Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Christmas in Cologne

Christmas market at NeumarktThe people of Cologne really, really love Christmas. Each winter the city plays host to not one, but six Christmas markets. On sale are all manner of German baked sweet smelling goodies such as lebkuchen (gingerbread) and stollen (a bread-like fruit cake), as well as wooden toys, decorations and gifts.

The oldest Christmas market is at Neumarkt ('New market') town square and conveniently this is about a 10 minute walk from our flat. Perfect for an amble with a perambulator. So that is where I headed this morning, making the most of the low winter sun.

The entrance to the Neumarkt Christmas market (see top and middle photos) is guarded by two imposing toy soldiers.

At the markets it is traditional to try a little Glühwein - hot spiced red wine. This tradition is taken quite seriously: I visited at 11 am and the wine stand was already fairly busy...Mind you, it can get very cold here in December, so it seems like a pretty practical way to warm up frostbitten toes.

The stalls of the Neumarkt Christmas marketAs I am not sure if I will still be in Cologne next Christmas, I am going to make the most of the markets this year. I shall certainly be partaking of some Glühwein on an up-and-coming girls' night out. I'd also like to fit in visits to the beautiful market in front of the cathedral and the Alter Markt (Old Market) located in front of the town hall. Should keep me out of trouble (ho ho ho.)

More about the Christmas markets...

How to make Glühwein...

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Stuffed for Christmas

jungle sceneI took a stroll into the city centre today. Nothing was open - it's Sunday - but I did come across something noteworthy in one of the shops...

The largest department store has just revealed its Christmas window displays. All I can say is that someone in the marketing team must have taken some unusual substances recently, for the theme this year is the very unseasonal - but exciting nevertheless - one of 'animals in the jungle'.

In each of three large windows visitors are afforded a rare glimpse of an animal utopia in which a small teddy can ride safely on the back of a tiger without fear of maiming (see photo); where a panther will fan a tortoise to keep it cool; where rabbits can feel at ease dressing up in feathers, grass skirts and spotted furs (Furs? Furs? Fake I hope.)...

Most of the beasties are animated via unseen wires and electronics, allowing them to achieve a whole host of impressive actions such as twisting and swaying and um, twisting and swaying...
jungle rabbits
It makes a pleasant change to the usual scenario I write about, in which previously animated creatures find themselves rather static, thanks to the skills of the taxidermist. These jungle critters never knew any kind of animation, until the marketing department brought them to life.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


Bread manNovember 11th is St Martins' Day, or Martinsfest, as it's known here.

St Martin was the founder of the first monasteries in France in the 4th Century AD. He is the patron saint of the harvest and the poor.

Hard to believe, but as far as I can ascertain* , St Martin is represented by little bread men like this, which seem to populate the bakeries at this time of year.

I just couldn't resist buying one, once I'd overcome my initial 'What the...?' surprise at being greeted by this strange mix of dough, currants, red lollipop and ceramic pipe on the pastries counter at my local bakery.

Plus, my maiden name was Martins, so we have a connection, bread man and I - and I couldn't pass up the chance to be actively involved in Martinsfest '07.

Bread man later in the dayCoincidentally, November 11th is also the official beginning of carnival season. The carnival season runs right through until February. (These people know how to party.)

Here is the bread St Martin later in the day, having enjoyed his festival and the start of carnival tremendously. Note that he is full of good cheer and (partially) legless.

*Via extensive research which included Googling and canvassing the opinions of my German teacher and our neighbours.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Plug and play

We took our computer to an expert, who diagnosed, in layman's terms, that it was very screwed up and not really worth fixing. Perhaps note the confidence with which I predicted, in my last post, that we would be able to fix the computer. Ahem.

Anyway, it turns out that an invasion of fluff can indeed be terminal for a computer.

So we have bought a shiny new computer which is very fast and has a vast amount of gigabytage to fill up indiscriminately. It was fairly easy to set up. Though we are still going through the chore of reloading all of our old data and programs.

However, the new computer's arrival means that the old computer is destined to become one more lump of landfill. In an attempt to assuage the guilt we will try to re-use some of the innards where possible, like the memory.