Tinny music—Slade’s greatest Christmas hit—boomed from a speaker adjacent to a sleigh in much need of a repaint. Santa was absent. Probably embarrassed by the fact that the artificial reindeer pretending to pull the sleigh, only had one antler. A man dressed in a raincoat, carrying a green bucket waved it at us, hoping for money.
“Is this it?” mumbled my husband. “Is this what Christmas is all about?” He waved his hands at the dismal scene.
It’s little wonder that those of us who are older no longer enjoy Christmas. We cannot comprehend why the real spirit of the season has been lost. We are dismayed by the trolley-loads of plastic gifts being purchased, knowing full-well that by the New Year, those toys will be discarded, broken or piled high in someone’s wardrobe waiting to be taken to a charity shop or the local dump. We grumble about the same old trite tunes on the radio harping on about this being the most wonderful time of the year and give peace a chance.
Some of us have even grown to hate this time of the year. We miss those who are no longer with us. It only serves to remind us of how alone we are. We have no reason to dress Christmas trees in glitzy baubles and decorate our lounges. Who will see them? If we are among the fortunate ones, our children and grandchildren will pay us a flying visit, stopping only as long as they feel they must. The thrill of Christmas is no longer evident. We have lost the excitement for this time of the year.
However, all is not lost. This year, I rediscovered Christmas and all the special warmth it can give you. Yes, and the warmth it can give to the grumpiest of people—head to the Christmas markets in Cologne, Germany and suddenly you too will be transported back to your childhood.
— Seniorpreneur (@seniorprnr) December 23, 2014
Cologne is the most famous of all Christmas market destinations and hosts seven markets. The most famous is in front of the impressive Gothic cathedral—a UNESCO heritage site. The Nordmann fir towering about twenty-five metres high is the shining heart of the market, lit up with 50,000 LED lights, it is a bright landmark in Cologne during the advent season.
Among the one hundred and fifty stalls or ‘huts’, you will be able to savour the smells and delights of German specialties, gingerbread and chestnuts and of course, the infamous mulled wine—Glühwein. Take in—and no doubt take home—the prettiest Christmas decorations imaginable. Shop for fabulous wooden gifts and crafts. Marvel at the skills of the tradesmen carving fantastic creatures into wooden trunks, or blowing glass baubles. Watch and listen to several of the one hundred performers playing or singing Christmas music. Stop off for a local tasty treat and mix with a crowd whose festive cheer is passed onto you by some invisible process of osmosis.
Our favourite market wasAltplatz. It is the area of the ‘House Gnomes’ who were believed to assist the tradesmen of this area. A nostalgic children’s roundabout whirls merrily in one corner of this bustling delightful market. Stop and watch a puppet show or admire all the huts and soak up the truly festive atmosphere or grab a pair of ice skates and weave about the ice rink beautifully surrounded by Alpine buildings, gnomes being transported on a small lift. If you are worried about staying steady on your skates after a few mugs ofGlühweinthen try the curling there in a convivial atmosphere.
Cologne is not merely about markets. Some of the window displays are incredible. The Steiff bear display at the Kaufhof department store kept us mesmerized for ages. Featuring a circus with every toy animal playing a part, it is a magical world of childish fantasy.
If by now, you have not reverted to an excited ten-year-old, then head to Don Gelati. This stylish café, opposite the cathedral, produces the most magnificent ice creams. It specializes in Spaghetti Ice creams, topped with a latticework of caramel. They are scrummy. I don’t normally eat ice cream but caved in and had an After Eight special—a wondrous creation. Mr Grumpy dug into an enormous cherry affair that made him smile…yes, smile for some considerable time afterwards. Even if ice cream is not your thing, you must visit here. It is perfect too for a cappuccino or sandwich but trust me those ice creams are delicious.
This year, Mr G and I are now less ‘Bah Humbug!” and more “Ho, ho, ho!” We’re even considering putting up a tree and some festive lights. Maybe you are never too old for Christmas after all.
So, to experience a genuine Christmas atmosphere and to rekindle that enthusiasm for Christmas you may once have had, head to Cologne. For a few days you too can believe in Santa Claus and feel the warmth of human kindness.
Mr Grumpy and I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.
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