So........ I left off last post with our visit to the Mannheim Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas market). We had a good wander around for an hour or so and a bit of lunch (German version of sausage in bread). Claudia had to work in the afternoon so I spent the afternoon browsing in Speyer, where she lives, and checking out the Christmas market there. There is a new shopping centre in Speyer so that was worth a look too. The road through the centre of the town is lovely to walk along without traffic and it was lined with Christmas trees decorated by local school or kindergarten groups.
Friday we went to my favourite German town - Heidelberg. Aside from the Christmas market which is divided into different areas, there is the best Christmas shop called Käthe Wohlfahrt. I manage to swindle a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt pretty much every trip to Germany. Over the years I've bought a few decorations and we pretty much have enough to decorate a small tree at home now. Their online store is worth a browse!
After a good few hours in Heidelberg we had coffee with Claudia's friend Susanne. At the time of my last visit to Germany Susanne and her husband had just bought a house but were doing some work on it before moving in. It was lovely to see it now - probably my favourite back garden I've seen in Germany. They have excellent views from the back of their house too.
Friday night we visited a village Christmas market. The atmosphere was terrific with the stalls all lit up. It was cold and I could feel it in my feet. I'm thinking I need to get a pair of warm boots! When we headed off home in the car it was minus 2 degrees.
We had a big day Saturday. We went by train from Speyer to Stuttgart as there is a huge Christmas market there. There was a great ticket deal on offer for groups and we got tickets for 3 of us (Claudia, her daughter Tamara and I) for about the same as a return fare. The train trip was just under 2 hours each way. When booking the tickets online Claudia noticed it was very little extra for first class tickets. I took a photo of Tamara on the train as she really wasn't impressed with travelling first class!
We had a little excitement on the train. Not long after getting on the second train in our journey there a very large group of extremely rowdy young men piled onto the train. We could hear them coming! Looking out the window there seemed to be a lot of police outside the train, including some filming the guys getting into the train. The fellows pounded up the stairs to the first class cabin and very noisily plonked themselves down in every available seat. They were whooping and singing at the top of their lungs. Next came the police, trying to round them up (much to our relief). One tried to avoid detection by looking out the window and pretending to talk on his phone - that was after first trying to duck down out of sight and then trying to pretend to be asleep. We were glad when the police finally managed to move them all on. When we went down to use the loo later we saw there were far more of them than just those who had come upstairs and many, many more police than we'd first seen. I don't know what it was all about but when we arrived at the station in Stuttgart it was teeming with police officers and more cameras. Wonder if there had been some sort of demonstration that threatened to turn nasty?
The fun didn't end there. No sooner was peace restored when we reached the next station and had another noisy passenger join our cabin. The youngish lady was well under the weather and her male companion frantically trying first to convince her they shouldn't be up there and then that she should stop being so loud. When the ticket inspector came along the lady gave her a fair mouthful of drivel as well. It was something along the lines of having paid for her ticket and if she couldn't get a seat downstairs she was going to sit upstairs. The managed to find her a seat! Part of the problem was likely that the downstairs of our carriage had been taken over by the rowdy young men and their policemen. I had no idea that train travel could be so interesting.
Stuttgart was busy.... extremely busy! I kept thinking that Mick would have a panic attack if he were there. I don't like the crowds either but the chance to see such a big market just once was worth it. Tamara was less than impressed with the crowds too. But the atmosphere made it worth the pushing and shoving. The little stalls were so pretty and all had decorations on the roof. It really was something special.
It seem that most of the people wandering the markets are eating and drinking. There were lots of mugs of Glühwein around. As you walk around there are constantly rotating aromas of yummy smelling things; cinnamon, crepes, chocolate, sausages, potatoes, aniseed, vanilla, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, toffee coated almonds, Glühwein.
I bought a few Christmas decorations - mostly flat ones that could go on the walls inside the boat. With the boater's afternoon tea coming up on Monday I also bought a couple of goodies to take along. Claudia added to the afternoon tea with some German Christmas cookies.
Photos include :
My tiny cabin at the Heathrow Yotel, tools made out of chocolate, advent wreaths, many photos of the markets, Tamara in first class on the train (much to her embarrassment), the penguins used by small children for balance when learning to ice skate, ice skating rink at Stuttgart (note the little girl going for her life holding onto her red-hatted helper), crowds at Stuttgart Weinachtsmarkt!