For those of you who read my blog about the Strasbourg christmas market last year, you were introduced to Pip the polar bear who saved Christmas by substituting for Dancer the reindeer, one of Santa’s twelve beasts of burden who pulled the sleigh laden with gifts for children round the world. Dancer was on injured reserve and Pip was called on to save the night. His journey was amazing, and the sights and festive markets that he encountered filled him with memories for a lifetime.
Not far from the North Pole is a little village in the mountains of the northern hemisphere filled with an assortment of characters – villagers of a half timbered community, a working farm, a town square of businesses, a suburb of homes and an expansive settlement of snowbabies, pewter people totally filled with the spirit of holiday, hope and humanity. Pip the polar bear would often wander down to this village and play with the children with whom he would share stories of his amazing time that year he filled in for one of Santa’s reindeers.
Ashlynn, an Irish name meaning dream, and Case, he who brings peace to men, were two of the kids who Pip would play with and recount stories of his adventures while hauling toys and good cheer to many. This brother and sister duet loved to play outdoors, exploring the diversity of culture they found in their village. Listening to Pip recount his adventures also awakened a curiosity of what lay beyond their little village, and after Pip left one evening, they skated around the ice rink and shared their dreams of what they might find out “there”. After another one of Pip’s visits they decided to venture into the world of make-believe and visit some of the Christmas markets that Pip had so eloquently talked about.
Off they set in their sled pulled by their two favorite huskies, Glacier and Winter – first stop was to be the Christmas market in Prague, Czech Republic. The winter air bit at their cheeks, but they were bundled up in plenty of warm apparel and as they approached the market located in the heart of the city, in the picturesque Old Town Square, the smell of gingerbread and roasted chestnuts filled the air, making their stomachs growl with hunger. They followed the sound of carolers singing traditional Czech Christmas songs, their voices carrying through the cold evening air. As they entered the square, they were immediately struck by the magical atmosphere. The entire square was illuminated by twinkling fairy lights and colorful lanterns, casting a warm glow over the bustling crowd. Stalls and booths lined the edges of the square, each one offering a unique array of goods and treats.
Ashlynn and Case wandered through the market, taking in the sights and sounds of the holiday season. They stopped to watch a group of carolers perform, their voices harmonizing beautifully as they sang about the birth of Jesus. They then made their way over to a stall selling handmade ornaments, marveling at the intricate designs and patterns on the glass baubles.
As they continued to explore, they came across a stall selling traditional Czech Christmas foods. They couldn’t resist the temptation and bought a small portion of roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings, a staple of Czech Christmas dinners. As they ate, they watched the ice skaters twirl and spin on the rink in the center of the square, their laughter and cheers adding to the festive atmosphere.
Case and Ashlynn slept in the next morning and woke up to a gray day. Determined to not let the weather dampen their spirits they put on their most comfortable shoes. Prague was full of shopping opportunities and they were drawn immediately to a shop window full of macaroons – a perfect breakfast for two babies on the loose.
Sated by the rich macaroons Ashlynn and Case wandered through the cobblestone lined streets until they made it to the Charles Bridge that spans the Vltava river. A magnificent tower at one end leads to the bridge adorned with a number of statues commemorating Prague’s history, and to a quintet of musicians livening the day.
Exploring further on the other side of the river brought the duo to a view of Prague Castle and the Cathedral of St.Vitus. Magnificent structures dating back to even before the time of good old King Wenceslaus.
Quite the trek brought Ashlynn and Case to the top of the hill and they were amazed by the extravagance. Quietly Ashlynn asked Case what it would have been like to be part of the court of King Charles IV who presided over Prague during the middle ages when Prague sat at the crossroads of Europe. A magnificent city for Ashlynn to meet a charming prince and live happily ever after.. Case was more interested in the shiny black Skoda, a Czech-made automobile – driving through the courtyard.
Time was growing short so Case and Ashlynn hurried back to the main square. They had heard from people they met on the street about the incredible Astronomical Clock that rings every hour on the hour. Arriving in the square just before the hour, they joined hundreds of others in the throng in front of the Old Town Hall.
A person standing next to Ashlynn and Case who spoke in a heavy eastern European accent tried to explain what was going on with the clock. They didn‘t understand a lot, but did glean that the four figures mounted on the sides represented Vanity, Greed, Death and Lust, four human traits that were frowned on in the 15th century when the clock was first unveiled. Every hour on the hour when the chimes sound the four figures shake their heads signifying their unwillingness to go. Complementing them from just above is the procession of the twelve Apostles, a magical tour of the tower. Ashlynn and Case thanked their interpreter and started to head back to their accomadations. The streets were still alive with thousands of people including this lady checking out a booth selling soap, a beautiful manger scene and the backdrop of the magnificent spires of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn which framed the square, an indelible imprint they would never forget.
Where to next they wondered as they awoke the next day. The huskies were well rested so they were off to Rudesheim Am Rhein, a medieval town found on the river Rhine, a destination Christmas market that Pip had raved about during one of his visits to the snowbabies village.
The Christmas market in Rudesheim am Rhein was also a magical and festive place, a tradition that had been going on for as long as anyone could remember, and it drew visitors from all over the region.
As the sun rose on the cold December morning, families and friends gathered in the town square, wrapped in warm coats and scarves to brave the chill. The air was filled with the excitement and anticipation of the holiday season.
The market was bursting with activity, as vendors sold handmade crafts, warm drinks, and delicious treats. There were stalls selling hand-knitted hats and scarves, woodcarvings, and jewelry. The smell of roasting chestnuts and glühwein filled the air, and people sipped from steaming mugs as they wandered from stall to stall. Over seventeen nations were represented adding to a sense of community that the snowbabies always felt in their own village.
Case and Ashlynn wandered throughout the town that day, marveling at the creativity of the Christmas decorations, the harmony that the season infused in most everyone, and the smiles that were on everyone’s faces.
Time was drawing a finish to this day for the brother and sister duo. As they walked down the cobblestone streets to where they had left Winter and Glacier they took in a couple of final sights – a kind looking woman who seemed to have had perhaps one too many gluhweins
And a lady they know they had seen somewhere…
Ashlynn and Case decided that they would leave Rudesheim while there was still some light and head for Sankt Wendel, a small village not too far from where they were, an easy pull for the dogs and an opportunity for an early night to properly prepare for another market.