On Saturday, and for the second year in a row, I visited the Cologne Christmas Market. Last year we arrived to the Weihnachtsmarkt with no expectations and were delighted by the intimate, festive atmosphere. Visitors are never more than a few seconds away from another market stall full of charming gift ideas, delicious food, or steaming gluehwein. My favorite memory was purchasing fresh mistletoe and carrying it around like a bridemaid.
This year I arrived ravenous with camera in hand. Within minutes I was scarving down reibekuchen. I also sampled waffles, carmelized almonds, pretzles, and non-alcoholic apfelpunch. Sadly I had to resist the delectible smell of gluehwijn, available for purchase in festive mugs. But the little baby snug against my chest more than made up for it.
Like last year, the cold contrasted perfectly with the soft glow of lights. Shuffling through the crowd, we saw brightly knit hats and scarves and lots of sturdy wooden toys. Some stuffed animals could be heated up in the microwave for an even warmer cuddle. One of my favorite stalls sold bird feeders carved into the shapes of owls, not to mention the meticulously arranged dried flowers, romantic candles, and hundreds of Christmas tree ornamets. If the market itself wasn't enough to delight the senses, I just had to look up and see the Cologne Cathedral towering majestically overhead.
We wandered for hours and it seemed we would never tire of the experience. We did venture from the crowded market square a couple times, first to view the interior of the cathedral, and next to the train station to change the baby (we had no luck finding facilities in the market). Finally, we went to visit the love padlocks on the Hohenzollern Bridge, spanning the Rhijn River. We stopped every few feet to admire another Lucchetti d'Amore on the chain-linked fence.
Without sounding too cheesy, visiting Cologne for the Christmas market feels like returning to the Christmas of my childhood. With carolers, ice skating, and Christmas lights galore, it really captures the magic of the Christmas season.