Last Friday, we went to the Nikolausmarkt at Beuel to see a local band play. The market was in a small square overlooked by a church, and as soon as the bells stopped ringing, the band began to play. The music immersed us into the local culture and this made the market feel quite unlike some of the bigger and busier ones we normally visit. The smell of fried food, the cold night air and the lovely decorations reminded us this was indeed a Christmas market. The band performed a slightly rock version of the carnival music you often hear in Cologne and which the audience clearly loved with lots of singing, swaying and clapping. I loved it too! It was fantastic to escape from the pressures of the week and chat to friendly locals whilst warming ourselves with large mugs of Glühwein! I now think I could be tempted by one of those big Kölsch-drinking carnival evenings next February, something I have so far resisted. Kölsch is the name of the local beer and the local dialect, and both are important to the massive carnival celebrations here. So, I’d better get that carnival costume ready – that will be a real sign that I have been assimilated! 🙂
Then after a very busy Saturday preparing to move house, we went out again on Sunday, this time to Niederich Christmas market, which is in a very rural location on the edge of the Eifel region. Because we had our dog with us, we walked from the village up a gentle hill that took us through small vineyards, orchards, strawberry fields and other small plots of arable land. The temperature was a fraction above zero and all the trees, vines and crops were neatly pruned back, the fields ploughed and the hay stored away for winter under protective sheeting. The only signs of life were the donkeys which, with the distant sound of the choir’s Christmas carols, were a perfect reminder that this was the first weekend of advent.
We followed the hand-painted Weihnachtsmarkt signs to the centre of the village – out here it seems the villages share the festivities by having a weekend each to host the Christmas market. When we first arrived, I thought is was snowing, but in fact it was the ash from the burning fire in the middle of the market square. The crowd of people huddled around the fire was proof that it was definitely cold enough for snow, and I think I can be forgiven for mistaking the ash for flakes of snow gently falling, floating side-to-side, before silently resting on the ground. The sound of the choir and their Christmas carols provided a magical atmosphere as we strolled around from stall to stall inspecting the homemade goods that were on offer.
Then to round off a busy weekend, we went to church to see a choir sing English carols in Bonn. We arrived at the church just before 7pm, by which time it was full and we had to squeeze in at the back. The church was large and spacious, and its white walls and ceiling meant the candle lit lanterns provided ample light for the event. The choir was made up of both male and female singers and they put on a beautiful performance. I found myself needing to close my eyes to appreciate the richness of the sounds and the subtleties of the harmonies which blended together perfectly. There were also some piano recitals and a couple of encores to please the appreciative audience.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend without any of the big shopping trips that can make December such a stressful month. In addition to this, we knew people who performed in all the musical events we went to, which made it all the more special.
Next weekend, I hope to be able to share some pictures of the Christmas markets in the snow! 🙂
All pictures and text. © Chris Robinson 2014. All rights reserved.