Christmas Markets – Part III

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Case and Ashlynn spent the night in the kind farmer’s barn and managed to FaceTime with one of their cousins. Case had managed to email a lot of their pictures back home and the photo of the band playing on the Charles Bridge in Prague had inspired a band of snowbabies to perform on the steps of the hill rising to their village. The sounds of carols brought out a slew of babies to play on the plateaus of the hill including one little fella who had his telescope trained on the skies in search of St Nick with his sleigh full of presents pulled by a band of reindeer with Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer leading them all. It was fun to talk to Cousin Eddie and they told him they had only two markets to go and they would be back home later that day.

The university town of Heidelberg, with its many narrow cobblestoned streets and small squares was ideal for a series of small markets unfolding into the one main square by the Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg’s oldest and largest church dating back to the late 14th century.

It was a cold morning and Case and Ashlynn could see their every breath against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. There were so many places to stop and get a hot chocolate (too young for gluëwein), but they kept going on past little squares with stalls filled with crafts and food.

It was also too early for bratwurst, although they did question whether it was ever too early for a good german brat.

But it wasn’t too early to pick up a couple of things for the cousins back home, and as they made their way to the end of the street they were drawn by the sound of music and skates carving images on ice…

The ice rink was set at the base of the Jettenbuhl upon which sits the ruins of Heidelberg Castle which dates back to the 13th century. A more romanticized story than actual fact, the castle nevertheless remains an impressive structure overlooking the Neckar river and the quaint city below.

“Wait a minute” whispered Ashlynn, “Do you see what I see?”. “I do!” replied Case, also thunderstruck by the image of the by now familiar lady who he and Ashlynn had encountered in every market since Prague. They made their way down the mountain and once again arrived in the square of the Church of the Holy Lady, a little busier than earlier, but they were able to get some typical German food and a hot drink. They settled on a flammkuchen, a flatbread pizza with a white sauce, cheese, onions and pancetta enhanced with a few peppers. They also had some hot chocolate and climbed to the top of the stall where they could admire the view of the square and the narrow cobblestoned alleys that led to more magic.

One more market before a midnight dash back home and a date with all their friends. Case and Ashlynn were eager to get home and tell everyone about their adventures. It was the first time that they had ventured any further than the forests surrounding their little village. They had experienced the cultures of three different countries, fought with trying to understand three foreign languages, but were so receptive to learning as much as they could about the people they met and wrapping themselves around the notion that this world isn’t that big and that the earth’s inhabitants had much to share with each other. Their journey had been a joyous affair of the heart and they would certainly try to visit more markets and countries in the coming years. But they had one market on their list, another day to spend in a truly old city, Trier, the oldest city in Germany.

Kathie Wolfahrt, based in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, has Christmas shops all over Germany, and a world-wide distribution infrastructure. They catalog over 30,000 items and bring year-round excitement and joy to children and adults with their vast selection. As Ashlynn and Case entered the main square where the Trier market is located, they noticed the store surrounded by festive Christmas trees and a slowly swelling crowd of shopper and sightseers. Walking just a little further, the brother and sister duo became wide-eyed at the number of various and unique stalls.

Founded in the mid-17th century, the Trier market quickly grew to a market with over 400 stalls with a continental appeal. Case and Ashlynn could’t believe how pretty and lively the whole affair was.

It was at this shop that Case and Ashlynn decided to buy a few things for people back home, as well as a few baubles from this shop.

Wandering over to the square where the Cathedral of St Peter is located they again did another double-take when they once again came head to head with that lady they had seen in the other markets.

They had to talk to her, so Case and Ashlynn walked up to her and with some trepidation asked her how it was that they kept running into her at these markets. Jan was her name, and she explained that she and her husband had recently moved to Europe after spending the past six years exploring the United States in a motorhome. They had visited over 35 states, had met many people, all of whom had something to say. They saw sights that they had never heard of, sampled cuisines from all parts of the country, food and drink unique to the area they were visiting, and learned at the feet of strangers about the emerging history, culture and way of life of a stretch of land and its people who could date back only a mere, but dynamic, 400 and some years. Now, in their quite later years, Jan and her husband had decided to explore an even older part of the world and its history. They were thrilled with what they had seen so far, and as the afternoon wore on, the two pewter snowbabies began to tell Jan about the part of the world they were from, and as they detailed the magic of the land they were from, the people with whom they shared that land, how their journey had become a reality after numerous days of fun with Pip the polar bear, they realized that there was commonality with this nice lady from a far-away land. It was getting late and Jan and the snowbabies had to get on the road, but not before promising to write each other about more journeys they might be making and how they could meet again at the 2023 Christmas markets.

Walking back to their sled and the two huskies, Glacier and Winter who powered the sled, they passed a shop with a purple bow around it. How appropriate they thought, how symbolic of the journey they had been on. And as they got to their sled, fed the huskies food and drink to give them energy for the ride home, and as darkness actually fell and as they had just started their journey, they looked to the horizon and saw a sled with two jolly gentleman and a herd of reindeer crossing the sky…and to all a good night. May your holidays bring you the joy, the peace and the love that we all search for.

This is soup season and we have made quite a few. One of the best recipes for warming up your kitchen and leaving with the rustic smell of oven roasted tomatoes is this soup I found years ago, and to which I cannot attribute a source as I neglected to note it at the time. If it’s yours let me know. Be sure you have a crusty baguette to mop up the soup and a glass of wine to chase it down. This will not disappoint. Enjoy!

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