A Joyous Holiday Season to You & Yours – from Detoursixty3!

Happy Holidays, friends!  I hope that you have all been enjoying the holidays and all the exciting festivities and traditions surrounded by friends and family!

This post, unlike the majority of those thus far, is coming to you from the United States of America!  We are back to celebrate with our loved ones at home this year.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten around to this posting prior to our departure.  Now that we are calming down after Christmas, I wanted to let you all know how we have spent the season this year.

Let’s back up a little bit to the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  We were very happy to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year with a great group of our fellow American expats in Amsterdam.  We were in charge of making a Brussels Sprouts Salad…which turned out to be much more of a process than expected, but was eventually a success!  There were turkeys, potatoes, and green bean casseroles all around.  We even watched some football games after dinner…traditional, indeed.  We are very thankful to have such great people here to celebrate with!  We had a lovely holiday.

DELICIOUS TURKEY!

DELICIOUS TURKEY!

The spread and pretty set-up!

The spread and pretty set-up!

What a great crew!

What a great crew!

On the Saturday following Thanksgiving, we headed out on a Christmas-themed weekend trip to Cologne, Germany.  You may remember Cologne as our first stop along the German road trip this fall, but this time, it was a looking a little different.  Cologne is a highly popular tourist destination this time of year for it’s well-known Christmas markets.  We decided to be a part of the crowd this year.

Let me start by telling you about the craziness that was our journey there.  We had decided to take the 3 hour train ride to Cologne versus driving (and paying for parking and all that).  We connected in Utrecht, and we were suppose to have a 10 minute pit stop.  Unfortunately, we arrived to a 30 minute delay on the board.  After a quick Starbucks fix, we noticed an updated delay of 45 minutes, which soon became 60 minutes, and finally became a cancelled train!  After BC battled the crowd at the ticket counter, we had tickets on the train 2 hours later than our original departure.  Given the expected crowdedness, we decided to wait in line again and pay the 8 euros to get a reserved seat for that second train.  (Smart decision, we thought.)  Unfortunately, it turned out that we were unable to get to those seats…given the INSANITY that was the packed train.  Eventually, we made it there to see an adorable elderly couple had been given our seats as a replacement for their seats that they could not reach.  Of course, you can’t ask them to move…so we stood…for 2.5 hours…all the way to Cologne!  Luckily, the trip went up from there!!

We arrived and checked into our hotel, then we headed out to start our Christmas shopping and eating of delicious market treats.  First stop, the Cologne Cathedral market…this beautiful cathedral was a great backdrop for the market.  However, the place was PACKED!  We stopped to watch some horn players on the main stage, and then headed out to market number 2.

The huge tree in the middle above everything.

The huge tree in the middle above everything.

The stalls filled with traditional products and great food.

The stalls filled with traditional products and great food.

The scene under the tree!

The scene under the tree!

This was so fun to watch!

This was so fun to watch!

A close up so you can see that facial hair!

A close up so you can see that facial hair!

Next up was the ‘Elf Market’ where we had hoped to find our expat friends from Amsterdam: Steph, Amanda, Andrea & Andy.  We did some browsing and then decided that the time had come for some our first round of ‘Gluhwein’.  This hot red wine is a traditional beverage of the season in Germany.  Gluhwein for BC, but for me, the white variety entitled “Weisser Glogg”.  As we enjoyed our warm drinks in our elf-market-specific-mugs and naturally split a bratwurst beneath the statue in the middle of the market, our friends spotted us!

Weisser Glogg and commemorative mug.

Weisser Glogg and commemorative mug.

BC having a blast.

BC having a blast.

Awww, friends!

Awww, friends!

So adorable.  Please Note: crowd.

So adorable. Please Note: crowd.

The scene at the elf market.

The scene at the elf market.

We didn’t stay long before it was time to visit market #3 – The Angel Market.  This was my favorite market of the trip.  There were star lights twinkling above us all over the market.  It was here that we had the delicious treat that I am calling Fried Potato Pancakes!  They are served with a side of applesauce for dipping, and they were wonderful on a cold winter evening.  And naturally, that was followed up by BC’s newest favorite market food: the Raclette.  This Swiss tradition entails a 1/2 wheel of cheese being melted at the top and then a layer being scraped off onto a piece of bread.  It was pretty delicious!!  We followed that up with a stop for some hot chocolate and taking in the pretty lights.

The scene at the Angel Market.

The scene at the Angel Market.

The Raclette.

The Raclette.

A life-size nutcracker.

A life-size nutcracker.

Potato Pancakes - or whatever they are actually called.

Potato Pancakes – or whatever they are actually called.

Yummy hot chocolate and commemorative mug!

Yummy hot chocolate and commemorative mug!

After that deliciousness, we headed onward to our 4th market of the evening…the Harbor Market.  This one was off the beaten path, so it was much less crowded.  We actually did a little more in depth viewing of the items for sale at this market, but no purchases were made yet.

Entering the Harbor Market.

Entering the Harbor Market.

The scene at the Harbor Market.

The scene at the Harbor Market.

This is how they cook fish at the market!

This is how they cook fish at the market!

Then it was time for our fifth market of the night, the second portion of the Elf Market.  This one was full of fun activities for the whole family…an ice skating rink and some game that was a mix of shuffleboard and curling.  We even came across a little candy shop, where I watched them make candy canes and then bought some! 🙂

Yes, they were YUMMY!

Yes, they were YUMMY!

We enjoyed watching this game!

We enjoyed watching this game!

We did have to make one pit stop at the cathedral market on the way back to the hotel to have yet another Raclette.  This one was even better than the one we had earlier!

Back at the cathedral.

Back at the cathedral.

You can see it in the back of this one.

You can see it in the back of this one.

Look at that deliciousness.

Look at that deliciousness.

The next morning, we headed back out to make some final purchases at the Elf and Cathedral Markets, and have one last round of treats.  More of the amazing fried potatoes for me, and a giant skewer of pork for BC.

He was happy about it!

He was happy about it!

Luckily for us, the return train ride went a bit more smoothly, and we were able to sit in our reserved seats the entire time.  It was a really fun trip and great kick-start to the holiday season.

That week was the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas.  BC was greeted by Sinterklaas and his helpers, Piet, at work that day.  I was happy that he captured the moment for me.  We did enjoy some nice chocolate letters ourselves!

BC's lunch visitors.

BC’s lunch visitors.

The fun continued the following weekend with a trip to Berlin, Germany with friends.  Lots of interesting history and of course, more Christmas fun!  More to come on that trip in the next post.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and if I don’t get back to the blog before, have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Until next time,
-MK-

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