…and I say that with the utmost respect!
My sister is doing a year of service work in Europe this year, so for Christmas, instead of flying her home, my parents decided we’d go out there to see her. We took on quite an ambitious itinerary for a ten day trip. It was dubbed the “Christmas Mart Vacation.” Our travel corresponded with the schedules of the different Christmas Marts.
We started off in Munich, Germany. Munich, the third largest city in Germany, is the capital city of Bavaria and is located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. The year 1158 is the earliest date the city is mentioned in a document and hence assumed to be its founding date. 1158—That’s still over 300 years before America is discovered! At the center of the city is the Marienplatz—a large open square named after the Mariensäuke, a Marian column in its center—with the Old and New Town Hall. This is the location of the Kris Kringle Mart. I love Munich’s Mart, for the German food (I ate my way from booth to booth pretty much), the hand-made German crafts (most especially their straw ornaments a traditional German ornament you’ll find on most of the trees in all the German churches), and for its atmosphere of good cheer.
From there we moved on to Salzburg, Austria. I’ve been to Salzburg before, but it was in the summer and when I was younger, so I didn’t have many memories of it. The markets were neat. They didn’t have the atmosphere of the German marts, but it was still fun to walk around them and there was a stall that made the most amazing linzer pretzel cookies. HUGE! DELICIOUS! COOKIES! I really liked walking around the town and just soaking in the history. It’s so amazing when you walk through a graveyard and the dates on the headstones go back to the 10th century or even earlier.
Third on the whirlwind vacation was Ljubljana, Slovenia. This was my first time visiting Slovenia, and I’d like to go back in the summer and just spend a whole week or two exploring the country. There was a charm about Ljubljana (the capital) that I wasn’t expecting for a large city. Their Christmas Market was quite extensive and very different from Germany, but unique, with its own personality. We took a walking tour of the old city, which I’d highly recommend it. Ljubjana’s city symbol is the Dragon, which symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. It’s depicted on the top of the tower of the Ljubljana Castle, on the coat of arms and on the Ljubljanaica crossing Dragon Bridge.
To split up the very, very, very long drive from Slovenia to Belgium, we stopped in Rothenburg, Germany for a night. I love this medieval town, and since I have a post about it planned for the near future, I’ll hold off on mentioning any more at the moment.
The next day was a seven hour drive to Bruges, Belgium for two nights. Bruges was fun to just walk around and soak in all the medieval architecture. One of my favorite spots had to be the Church of Our Lady. I have to say it was impressive! The church dates mainly from the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. Its tower is 401.2 feet high making it the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.
Finally, we ended up in Brussels, Belgium on our last day. Chocolate! Really, really good chocolate! Brussels started as a 10th-century fortress town that was founded by a descendant of Charlemagne and grew into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. It’s a bustling city. And really does feel like a city compared to the smaller and quainter Bruges. We had about half a day in Brussels that we spent walking around and just taking in the city square and walking the very expansive Christmas markets.
It was a treat to spend ten days exploring all the “old” of Europe. One of these days I’m going to write a novel set in Europe! I want to take some of this history and make it part of one of my stories. I do love Europe!