Traveling Through History by Christmas Market

Traveling Through History by Christmas Market

This weekend, themed markets and historic cities took Christmas Market nostalgia to a whole new level.

We began in the Middle Ages yesterday, arriving at nearby Bingen’s medieval-themed Christmas Market. Here costumed artisans and merchants toiled beneath the impressive Burg Klopp, once a medieval toll castle and now a city administration building.

Meat on sticks, spit-roasted pig, and Glühwein in clay vessels accompanied the standard festival food fare. Arts and crafts included hand-dyed yarn, hand-smithed metalwork, wooden swords, leather accessories and furs.

A band of minstrels paraded through the streets with an assortment of pipes and drums. My favorite was the hobo-esque guy with a tattered hat who accompanied them wielding some kind of artsy ball.

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Reichsburg Cochem towering over town of Cochem
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Mosel River from the castle

Traveling back further this morning, we found ourselves in the midst of the first Christmas in Bethlehem – told at my favorite castle Reichsburg Cochem along the Mosel River. Whether intended as social commentary or not, a census official reminded Mary and Joseph, in their haste to register before the imminent birth, that “Order takes time.”

Shepherds heeded the Archangel Gabriel who pointed to a bright star (and lo, there it was!) for us all to follow. The angel’s work post was prepared behind the scenes for the day with a thermos of coffee or Glühwein. The children in the group were asked to think of a carol for all to sing to the angel (they chose “O Tannenbaum”) and could even ask for a wish. They were too shy today, but our shepherd guide told us once a child had asked to finally have a baby sister!

From here we encountered the Three Wise Men, who were also following the same bright star. After presenting their gifts to the Christ Child in the manger, they handed out chocolate gold pieces to children and adults alike.

The story ended on a somber and poignant note, reminding us that many children are still born in dire need. Visitors were asked to think of families in and from Aleppo, Syria and also given the opportunity to donate to a local children’s hospital before being ushered into the castle’s merry courtyard Christmas Market.

Porta Nigra in Trier
Porta Nigra in Trier

Finally, we ventured even further into the past to Trier, arguably the oldest city in Germany. Its incredibly well-preserved gate Porta Nigra stands as a reminder to the city’s days of Roman control –after it was taken over from the Celts – not long before the birth of Christ. Presently the gate ushers visitors into Trier’s charming and crowded traditional German Christmas Market.

Happy 3rd Sunday of Advent from the past!

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Geburtstagwanderung/Birthday Hike

Karden along the Moselle River
Karden along the Moselle River
Burg Eltz trail marker
Burg Eltz trail marker

What better way to spend a birthday than a hike through the Moselle Valley, a visit to a famous castle, and drinking local wines. For James’s birthday this month, we drove about an hour and fifteen minutes northwest and along many narrow twists and turns to the sleepy Moselle town of Karden. From here we hiked for about two hours, starting with a continuously steep climb up a rocky hill before finally catching a break with a long stretch of flat grassy farmland at the top. Eventually we entered a sun-dappled forest and came out with a view of Burg Eltz, seated on top of a small hill in a surrounding bowl of greenery. After a lunch of beer and bockwurst on the terrace, we toured the medieval castle along with a swarm of other visitors. Burg Eltz has belonged to the same family since the middle ages.

First view of Burg Eltz

First view of Burg Eltz

Entering Burg Eltz
Entering Burg Eltz

Once we had hiked back to the car, we drove about fifteen minutes along the Moselle River to the town of Cochem. We rode the Sesselbahn (chairlift) to the top of a high rocky ledge where we had a fantastic view of Reichsburg Cochem, the first castle we visited when we moved to Germany. From here we hiked the steep trail down to the main area of town, where we stopped in to Weingut Rademacher for a wine tasting. The hilly vineyard is just behind this winery, which serves as a restaurant and hotel. Next we went on to Alte Guttschänke where we had goulash soup, Riesling cheese, and more wine at a long wooden table with other guests in the cellar.

The Cochemer Sesselbahn
The Cochemer Sesselbahn
Reichsburg Cochem view from the top of the hill
Reichsburg Cochem view from the top of the hill

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Weingut Rademacher
Weingut Rademacher
Downtown Cochem
Downtown Cochem