’ll be in the Austrian Alps, there will always be snow to be found. The question is how many chair lifts will it take to reach the snow. Plus, as I’ve never actually *been* snowboarding, I’m thinking I want as much of the soft stuff as possible to bounce off of. Now I’ve done my share of skiing, which I enjoyed, but snowboarding is a lot different. I’ve had several people walk me through the differences, but until you actual get on a board and realize what’s it like to have both feet locked together (vs independently, I.e. skis) you just don’t know how awkward it all can be. Still, I imagine it would be loads more awkward without SNOW. So insert snow dance here.
Now snow sports isn’t the only thing going on in Europe during the winter. From the period of Thanksgiving to Christmas eve Germany, Italy and France have something called “Christmas Markets.” These outdoor festivals of sorts, are really just a way to do Christmas shopping for more traditional gifts. They date back to the middle ages. In truth though, they are a reason for people to get outside and enjoy the winter weather with friends and family.
Now, an obvious question …wouldn’t you get cold? Of course, but that’s why there is glühwein. Glühwein is basically hot cider wine. Served hot, its basically like spiking your hot cider. And this stuff is strong too, about 12% in some brews. A few cups of this and you’ll feel nice and toasty. Plus, they have all sorts of ways to heat yourself up at Xmas markets. From heat lamps, to can-fires to bonfires, to …uhm, wow. I give the German’s credit, they know how to drink in all seasons, and stay warm.
Wandering through Christmas markets in the various European cities around us is truly a good time. Traditional Christmas music, kids playing about, fun rides, …all that is missing are a few horse drawn sleighs and you’d have every Christmas song ever written. You can easily imagine yourself back in the middle ages, doing practically the same thing.
The Xmas market (or “Weihnachtsmarkt“) Rachel and I visited this week was in the French border city of Saarbrüken. At 7pm, they even had a real Santa fly across the sky with his reindeer. Arrive before sundown and you can see the cranes set up to guide the slay down across some tension wires, but once the sun goes down the effect is truly magical (some people get pretty excited too, ha ha). Markets we went to last year had all sorts of neat surprises as well. All of them, a Norman Rockwell Christmas come to life.
Check out this album collage of markets we’ve seen. Wish they had these in the states, eh?
On Christmas day, Rachel and I arose early and partook in a classic Chanukah tradition …seeing a movie and eating Chinese food. Why Chinese? Dunno, I guess they are the only ones open, but it appears they don’t even know, ha ha. It was odd to be awake on Christmas and not be able to talk to my friends and family. After all, it was still the middle of the night on the East Coast. I’m sure Santa was still dropping off presents on the west coast. 🙂
I updated my Facebook page to rejoice in the fact that us Europeans get to celebrate Christmas 6 hours before everyone else. Wow, the ability to move Christmas up six hours, what an amazing power! Kids all over the US would give anything to able to do that. I know I would have when I was that age.
I even heard our good friends, the Changs, had some special Christmas gifts this year as Michela delivered two healthy twin girls on Christmas Eve. Wow, congratulations you guys.
As soon as my sister was up, we were able to set up our second annual Christmas Skype session. We even took an updated trans-Atlantic Christmas photo, like we did last year. Ahh, the power of modern technology. Now, sure this might be a non-conventional family photo. But check out these hilarious awkward family Xmas photos, and you’ll see how bad it can really get.
Now Christmas wasn’t the only thing going on for us this weekend. As it had been, oh, 5 minutes since we traveled last, it was time to get out and about in Europe again. And this trip was gonna be a big one. Not the weekend, single backpack getaways, but a real adventure. We were even gonna, …take time off! Wow. We were off to Berlin for New Years.
Berlin being the capitol of Europe, you’d think we’d have visited it several times by now. But, as we were the southwest part of Germany and Berlin was in the northeast, and like 8 hours away (which is about as close as Italy from us), we hadn’t made it up there in year one. Plus, with so much to see and do we really had to plan a large block of time for it. Kind of the same reason we haven’t made it to London yet. While, there are a lot of things Rachel and I are lucky to have in excess, vacation time is not one of them.
Traveling to Berlin was a bit of a show as well. We had to take a car, 2 trains, a plane, a bus, the metro and then walk four blocks to finally arrive at our hotel in Berlin. It was actually very interesting to be in an airport in Germany and *not* be taking an international flight. As I’ve said in many previous blogs, I’m always shocked how small European countries really are. Trying to get on a plane and not actually leave the country is very much the same as trying to take a flight in the Eastern US and not leave the state you are in. Not an easy task. Crazy but true.
Our tour of every possible means of transportation outside watercraft complete, Rachel and I reached the NH Hotel in Berlin. It, like just about everything in Berlin, was massive. I felt like I was in New York city. Looking out the window of our upperfloor hotel room across the city was truly impressive. You just don’t see cities like this in Europe frequently. Cities with skyscrapers, and impressive skylines.
This was gonna be quite a week for us. Outside of getting the chance to really dive into a city with an amazing culture and fascinating and controversial history, I’m told the New Years party in Berlin is something truly unparalleled in Europe. But that, my friends, will be a story for another day.
So stay tuned, as we’ll return next week with our Berlin exploits. For now, Merry Christmas to you and yours. Maybe your holiday seasons be warm, jolly and festive.