this year’s christmas festivities were a little different. we left canada for germany december 17th. we were a little worried how our 7 month old would take to travelling..everyone always seems to ask first about how he travelled, so..

ok, he got bored during the longer flights and there was a bit of pacing up and down the plane with him, there were some problems sleeping, and our agenda obviously had to be modified to suit our new family status. but for the most part he was a delight.

the first few days we stayed with our friends in Mainz, and they were super accommodating and hospitable, cooking us all sorts of tasty foods including chicken tikka massala with hand made naan bread, beef rouladen, pork with sauerkraut…

they also introduced us to Raclette, a Swiss treat.

Everyone at the table shares a large cooking element (pictured above) that cooks from top and bottom, and each person has their own small square cast iron cooking pan. Then like fondue you simply lay out a bunch of fresh ingredients like veggies, potatoes, and meats and everyone is free to combine any bizarre combination of ingredients in their personal cooking pan to create what they want. The only rule is cheese must cover the top, or so we were told 🙂

We also visited both the Mainz and Wiesbaden Christmas Markets during the first few days. The Christmas markets were something I was really looking forward to. Usually, but not always, the market takes over the pedestrian only square in the center of the old part of the city. They are always outdoors and consist of several stalls selling food, drink, and christmas related knickknacks.

The feel is delightfully more of tradition than mass consumerism. The smell as you enter is enticing – you have your staple foods like gingerbread and sausage (‘christmas’ sausage was available at Cologne’s main market – had bits of green apple and red onion in it).

Hot Chocolate

Then there’s your drinks – hot chocolate (pictured above, chocolate is on a stick and melted into steamed milk), punch, and glühwein. Glühwein is basically hot wine with spices added into it. I am not a wine drinker by any means, so my first mug was my last. I also tried Glühbier at Cologne’s harbour market. I’ll just say hot beer with spices in it must be an especially acquired taste…

koelsch

After a few days in Mainz we took a train to Cologne. Cologne is a favorite city of ours partly due to the local beer, Kölsch.(pictured above) From our previous trip we have a some great memories of pub hopping. Of course this trip was a little different with our little one along but I did get an evening to myself to go visit a few pubs and imbibe.

During the time in Cologne we noticed one day our son’s lips were red, and a quick look into his mouth, yes, two bottom teeth were breaking through! So maybe that explains the waking up several times a night – in addition to constantly being moved around and being in new surroundings with new people..

While there we also took the opportunity to visit several of Cologne’s Christmas markets. While the markets have a lot in common, regional differences allowed for different tasty snacking options when comparing Mainz vs Cologne vs Berlin.

Our last night in Cologne we tried to make it to the Haxehaus (pork knuckle is a favorite of ours) but alas, it was full. Luckily enough we got persuaded to come into a Argentinian steak house nearby and enjoyed a good meal, which our son slept through. Adult time at a nice restaurant was well appreciated!

dom

One of the last things we did was to visit the inside of the Cologne cathedral – or Dom. One of my favorite things about walking around Cologne is that feeling of being awestruck when you first see the Dom jutting into the skyline. Built over a period of several hundred years, it is a totally imposing structure that succeeds at making you feel small. It houses (supposedly) the bones of the three magi as well as other Catholic relics and is a worthwhile visit.

With our short trip to Cologne finished, we headed back on the train to Mainz to spend Christmas with our friends..

To be continued…

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