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!

Veteran’s Day Castle Visit

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While eating breakfast each morning I’ve been watching people walking by along the Rhine River to get an idea of the weather.  Mostly people have been wearing just coats, although yesterday many had hats and gloves so I knew to expect a colder day.  This morning a lady walked by wearing a white powdered wig and a Napoleon-esque suit and hat.  A few minutes later a man walked by in a similar colorful old-fashioned outfit, carrying a small horn.  I wasn’t sure what this meant I should wear.  I went with just a coat and scarf, but stuck a hat and gloves in my pockets just in case.

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Steve picked me and James up in his new red Mustang and drove us northwest to Cochem Castle (or Reichsburg Cochem, in German).  The ride itself was lovely – about an hour and a half of roads that wound through fall foliage-studded hills into the Moselle valley.  Reichsburg Cochem was well worth the drive.  Situated on top of a small hill so it looked out over the valley, it was everything you would expect a medieval castle to be – stone towers and archways, cannons, coats of arms, etc.  Built in the year 1000, it changed hands several times and was destroyed by the French in the late 1600s.  In the late 1800s, a new owner from Berlin had it rebuilt so that the outside retains a medieval look while the inside reflects 19th century style.IMG_1450

The majority of the tour was in German but we had an English handout to read along the way.  Reading ahead was actually a good way to learn new vocabulary because then I could listen for the German words for useful as well as more interesting things like “well” (Zisterne) and “Witch’s Tower” (Hexenturm).  A few highlights (aside from the spectacular views of the surrounding valley town from every window) included beautiful furniture decorated with inlaid wood and ivory, the mounted head of a 400-pound boar, a suit of armor from an Austrian knight who was seven feet tall, and 5 liter (1 ½ gallon) tankards that once contained the amount of wine monks could drink in a day.

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I was glad that the walk back would be downhill, until I realized how steep it was.  Walking slowly and leaning back on the cobblestone path, we noticed many more details on the way back to the car.  For example, even the metal guardrails were decorated with medieval flair.  Each bar had a dragon head on one end and a spade-shaped tail on the other.  At the bottom of the hill, one part of the rail even had a knight fending off two dragons.  I think it will be hard for other castles to compete with Reichsburg Cochem, although I’m looking forward to seeing how they compare.IMG_1481