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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brussels-Part 1 of a Belgium Christmas

 We decided to go to take a trip to Belgium between Christmas and New Years.  First, we went to Brussels.  Belgium is next to the Netherlands and has many similarities. It was a nice way to get away for a few days and enjoy a city that we had not visited.  Christmas is a special time to visit Europe.  The Christmas Markets are fun to browse and catch the Christmas Spirit.  The weather was a little cold but it is supposed to be at Christmas.

Street shops at one of the Christmas Markets in Brussels

Some of the amazing buildings in Brussels

Street crowds enjoying the holidays

Downtown Brussels

Our hotel in downtown Brussels

What would Belgium be without chocolate?

One of many chocolate stores
Christmas Market in Brussels
Ice skating at the Christmas Market

More chocolate--are you catching a theme here?

The Central Square in Brussels

Central Square with the Christmas Tree
Mel in the central square.

Inside (covered) street mall

Brussels' most famous statue--Mannekin Pis!!
Anyone hungry?

The greatest merry-go-round ever.  Check out the different seats in the next few pictures!!!

Brussels Christmas Market

Monday, January 2, 2012

Koln (and the Christmas Markets)

Koln, also spelled Cologne, is a large city in western Germany.  It is only a few hours from where we live in the Netherlands-3 hours if the traffic is light.  Koln, like many German cities, holds Christmas Markets in the weeks preceding Christmas.  We decided to visit the city and enjoy the festivities.

We first went to a small town outside of Koln called Siegburg.  The Christmas Market there was an old fashioned or medieval theme.

 The bread ovens with the wood fires
 The market with booths
 Goods for sale
 Everyone needs a fur skin for Christmas
 The merry-go-round
 Wood working-the old way
 The blacksmith with his furnace and anvil working the metal
 Mel even started her own produce company.
 Church on the main market square

We then drove to Koln.  Koln is the 4th largest city in Germany.  It is famous for the Cologne Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Cologne.  The University of Cologne is one of the oldest in all of Europe.  The town is located on both sides of the Rhine River.  This small town that was made into the major trade and production center by the Romans around 50 A.D.  It became the Roman provincial capital and was the most important Roman city north of the Alps.  

During the medieval period, Koln continued its prominence as a trade and a commercial city.  The huge Gothic cathedral was begun in 1248 and housed the relics of the Three Magi.  It was the home of the Archbishop was the largest cathedral in Northern Europe.  During WWII, the Cathedral was hit by 15 or 16 Allied bombs but was able to withstand the attacks.  Much of the city was destroyed during the war with about 95% of the population leaving the city.
 Koln Cathedral
 On the steps in front of the Cathedral
 The Christmas Market at the Cathedral
 Koln Christmas Market

 One of the numerous booths at the market
 Nightfall at the Koln Cathedral Christmas Market
 Koln street cafe
 Headed to another Christmas Market in Koln
 Christmas Market
 Manger scene
 Wood carvings - the Three Magi
 Street Band
 Back to the Cathedral
 Notice Mel in front of the Cathedral.
Probably the only time the sun shone through the clouds!
 This building is huge

 The relics of the Three Magi

 Chapel of the Three Magi

 Street in front of the Cathedral
 Hotel decorated for Christmas
 Mel's new friend
 Street performer - when she moved it scared the boy.
He thought she was a statue.
 Christmas Market outside the Cathedral
 Again--truly amazing how large this building is.
 Bruce Lee has a hair salon here in Koln.  Who knew?