I cannot believe this was my THIRD Christmas in Europe. Where has the time gone?! Over the past two years, I’ve experienced Christmas markets in Montreux, Switzerland (many, many, many, many, many times); Berlin, Germany; and Paris, Strasbourg & Colmar, France. Last year, I told myself that if my mom made it to Europe for another Christmas, I would take her to see some more Christmas markets. After all, she loves Christmas more than anyone else I know.
My mom decided in August that she was coming for Christmas, and I started planning our Christmas Market Roadtrip Extravaganza. I wanted to take her to Colmar and Strasbourg after loving them so much last year. Plus, someone recommended Riquewihr, France, which is easy to visit between Colmar and Strasbourg. Then, we could go to Luxembourg – a new country for both of us. And finally, I wanted to visit a Purina friend in Cologne, Germany. My colleague recommended stopping in Heidelberg and some other German cities on the way back to Vevey to complete the loop. As an added bonus, my college roommate decided to join us, since she would be in the UK for Christmas!
Due to some unusual fog at the Geneva airport, my roommate’s flight was cancelled, which meant an overnight at a hotel near London Heathrow, flying to Zurich the next day, and taking a train to Strasbourg. So much hassle to get somewhere so close by! We were happy to meet up with her at the end of day one.
As you can imagine, Christmas markets are FULL of Christmas cheer. All of the lights, decoration, food, music, cuteness, and merriment you could ever want. And in many cases, loads of people, too! I’ll let the pictures do the talking. You can tell from the smiles that we LOVED it! I wish I was here for another Christmas, so I could do Vienna, Munich, and other cities, which supposedly have fabulous ones, too!
Stop #1: Colmar, France
Stop 2: Riquewihr, France (a tiny town surrounded by vineyards!)
Stop #3: Strasbourg, France (the Capital of Christmas)
[She made it!!]
[Scary gingerbread men!!]
[We ate dinner at Chez Yvonne – a recommendation from a local friend. It was such a cozy restaurant, and the food was delicious!]
Stop #4: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Miami University has a campus in Luxembourg. A number of my friends studied there for a summer or a semester, so I was always curious to go and see what’s there. We weren’t near the university to stop by for a visit, but I really enjoyed our time in Luxembourg City. The Christmas Markets were the most “festival-like.”
[We thought we heard karaoke, so we went searching in the market to find the stage. When we found the stage, we shocked to find out that it wasn’t karaoke, but a real show! We arrived just in time to hear a polka performance!]
Stop #5: Cochem, Germany
This wasn’t a Christmas Market stop, but rather a town with a beautiful medieval castle up on a hill above the river. Since my roommate wanted to visit her first castle on this trip, we had to find a good one! Thanks to Instagram for the inspiration! I only heard about this town after seeing a remarkable Instagram photo of Reichsburg Cochem a couple of weeks before our trip.
[Apparently, this is a lion in armor – not a frog, like I originally thought!]
[This armor was for someone more than 7 feet tall!! Whoa!!]
[We drove up to a lookout to snap a few pictures of the castle from above.]
[Can you see it to the right? It kind of blends in with the surroundings.]
Stop #6: Cologne, Germany
My mom went to Cologne in the late-90’s with some friends, but I’ve never been. One of my Purina colleagues lives there. (We met when she was an expat in St. Louis several years ago.) I’ve seen her several times in Switzerland, and I was hoping to make it to Cologne to see her there, too. Christmas Market time is a great time to be in Cologne! These were by far the most adorable / well-decorated markets. Even the workers at each booth were dressed to match the theme of their stand!
[The Cologne Cathedral is ENORMOUS! Construction began in 1248 and was completed in 1880 after construction was stopped for nearly 400 years. Despite being bombed in WWII, the cathedral remained standing, even though the rest of Cologne was basically leveled.]
[We had dinner at Gilden im Zims – a great beer hall next to the old markets.]
[My mama missed an opportunity to ice skate when we were in Luxembourg, so she REALLY wanted to do it in Cologne. She made friends with the people getting her skates. Can you tell how excited she is?!]
[Waving to her three moms, who were anxiously watching from the sidelines. We were so nervous she was going to wipe out – either on her own, or after tripping over someone else!]
[Posing after a successful skate! No wipe outs (to which we all exhaled a collective sigh of relief)!]
[Posing with a Santa who doesn’t mind being photographed. We had a run-in with a not-so-friendly Santa earlier in the evening. I think my mom was permanently scarred from the encounter.]
Stop #7: Heidelberg, Germany
After dropping my roommate at the airport in Frankfurt, we headed back to Vevey. We had a list of several little towns to visit on the way, but we only chose to stop in one of them…mostly because I was ready to get out of the car!
The Christmas Markets were nearly finished in Heidelberg, but we saw the remnants of a couple of small ones. We took the funicular up to the castle ruins, saw the view of the city, and walked down the hill for some lunch before continuing on our way. You know you’ve seen too many quaint Euro towns when you stop being impressed. To me, Heidelberg was my least favorite and not somewhere I would necessarily recommend. (Insert blanket apology to all who love Heidelberg.)
Whew! We definitely crammed in as much as possible! We probably needed one more day to be able to linger a little bit longer in Luxembourg City and Cologne, but overall, it was a really fun, very festive Christmas Market Roadtrip Extravaganza!