Colmar Christmas market(s)

This has been a weekend of Christmas markets! Although, actually, it was far too warm to be standing around drinking mulled wine. No wonder I’m not ready for Christmas… the weather’s telling me it’s still no later than September!

Our first Christmas market of the weekend was Colmar, which is only about 45-50 minutes away from Basel by train. Perfect for a day trip. There are, in fact, five markets in Colmar! Although one of those is just the normal indoor market with a few Christmassy stalls in addition to the normal ones that are there anyway, so it doesn’t really count as a Christmas market for me. One disappointing thing was a distinct lack of interesting food items – it took us ages to find anything we were even vaguely interested in. But Colmar is a beautiful town, and it looks even more magical all dressed up in its Christmas decorations. We were mostly there during the day, so I hardly got any photos with the lights switched on, but there are a few near the end. This will mainly be a post of images since there isn’t much to say beyond “We looked at stalls, drank mulled and managed to buy a few Christmas presents”. Also, the drinks came in horrible plastic glasses so I didn’t even get my usual souvenir cup!

The first thing we saw on arriving in Colmar was this, outside the train station:

Yay, signs of Christmas already! Also, note the blue sky… most of the afternoon was slightly cloudy, but it was more like late September than the last weekend in November!

On our walk into town, we found a children’s roller coaster and, beside it, this:

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It’s a “carousel bar” and it was actually rotating! There are no words.

Finally, we reached the first part of the actual Christmas market and grabbed our first mulled wine, or “hot wine” as the French say.

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Wine in hand, we wandered on through the streets in search of the other markets, admiring the pretty buildings decked out in all their finery along the way.

Various bits of the market also had random animals. They were in all different parts of town and didn’t seem to be meant for petting, so I’m not sure what the point was…

Some more photos of the town and markets. I love all the brightly coloured buildings!

We finally decided on something to eat… some kind of bread thing with cheese on top and… Escargot! Yes, we decided to be brave and try eating snails! After all, nothing could be worse than the oyster omelet in Taiwan…

It turned out the snails didn’t taste of anything much… they were a bit rubbery and that was it. We also ordered a second, “normal” slice of bread in “Alsace” style, with onions, bacon bits and Munster cheese. That one basically tasted like burnt cheese on toast. Oh well, at least they weren’t expensive. I can’t say I particularly “liked” snails, but at least they didn’t make me gag and almost throw up (looking at you, oyster slime!).

Finally, it started getting dark and I could see all the pretty lights!

I wasn’t sure what time the last train home was, but I knew when we were in Mulhouse the last one left at 9ish, and Colmar is before that, so we decided to take a train home at 7 p.m. to be safe. The markets close at 8 anyway so we couldn’t really have stayed much longer…

So, in conclusion, the Colmar Christmas markets are worth a visit and there are some lovely home-made items in the special crafts bit, bit I would recommend popping into a restaurant to eat (or bringing your own food!). The town itself is fairytale like at any time of year, and even more so when it’s all sparkly and Christmassy.

The Christmas markets in Colmar are on until 31st December 2015. During the week, they close at 7 p.m. and on weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) at 8 p.m.

I’m linking this up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more travel tales to brighten up your Monday.

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Zurich: the beginning

After several changes of plan, Jan and I eventually decided to spend New Year in Zurich. We booked a room at an IBIS hotel and travelled there on 29th December. After checking in and dumping our luggage, we went for a cheeky Burger King before heading into town for a first look at the sights. It was dark by that time and snow was falling… prefect for testing how good my new camera is in not the best conditions ­čśë

While we were walking around, we spotted a pub that had a quiz on that night, so after stopping for a beer elsewhere (Feldschl├Âsschen Amber is very tasty) we headed on over the the pub quiz. We didn’t do badly for only having 2 people, managing to come in the top 5.

The next day we went for a wander round Zurich, following a route that Jan had downloaded onto his phone. We started at the main train station, where a statue outside reminded us of why cities normally turn off their fountains in winter…

Then it was off down Bahnhofstrasse, along the River Limmat and up the hill until we reached Lindenhof, from where we had a view over the city.

 

Once we’d taken a few photos at Lindenhof and spent some time trying to catch perfect snowflakes, we headed back down the hill on the other side, passing St Peter’s Church and walking through some pretty streets before taking a break at the Spr├╝ngli cafe for delicious but expensive hot chocolate.

Once we’d finished our hot chocolate, we headed back out into the snow. Our next stop was the Fraum├╝nster church (literally “Lady’s Minster”). No photos were allowed inside, but here are some from outside:

After taking a look at the inside of the church with its famous stained-glass windows (by Marc Chagall), we walked down to Lake Zurich, which is where the fireworks would be the following night. A group of Asians were down there feeding bread to the gulls, which was quite a sight. So. Many. Gulls! There were also swans and ducks, including one very pretty green duck that I spent ages trying to get a photo of.

Once I finally managed to drag Jan away from the lake, we walked back along the river towards the Niederdorf, or old town, area and headed to the Grossm├╝nster (“Great Minster” – note that in normal German the church name would be spelled Gro├čm├╝nster, but there are no ess-zetts in Swiss German!). Again, no photos were allowed inside, but we climbed the tower and I was able to take some of Zurich from above.

Once we’d climbed back down from the tower, out tour was almost done. All that remained was a quick walk through the old town and a glimpse at the Rathaus (city hall) before our tour took us back to Bahnhofstrasse, where the Christmas lights had now been switched on. Then we decided to build a snowman on a wall next to the city police station. We named him Travis.

Snowman built and duly photographed, it was finally time for a break! We went back to the Niederdorf and found a small bar/restaurant where we treated ourselves to a beer and some cheese fondue… which I forgot to take a photo of because I’m a bad blogger!

And that’s (more than) enough for one blog post, so I’ll save New Year’s Eve for the next one.