Today is Nicholas Day, not an official holiday per say but a day honouring St. Nicholas, who was a very righteous, generous and God loving person, with a reputation for secret gift giving. This is why children getting up in the morning would traditionally find little gifts or sweets in their boots (and employees would usually find a chocolate santa on their desk).
We knew that something was going on in our small town: more traffic than usual, more people around, and roads blocked off. Curiously we went to see what was going on: Yes! Another Christmas market. We were hungry anyway and decided to scoop some soup.
On the left: Potato Soup for Sonja and Goulash Soup for Roland. Hmmm. On the right: Eyes closed on purpose to fully enjoy the warming pleasure of a mulled white wine.
On the side: a youth brass band playing rock music as well as traditional Christmas songs. They were really groovy (does one still say groovy?).
Open air boothes hugging the walls in the pedestrian zone. Given, that it is a temporary local market (this weekend only) is was packed, and still more bus loads of people were arriving from the surrounding towns.
The season of Christmas Markets… every little town has their own. Tonight we were in Gengenbach.
It is a special kind of street market in the four weeks (Advent) before Christmas, and has a many centuries long tradition. The open air stalls sell mostly seasonal items, specialty drinks and foods and winter attire, and there is often a play or a local choir singing traditional songs.
It's the season for gifts and kitsch.
The season of brass boy bands playing traditional christmas songs.
The season of unhealthy food such as torpedo noodles (gnocchi style pasta) with kraut.
The season of Glühwein (mulled wine), always good for a headache.
Oh, and did we mention Glühwein, already?
Have a wonderful pre-Holidays-period.
Meanwhile we'll go visit several other Christmas markets.
Sonja was still out and about riding on her Harley in the morning despite low temperatures and light drizzle. As a matter of fact it was still fall season in the valley, but the surrounding hills and mountains were already snow capped.
So, in the afternoon we drove up the hills to get a taste of winter. This is indeed how we like our snow best… about half an hour away, just the right distance.
The sun came out briefly, as it often does shortly before it sets, and presented us with an awesome 'light show'. We were not the only ones enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
Our car did well on the snow and ice covered roads, we didn't feel a difference. 4WD and winter tires are certainly advantageous, and we will do a lot more exploring in winter, and it feels good knowing that our vehicle can get us there safely.
We kept trudging through the deep snow and had fun like kids. (And we don't even like snow much, as it prevents us from motorcycle riding…)
Public services did a great job keeping the main roads clear, and there seemed to be no shortage of snow plowers (other than in Vancouver area…)
As we were descending back into our valley we were again greeted by the familiar green and brown of a late autumn day. And we found ourselves thinking that we are actually looking forward to experiencing this Black Forest winter wonderland.
No London trip would be complete without a visit of the British Museum, especially with its Egyptian exhibition. So we got our ducks in a row (said ducks can be found in above picture!) and spent a few hours in the probably World's best museum. There is nothing here that isn't breathtaking, including the wonderful architecture of the Great Court.
And again we can add some Canadian content (in form of totem poles)!
Colossal statue of Ramesses II and two Lamassu (Human Headed Winged Bull)
Are you my mummy? (quoted from Dr Who: The empty Child)
The Nereid Monument
When we came back out of the museum the weather was - again - wonderful, so - again - we spent the rest of the day strolling through the parks and the streets of the city.
We had a lot of (fancy) coffees during the weekend, so we thought that for once a tea room would be in order. Google Maps pointed us towards Soho's Secret Tearoom: You enter into a normal pub that looks like a normal pub. To be let into the tea room you will have to ask the waitress. She will point you in direction of a hidden stairway leading to the upstairs tea room, furnished like a tea room, with lots of tea china and tea pots. Very cosy! Difficult to find, but definitely recommended!
Afterwards we decided to have a look at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, but unfortunately we were too late for a tour (next time for sure!). Therefore we strolled a bit around St. Paul's Cathedral before we returned to the Entertainment District.
River Thames with the Shard in the background, with 306m (1,004ft) currently the highest building in the European Union.
The drama was very well played and beautifully directed, and we had no problems understanding the actors (although they spoke with an American accent…). Unfortunately this was also our final act in London; tomorrow we have to fly back to Germany!
So much to see, and things to do… London, we'll be back!
Roland: I am actually not that much into Motorcycles, but I was really looking forward to having breakfast at the Ace Café in Northern London and meeting up again with Gary France who we met two years before on Vancouver. Gary arrived on one of his custom made (would an Englishman call this 'bespoke'?) Harleys with 5500 cc or something. The bike drew a lot of attention, and when Sonja sat on it I was warned by a bystander that I should tell her to get off it before the owner comes back (apparently he could not believe that the owner was standing right next to it). We had a lot of fun chatting all morning and even ended up with two Ace Café T-Shirts sponsored by Gary. Thanks a lot!!!!
We spent the rest of the day doing the usual Tourist stuff in downtown London again: walking up and down River Thames, strolling over the London Christmas Market at the London Eye and enjoying the scenery at Trafalgar Square.
Getting hungry again we started looking for a good Restaurant in downtown, but in the end we decided to ride back to Paddington to conclude my Birthday with a very nice Italian dinner at the Taormina Restaurant. I even got my traditional Birthday Chocolate Cake!