Düsseldorf, Germany

I’m not even sure how this happened, but believe it or not, this is our 5th holiday season living in Europe!

Since we have a pretty major trip coming up in less than 2 weeks (!!) we decided to stay relatively close to home for the Christmas market this year. Düsseldorf is only about 3 hours driving from Groningen, so we rented a car and got outta dodge for the night!

Car snacks – Germany style! …that was a good lookin’ (and tastin’ strudel)

We’ve actually been to the Düsseldorf market before. We swung through for the day during our 2015 market trip, but since we were only there for a few hours it felt unfinished.

We couldn’t properly sample all the glühwein ya know? 

Well, it’s a good thing we went back because the quality of the glühwein here was actually quite variable! Didn’t stop us from drinking it. Just simply making note… 

This particular stand, for instance, wasn’t high on the flavor list…

Anyway, the market was festive (as usual) but we did kind of screw up a little.

Mistake #1 was eating a late lunch at a really delicious German brewery that apparently has been in existence since 1834. This in itself was not the mistake – the beer was flowing and the food was DELICIOUS. The mistake was the time in which we ate; we were so completely satisfied that we forgot to eat any curryworst!  #firstworldproblems

Mistake #2 also involves a marzipan potato, or the lack thereof. See, my husband here could eat his weight in marzipan. Last year, when we were in Berlin, we found a stand that sold marzipan potatoes which were essentially a fist-sized ball of marzipan rolled in cinnamon. Someone was very much looking forward to another marzipan potato, and we FORGOT TO LOOK! 

We did find a gluten-free cannoli stand though, which halfway made up for it.



Mistake #3 – no mug! One of the best parts of the markets are the mugs! Each market in the city has it’s own unique shape and design. You pay a deposit for the mugs upfront, and then you can either return them and get your money back, or keep them for a nice souvenir! This year we kept doubting if this mug was THE mug, and came home with nothing. There was one particularly cute one in the shape of a snowman. Shoulda, woulda, coulda…

The mug that got away…
He wasn’t sure what he bought. Turns out it was chocolate covered marshmellows!

Ok, ok, ok – I really have nothing to complain about. We feel whole-heartedly lucky that we are able to do this every year, had a great time, and even ended up with a wooden winter “Meatball egg”! 

And on that note, I will say goodbye until 2019! As I mentioned before, we are leaving in about two weeks for our “Shane-wrote-a-thesis-and-almost-has-a-Phd-graduation-trip” to Cambodia and Vietnam! We will be traveling for about a month, and meeting up with my sis & her boyfriend (who are there for 6 months!), and some other friends along the way. So, come January we will have lots to share!

Until then, thanks for another festive season, Germany, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all!

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Almost Christmas….and home !

That’s right! We are in the final days now!

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By the time this posts, it will officially be 9 days until Whitney and I are heading home. Crazy right?! It’s hard to believe it has already been 18 months since we moved (and 18 months since we have been home!). Details of our upcoming trip would fill a post itself so I’ll just quickly highlight it at the end.  First, I’ll cover what we’ve been up to lately:


Thanksgiving! – only a bit delayed

This will be the case for us the entire time we live outside of the United States and, more specifically, while we live in Groningen.  Not only do we have to work on Thanksgiving (go figure, other countries don’t want to celebrate U.S. holidays), but I also have to attend a conference that takes place yearly during the last week of November.  This means that, without fail, for the next 2 years (not counting the 2 previous) I have to be away on Thanksgiving.  So, we just adjusted a bit and had Thanksgiving the following Saturday.  Luckily, we were able to find a turkey (not so easy to do) and somehow managed to get the thing cooked.  See, the problem was that we have only a small, counter-top oven and ended up with a 6.1 kg (~13 lbs) turkey.  That same 6.1 kg (~13 lbs) turkey also did not fit into our slow cooker.  However, after a bit of limb removal, it eventually fit and cooked to perfection! It may have been a few days late but Thanksgiving was a success!

Kerststad (Christmas city)

Last year we went into Germany for a Christmas Market and loved it! So we figured we would keep the tradition alive and visit a Dutch market in the south of the Netherlands.  Valkenburg is about as far south in the Netherlands as you can get (more on this in a minute) and during the holidays is aptly known as Kerststad or Christmas city.  The city has multiple markets, some of which are in caves, lots of decorations, and a Christmas parade.  In summary, Whitney read about this market last year and I haven’t heard the end of it since.  So off to Kerststad we go!

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that we found Kerststad to be underwhelming.  The city itself was beautiful and it was great to see some elevation change (the south of the Netherlands is so different from the north). However, the markets left a lot to be desired.  Not only did we have to wait in line and pay entry, but once getting inside we found nothing of interest.  In fact, most of the things in the market could be found at any big box store around the world (been to Wal-mart during Christmas time? You know what I mean then…). On top of that, the environment was just not, as Whitney put it, “jolly”. Food choices we extremely limited, there was no Christmas music playing, and there were way too many people crammed into tight spaces.  You would think that by saying this I would be inferring that I was disappointed in our trip but that’s not actually the case.  Which brings me to the next item…

Drielandenpunt (The three borders)

As I mentioned earlier, Valkenburg is about as far south as you can go in the Netherlands.  Because of this, we were close to the borders of Belgium and Germany, which also happens to be the highest point in the Netherlands.  Being that we got back early from the markets the night before, we decided Sunday morning would be an ideal time to visit the drielandenpunt. All in all, it was cool – definitely a place we would love to visit again in the summer.

Düsseldorf Christmas market

Since we were so close to the border and we had such a good experience with the German Christmas market last year, we figured it was worth a shot again this year.  We hadn’t planned to spend Sunday driving into Germany (this was supposed to be a quick trip) but the Kerststad experience left was wanting more. So, a quick 1.5 hour drive from the highest point in the Netherlands and we were in Düsseldorf, Germany. From the very beginning, we were impressed.  First off, what little we were able to see of the city was great. It’s definitely a place we want to visit again. As for the Christmas markets, they were just what we were looking for.  Lots of handmade, quality items, Christmas music everywhere, any food option you can think of (and many you can’t!), and gluhwein at every turn (which probably contributes to the jolly atmosphere).  We also never waited in line and paid only to park our car.  If you ask me, German Christmas markets are the way to go.  We will definitely be going back next year.

It’s comically hard to take a picture without people taking center stage…

And…home!

I’m going to need everyone to click here before proceeding. Just let in play in the background…

So that’s it! We are officially out of stories/pictures/experiences. All that is left is for us to work a few more days then we are on our way! We will officially be in the United States December 20 – January 17.  However, our exact location in the U.S. is a bit complicated. We have a packed schedule and will be in numerous different states and often not together.  However, we still want to see as many of you as possible, if only for a quick bite to eat or cup of coffee. Have all your smiling faces ready because everyone we see will be featured in a January recap of the trip home!

I normally say “Until next time”, however I don’t feel that is appropriate this time.  So instead, I’ll end with:

America, we’re coming!

Shane