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Christmas Markets with young kids

‘ Tis the season for… CHRISTMAS MARKETS!


Now that we’re in our fourth Christmas season in Germany, we’ve come to look forward to the Christmas markets. We try to see as many as possible. It means a lot of advance planning to get the perfect combination of big city, small city, big market, and small market experiences. I usually rely on recommendations from friends and the information on the major markets on the German Christmas Market website. Don’t worry, my own family-friendly recommendations will be at the end of the post. (Also, updated 9 Dec 2013: I added a chart rating some of the German Christmas markets I’ve been to at the bottom of this post.)


The wonderful thing about Christmas markets is that there is a little something for everyone. Matching stalls and twinkling lights, selling anything from handmade items to antique treasures to mass-produced decorations, fill the city centers. There’s usually at least one carousel ride for the kids, someone selling large balloons, and maybe even a ferris wheel to see the city from a new perspective. German festival food staples, such as bratwurst, mushrooms in garlic sauce, and fresh waffles and crepes are plentiful. Some markets include food stalls from other countries making it easy to try a variety of food in one place. Then there’s the drinks: beer, glühwein (hot mulled wine), hot chocolate, and kid punch – usually in some cute souvenir cup that’s worth collecting.



Plus, it’s really inexpensive overall.


The hardest part, especially for families with young kids, is the crowds.



But, this isn’t the Black-Friday-snatch-the-last-barbie-doll-before-someone-else-gets-it type of crowd. It’s a community crowd. Young and old, it’s rare to find people who don’t want to be at the Christmas market. It can easily be an all day adventure. People stroll. They grab a small bite, stand at one of the benches, and chat. Check out the vendors, maybe grab a gift or two, and repeat. They keep warm with the drinks. The children ride the carousel. Young kids, snuggled up in their stroller, will likely fall asleep. There’s no rush. So, don’t let the thought of crowds deter you!




If you’re thinking of going to Germany around Christmastime, it will be almost impossible to avoid the Christmas Market scene. Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning:

  • Though most, if not all, of Germany’s neighboring countries have their own Christmas Markets, German markets are extra special. Markets along the border can get busier during the day and on weekends because of the influx of day-trippers from other countries. There can be smaller crowds at night at those markets.
  • Most markets are located near big shopping areas. Most shopping areas are closed on Sunday.
  • While some vendors accept credit cards, most food and drink vendors do not. Bring plenty of cash.
  • For all drinks there is a deposit, or pfand, on the glass or mug. It’s a fun game to try to figure out which vendor has the best mug at each market. You can keep the mugs, or return them and get your money back.
  • Big cities will usually have multiple markets running at the same time. One that is always fun is the medieval market. The market doesn’t rely on electricity in their stalls for lighting or cooking.
  • If at all possible, stay at a hotel that offers a view of the city.
  • Most markets are free. For those that do charge an entrance fee, it is usually small. The only Christmas Market I remember paying an entrance fee for was the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. It was completely worth it. The white stalls and twinkle lights are beautiful. The market is small compared to others, but with the atmosphere of the grand buildings, the orchestra playing, and the most amazing food I’ve had at any market, it’s a place I want to return to every year.
  • Erfurt’s Christmas Markets are another place worth visiting year after year. There are many markets between the New Town, over the quaint Merchant’s bridge with permanent shops set up on both sides, then down to the very large Domplatz in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus. Erfurt is beautiful throughout the year, but there is definitely magic in the air in December.
  • German Christmas Market season ends December 23. Many neighboring countries will continue their markets until the first week of January. See as much within Germany before they end, then venture to other countries. My favorites are in Antwerp and Edinburgh.
  • Holiday Nomad has a great comprehensive list of specific European markets visited and loved by other travel bloggers. Check it out.

Here’s a photo of my son looking down into Erfurt’s Christmas Market from our room at the Radisson Blu a few years ago.


Wherever you live, do you have a favorite Christmas celebration?

Updated 9 Dec 2013: I’m including a table rating different Christmas markets I’ve visited on different aspects that I like looking for personally when traveling with my kids. In regards to the column “Stuff for kids” – any high score means that there’s a few rides for kids. Lower scores indicate there are no rides, but it’s possibly still child friendly. A score of 10 would mean that there’s rides as well as a children’s program that we attended.

[table caption=”German Christmas Markets” ]
City, Market Name, Time of Visit, Crowd, Food, Souvenir Mug, Quality of Goods, Atmosphere, Stuff for Kids
Berlin, Gendarmen Markt, Night, 9, 7, 10, 8, 10, 2
Berlin, Gendarmen Markt, Afternoon, 2, 7, 10, 8, 8, 2
Essen, Multiple in the City Center, Afternoon, 5, 7, 8, 8, 8, 7
Essen, Multiple in the City, Night, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 7
Erfurt, Multiple in the City Center, Night, 7, 8, 10, 8, 10, 7
Oberhausen, Centr”O” area, Afternoon, 7, 8, 5, 7, 8, 10*
Düsseldorf, Altstadt and Kö area, Afternoon, 7, 7, 8, 8, 7, 7
Köln, Zentrum/Dom area, Afternoon, 9, 10, 8, 9, 9, 4

*Oberhausen’s Centr”O” area has a Sea Life Aquarium and Adventure Park, plus a Legoland Discovery Center. So within the vicinity of the Christmas market there are lots of activities for kids anyway. (But, I do believe they have Christmas market season-only activities for kids, too.)

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Bike Races

Every year my little corner of Germany closes its streets for a day. It means one thing – it’s time for a bike race. We’re lucky enough to have front row seats. At 2 years old, I’m pretty sure my son was just trying to figure out how he could get his balance bike to go so fast.



This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.accessoires de sexeles robes erotiquesspinterestles godes xxl acheter

Instagram Inspiration: Star Wars Celebration Europe

Last weekend we went to Star Wars Celebration Europe in Germany. Fans from all over the world come and get their Jedi on. I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. My husband, however, is. Many of the past SW Celebrations have been in our hometown in Orlando. Our friends have told us it’s always a great time. Since it was so close to home this year, we decided to go.

I’m glad we did. I love being around people who are doing things they are passionate about, and people are definitely passionate about Star Wars. There were replica sets throughout the convention center, people walking up dressed up in costume, autograph signings, a blocked off area dedicated to young kids, shops selling all kinds of memorabilia, and even an area for officially licensed Star Wars tattoo artists to tattoo on the spot. There were different panels, talks, shows, and discussions throughout.

We managed to make it to one panel discussion. As part of the collectors series, we went to the European Food Collectables panel. It was about collecting trinkets in things like cereal boxes, but specific to brands and promotion in Europe. The extent to which people will save original Star Wars branded items is fascinating. What they do with them later is equally fascinating. Apparently several years ago, at one of the SW Celebrations, they held a cereal eating contest. The cereal was C-3PO cereal from 20-30 years ago. And if our crowd was any indication, I’m sure the contestants were just happy to have the chance to eat original Star Wars promotional items.

Enough talk, let’s look at some photos.

Tips for Star Wars Celebration for families

  • The next one will be in Anaheim, CA in April 2015, mark your calendars!
  • Although we didn’t buy our tickets in advance, I suggest you do. The line is a lot shorter for ticket holders.
  • This is a child-friendly event. A lot of the costumed characters walking around are more than happy to pose with your little one. (Click here to see some of the costumed characters.)
  • But to make it even better, dress your kids in costume. There are plenty of other people who will be doing the same.
  • Just prepare for the other attendees who will want to take their photo with your child.
  • It can be a long day, plan ahead. The website will provide a schedule of events and many events you want to attend will overlap. Again, plan ahead.
  • Many attractions have long lines. Don’t hesitate to leave a long line and come back later when the line has shortened.
  • However, if you’re shopping and want to wait to come back later to purchase something, don’t. Unless you happen to be there on the first day, chances are the item you want will sell-out. Get it while you can.
  • Catch up on the series before you go so that your kids can be somewhat familiar with the characters they’ll see.
  • Have your camera ready for some funny costumes and interpretations.
  • Have fun and may the force be with you!


This post is part of the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.apple smart case mini retina24option review scam

All we need is love… locks

If you want to declare your love to the world, or at least the people of Cologne, Germany, go to the Hohenzollern Bridge. It’s easy enough to find, it’s right next to the main train station. You can’t miss it. Locks line the railing, from the very beginning to the very end.


The Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne

What’s a love lock?

It’s just a lock that a couple will attach, usually, to a bridge. Sometimes the locks are inscribed with the couples names and an important date; sometimes it’s just the lock. Once locked, the couple throw the key away. In Cologne they throw it right into the Rhein River. Without the key, the locks stayed love forever and the couple’s love is guaranteed forever.

I first heard of this tradition when I went to the Great Wall in China. So, I thought the tradition started there. I was wrong. This tradition started in Italy, but has spread throughout the world. I’ve noticed them on major bridges in popular cities. I’ve also seen them in lesser known places, like my local park. (Which, by the way, might have the record for fewest number of love locks at three.) Once you know about them, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.


Innovative love lockers.

Cologne’s Love Locks

But, the love locks in Cologne are quite a site. The bridge is over 1300 feet long. Coming from the train station side, the locks are very dense, no space uncovered. I liked crossing opposite the train station first. On that side of the river the locks are more sparse. As you walk, there are more and more locks until you are left wondering how people were able to fit all the locks in that small of an area at all.

This tradition is fairly new to Cologne. The city started to take notice less than 5 years ago. Now there are so many locks that they are estimated to weigh over 4,000 pounds. They aren’t without controversy, though. Several years ago Deutsche Bahn, the bridge’s operator, threatened to saw off the locks. The public stood by their locks (and their love) and they remain today.


He’s too busy looking at the trains and boats to want to pose for a picture.

Hey, what about the kids?

The pedestrian pathway is wide enough for everyone who want to look at the locks, photographers to set up their camera to take pictures of the locks, and families with big strollers to enjoy without getting in each others way. As most bridges in big cities, it’s a nice stroll. I also saw many bike riders crossing the bridge. As you know, my son loves all forms of transportation. This makes the Hohenzollern Bridge even more fun. There are plenty of trains going into and out of Cologne’s main train station (around 1200 a day), so my son was in awe. Look down and a variety of boats pass under the bridge. Not to mention that big cathedral in the distance.

You’ll want to leave plenty of time for your visit because lock-spotting is truly mesmerizing.

I think I’m going to add love lock sightings to my traveling scavenger hunt. Do you know of any other places (big or small) with love locks? tenue sexy erotiquehow to find your google rankingdoorbell buyuseful site

Mozart, Mint, and Vanilla: Ice Cream Connecting the Generations

I’m going to break the fourth wall here for a moment.

I was thinking of this blog and I wanted to write about ice cream. It’s National Ice Cream month, you know? And though I enjoy ice cream, especially living in Europe, there’s not much I normally have to say about it. Believe me, I thought about it a lot the past few days:

  • Ice cream’s great in Europe because… they serve small scoops at small prices. €0.70 if you’re in my town, up to €0.90 if you’re somewhere fancy. (BORING!)
  • People eat it all the time in the summer here. (OBVIOUS!)
  • A pint of Ben and Jerry’s at my local grocery store is almost €6.00 and I indulge in it more than I should because, even though European ice cream is good, it’s hit or miss at ice cream shops and mostly miss at grocery stores. (PATHETIC!)

So, when we passed an ice cream/gelato shop right next to Cologne’s big cathedral, I was excited. We can sit outside, enjoy our ice cream while enjoying our views and I would have a slight ice cream story that was probably going to be more about the cathedral. Except then my husband said it’s way too expensive to sit down and have ice cream, we should just get a scoop of ice cream to go. And so we did.

ice cream

I went in to order (no line, yay!); he stayed outside with the kids.

He wanted pistachio, but they were out of it. I stepped outside, “they don’t have pistachio, is mint ok?”


And then, in typical my-luck-would-have it fashion, a line had formed. Two older couples were checking out the options, but of them, only one woman was really interested in the ice cream. She wore a black hat and kept pointing to the different options while chatting to the server. I wondered if she was ever going to order and wanted to just skip in front of her so I could.

While I waited for her, I looked for something for myself. I found it quickly. Off to the corner, hardly touched. The Mozart. I knew right away that this scoop of ice cream was going to make it on the blog. See, as soon as I saw it, this is the monologue I had in my head:

“Oh, Mozart, what’s that… oh, I bet it’s that Mozart Kugel from Salzburg… oh, I can talk about Mozart Kugels and Salzburg how it was our first real trip with our son and how cool it is to see something called “Mozart” and know almost immediately that it’s chocolate, pistachio, and marzipan and it’s ice cream and it’s perfect… the circle of life via travel food…”

And I was excited about this little twist to my story, but still… it’s not TOO exciting. (For those that are paying close attention, the Mozart ice cream option wouldn’t have been a good one for my pistachio-loving husband because he hates chocolate ice cream.)

With all this internalizing, I looked up to see that the two couples in front of me had left already. Except for the lady with the black hat. She continued to point and comment and smile and I couldn’t hear her, but I don’t think she was saying anything of substance. She left without getting anything and then it was my turn.

After placing my order for a cup of vanilla for my son, a cup of Mozart for myself, and a cone of mint for my husband, I paid my whooping €3.30 for all 3 (that’s €1.10 for one scoop of ice cream for those not mathematically gifted.) I walked out to my family to see my husband pointing in my direction and then the two older couples that were in front of me in line, black hat lady included, turning and waving. Then they looked at my son and said, “Mama’s here with your ice cream!”

Then things got a little weird.

I handed the mint cone to my husband and somehow, I’ve replayed this in my head and really don’t know how this is possible since my son was in the stroller and my husband was standing, my son grabbed the mint cone. In the midst of grabbing and claiming ownership of it by taking a huge bite out of it, some spilled on to his shirt. The two couples went into grandparent mode. The men were saying things to my husband, that I didn’t catch. The black hat lady looked at me and said she’ll run inside to get some napkins. I told her it was ok, I already have napkins and then our worlds stopped for a moment.

She smiled back at me in acknowledgement. It’s that look that only moms know. That recognition that I’m in the part of my life with my children where I carry everything they need at all times, and that she once did the same. When I looked over to smile at her again, I noticed that her friend, the other female in the group had grabbed a bunch of napkins from the ice cream shop. As she waved them towards us, life sped up again and chaos ensued.

Helping my son get cleaned.

Helping my son get cleaned.

Black hat lady grabbed the napkins and starts cleaning up my son. One napkin blew away in the wind. I ran to catch it. The women were making sure their temporary grandchild was cleaned up from the ice cream, with a makeshift bib on his shirt in the process. The men were all continuing their conversation. When I got back, with everything as it should be, they wished us good luck and said their good-byes.

Where are we now.

After saying good-bye to the, we lost track of the two couples. Their kindness will always be on our minds.

We went across the street and sat on the steps next to Cologne’s Cathedral. My husband had to settle for vanilla ice cream in a cup. I decided that the Mozart was better in theory than in taste.

My son jumped out of the stroller to enjoy his cone. As we walked back to the car, passing in front of the cathedral, he noticed it for the first time. Awestruck at this HUGE building, he wanted to follow everyone else going inside. Since no food was allowed, my husband offered to hold the cone. While my son and I enjoyed the interior of the structure that has been mentioned as early as the 4th century, my husband got to finish his mint ice cream cone.

Enjoying his stolen cone, then later, walking and noticing this big cathedral for the first time.

Enjoying his stolen cone, then later, walking and noticing this big cathedral for the first time.


This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted by The Mother of All Trips, Walking On Travels, and WanderMom. Click on the link for more ice cream stories, then go out and get a scoop for yourself!best sun shade for car babySony Memory Stick Pro Duo 4GbBinary Options Brokers