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Sights & Attractions in Cologne (Germany)

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      18.12.2002 14:20
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      Two years ago I was fortunate to spend a long weekend in Cologne, germany. It was a few weeks before christmas and the famous christmas markets were in full swing. I'll never forget it, it was wonderful and magical. If you love Christmas, and all the old traditions, then this is the place for you. As I write this, I smile, just at the thought of it all. I feel all warm inside, I can almost smell it, the orange and cinnamon oils, the gingerbread. I can feel the frosty air on my face, but it's warmed from the warm glow of the coals that roast the chestnuts. I can recall the warming taste of gluhweine (sort of a hot wine) I can see the wonder and excitement on the faces of the rosy cheeked children. I visited Cologne with my husband and two sons. We travelled on the chunnel from Dover to France. This was booked on the internet and with discount cost about £55 (car and 4 passengers). We then drove on the autobahn to Cologne, which took us about three hours, with stops for rests, drinks etc.and the help of a good map. We had also booked the hotel in advance. A Family room (2 adults and two children) for three nights, with breakfast, at the Crown Plaza cost £470. It had come highly recommended by a friend, and in turn, I can do the same. We had a huge room, with a fantastic view of the markets, the river Rhine and the famous cathedral (the Dom.as it is referred to). Twin king-size beds, and a huge sofa bed that the maids put away and made up everyday with fresh sheets. It had a large, well stocked En suite, including fluffy white dressing gowns, an office area, mini bar, Hot drink making facilities, trouser press and lots of storage space. The food was excellent, as was the service and friendliness. I could write a whole opinion on the hotel alone, and one day I will, but for now, The Crown Plaza is definitely worth considering if you are lucky enough to visit Cologne. It's situated within walking distance of most things, including the
      D om., museums, river, shops and markets. One of the six markets is directly across the road from it. Seeing as this is an opinion about the markets I best tell you as much as i can about them. Although they may appear to sell the same things, each one is unique in it's own special way and has it's own atmosphere. ~ Cathedral market~ This is situated at the front of the cathedral, just by the square, it has around 160 stalls, actually they're not stalls as we know them, more like very like open fronted wooden sheds. I think they refer to them as pavilions. This market is set below the largest christmas tree I have ever seen. It is actually the largest christmas tree in Rhineland. I visited this market on the saturday afternoon after going inside the cathedral, another awesome place, when I stood outside it, it looked like it was about to fall on me, it really is amazingly high. the blackness of the stone reminded me of wet shinny slate. There are hundreds of steps on the outside that you can climb to different levels and look out at the amazing architecture of the town and beyond. With my little legs and dodgy back I couldn't do it, but hubby and boys did and thought it was amazing if not a tad scary. The inside is breathtaking, amazingly high, stained glass and spheres everywhere, steeped with history, incense wafts in the air. I looked at the beautiful crib, lit a few candles and said a few prayers, I could have spent hours there. We spent a few hours at this market, drinking the yummy mulled wine, gluhweine, from pretty decorated mugs that you have the option to buy when you pay for the drink, we did, as a lot do, and sipped it as we perused the crafts, sweet delicacies, and a wealth of gifts to buy. ~Alter market~ This was one of our favourite markets. It's in front of Cologne's Town hall, in the heart of Altstadt (Old Town) We visited this in the evening and it truly was a magical e
      xperien ce. The boys also found this to be their favourite too, it has a magical wonderland atmosphere with it's nostalgic roundabout (yes I had a go to..hehe), puppet theatre, Santa Claus grotto and delightful toy stands. It also had many other wonderful things to sell from those charming half timbered stands. I loved the atmosphere here and we revisited this one on our last evening. ~Neumarkt~ Unlike it's name sounds, this is the oldest Christmas market. it's in the city centre shopping district. Apparently, a black market trade was ran from here back in the 70's, and with this in mind it adds to the nostalgic feel. Decorative plates illustrating Christmas markets were sold here, and again arts, crafts and yummy food and drink to eat whilst you stroll around. ~Rudolfplatz market~ Awww this one was wonderful, built for me i think. It really was fairyland meets fairytales. Huge illuminated fairytale figures everywhere and each tell a tale. Where there's a place there's a fairy light. It's set against the historic backdrop of Medieval Hahnentorburg (my spell checker now thinks it's having a nightmare...lol) which adds to the magic and atmosphere. ~Medieval market~ This one is down by the banks of the river Rhine and next to Cologne's Chocolate museum. True to it's name it provided a truly medieval feel, clowns and musicians, entertained us and arts and crafts were made on the spot just as they were in medieval times. ~ Bethlehem market~ This is a very small market, situated under a large plain tree. Cologne is very proud to highlight it's connections with Bethlehem. The eleven stalls sell goods and crafts from, and associated with Bethlehem and Palestine. Olive wood carvings, pottery, ceramics and handicrafts. The market has an oriental theme, including the food that's available there. Small but worth the visit. ~Advent on the Rhine~
      I can't write about this market because it's new to 2002, but it's a market on board a ship, MS Geothe, it's there from the 28th of November through to 22nd of december and offers a tour of the ship three times per day. Colognes' Christmas markets get a big thumbs up from me, I bought some beautiful christmas decorations for my tree and house, some where hand made, some hand painted, some not, but all like nothing I have seen in this country. Don't go expecting to by computer games and the like there, it's not like that at all, they all sell arts and crafts, handmade wooden toys, Jewellery, sweets, chocolates, food and lots lots more. There's something for everyone, and it's all reasonably priced too. I would go back again and again, they certainly know how to 'do' christmas over there, it's so magical and atmospheric. I found the locals welcoming, very warm and friendly people and they really get into the spirit of things. It's an amazing city. There wasn't a section for Christmas Markets so no moaning please that it's in the wrong place ;)

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