There is no better way to celebrate Christmas in Germany than by going from one Weihnachtsmarkt to the next with your friends. Last Saturday I met up with four of my fellow American exchange students for a long awaited trip to Köln. After meeting on the steps of the Dom, we had an impromptu photo shoot while waiting for everyone to arrive from their trains.
When we found out that one of us had train delays, we decided to kill some time by peeking inside the Dom.
Because it was almost noon, we started looking around for a restaurant. While walking around we remembered that Köln has a Hard Rock Cafe. With the help of our phones, we slowly made our way there. It was really interesting that we could walk in and hear so many people ordering in both German and English.
Kole, Eliza, and Will before our meal.
Right after we got our food, our fifth and final group member showed up. We spent the rest of the meal catching up and talking about where we wanted to go.
We could only fit three of us in each picture :(
On our way to the Schokoladenmuseum, we wandered across the Kölner Altstadt Weihnachtsmarkt. This market had an ice rink that circled around a big statue, which I thought was pretty cool.
The ice rink.
This Christmas market had some delicious (and extremely hot) Kinderpunsch. Sadly, I think that this Kinderpunsch will be my last for the Weihnachtsmarkt season because they close on the 23rd.
The last Kinderpunsch of the season.
On to the next one! This is the Kölner Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt, which is right next to the Lindt Schokoladenmuseum. Here we bought some Gebrannte Mandeln (warm almonds coated in sugar).
Of course we couldn't resist the museum knowing how much chocolate was behind the doors. We made a quick stop into the store to pick up some presents and some chocolate for ourselves.
Will posing with some chocolates while wearing his DIY scarf.
How many Lindt truffles equal 100 grams? Although the idea of getting to make your own bag of truffles was cool, the price of €3.49 per 100 grams confused us Americans.
So many truffles!
Next we visited my favorite Weihnachtsmarkt, Markt der Engel. It was just as beautiful in December as it was in November.
Oftentimes each Weihnachsmarkt has their own yearly mug. When you order a drink, it comes in one of these mugs and you pay a Pfand (deposit) of usually around €2.50 which you get back once you return the mug. We each wanted something to commemorate our visit, so we each just paid the €2.50 for an empty mug. I got one from 2015, but luckily I got to trade it for one with this year's design on it.
Speaking of Eliza, the main reason why we all came to Köln for a day was because she goes back to the States in January. Four of us live an hour or less from Köln by train, but Eliza traveled five hours to be with all of us one last time. Eliza, thank you so much for being the glue that kept us Americans together from the very beginning in Boston and for enlivening our whatsapp group with all your interesting stories. We're going to miss you so much!
Only a little dysfunctional.
After Markt der Engel, we wanted to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt next to the Dom. We thought that it might be easier and faster to take the S-Bahn back to the Dom, but once we saw how many people were crammed into them and that we would have to pay €10.70 for one ride for five people, we decided to walk.
Another reason for our meeting in Köln was to find Christmas gifts for our host families, but one stop into Galleria Kaufhaus (aka Germany's upscale Walmart) convinced us to try again another day.
One of the best things about visiting big cities is seeing how everyone decorates. There were many trees decked with lights and ornaments. One hotel next to the Dom had strings of pretty lit up wreaths hanging all along the front of it.
Finally, my first visit to one of the most famous Weihnachtsmärkte in Germany. Along with popularity comes droves of people. With such decadent decorations and a 700 year old Gothic church as a backdrop, I completely understand why so many people visit each year.
Kole, Hans, Will, and Eliza by the entrance to the Weihnachtsmarkt.
The centerpiece of this market was a gorgeous light display with a fully decked out Christmas tree on top.
So many people were visiting this market that at times we could not move in the rows between the stands.
The live Christmas music.
At many markets, vendors sell things like cookie cutters, ornaments, and other trinkets.
The cookie cutter selection.
Finally it was almost 6 o' clock, so we headed to the Hauptbahnhof to check what trains each of us were taking. We found out that we had some time left, so we sat on the steps before the Dom listening to music that someone was playing on a portable speaker and soaking in our final time all together during exchange.
Us girls snuck away for a few minutes to take advantage of the gorgeous Christmas tree next to the Hauptbahnhof.
Then it came time for goodbyes. Eliza had the longest trek home, so her train left first. With hugs and promises to keep in touch we all waved goodbye and followed her train until it picked up speed.
The rest of us had about an hour until our trains left, so we went to McDonald's for (my) first time since leaving the US. Sometimes you just need to sit on the steps of a 700 year old church eating chicken nuggets to realize how lucky you are. Days like these where I get to explore Germany with good company make me wish that I could press pause and have this feeling of extreme happiness everyday for the rest of my life. Everything that I've had to do to be where I am right now was so worth it. It's so clear to me on days like this that I made the right decision to study abroad and I am exactly where I need to be.