Monday, January 16, 2017

Cologne, Germany

We drove up to Cologne last month to see the magnificent cathedral and several of the markets. If you go in December, we’d recommend taking the train, as the entire area near the cathedral is blocked off to vehicles. It took us nearly 3 hours from Kaiserslautern due to the heavy traffic once we got off the Autobahn near Cologne. The train time had originally been equal to drive time, not including traffic delays.
The church is beautiful. The surrounding areas were quite crowded, but we’re glad for the chance to see it and parts of the city. In my opinion, it is worth an overnight if you’d like to see a concert or a show (we just did a day trip). There are river cruises in warmer weather as well.
Much of the markets were the usual suspects of vendors, but we have three shops to recommend: the cathedral gift shop (just outside the actual church building) has neat greeting cards with delicate paper cut-outs of the cityscape. One vendor at the market directly next to the church sold coffee cups with black cats painted on them, along with names of cats- and customizable!
The market furthest away from the cathedral that we walked to was a couple of blocks beyond the crowded shopping streets. The market itself was also wall to wall people, but we really liked a vendor selling foot-high carved wood trees with matching colored ornaments already hung and included. The trees were painted in various colors. There is surely much more to see in Cologne, but we were ready to head home after dinner and a short stroll along the river promenade.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Speyer’s Technical Museum and December/January Market

51 weeks ago we had a great time at the transportation museum in Sinnsheim, and stopped in the town of Speyer on the way home. There we discovered the fabulous vegetarian vendor at the market- finally a healthy choice! We agreed to return for the technical museum in Speyer(Technik Museum), and finally did so. The anticipated 1 hour drive took longer due to traffic (someone else’s accident), but the ride home was quick.
If you decide to go to both museums, save your first set of entrance tickets for a discount at the second museum. After the clerk was done chiding me for not saving my tickets from 11 and ½ months ago, she forgot to tell me that there were “tokens” for sale for the musical instruments. We loved listening to the incongruous organs at the transportation museum, and looked forward to more at this one. If you plan on listening to more than 4 of them, please ask to purchase “Münzen”, which are 6 for 5 Euros. We didn’t see a sign about that until we had spent well past 5 Euros in coins on getting the different carousels, organs, etc. to play their tunes.
This museum has cars, planes, and military uniforms like the other museum, but also has a U-boat you can walk through, and a large collection of automated musical instruments in the building next door (Museum Wilhelmsbau), included in the admission. Don’t forget the tokens if you want to listen to more than 4 of them, such as an organ with built in drums, an accordion organ, a piano with built in violins (!) or just plain automated pianos! The parking cost us $2, and we did not sample the restaurant or the snack bar, as we were headed to the market! There is a large children’s play area, and an IMAX theater with shows in German.
Good thing we got to the market early this year, and stuffed ourselves with outstanding vegetarian food. I had rice with mushrooms in a cream sauce and mixed veggies with potatoes (50/50 plate of anything they have). Jeff had pasta and mixed vegetables. When we left a few hours later, they only had rice and veggies remaining, and pumpkin soup. Rest assured, there are plenty of meat vendors as well, along with fried dough, baguettes with garlic and/or tomatoes & cheese, etc.
There are many regular shops as well, some of which are unique from K-town. We plan to return before next December.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dresden, Germany

We were in Dresden for too few hours, on our way to Poland, but liked it so much that we wanted to recommend it to everyone. It did take us more than 6 hours from Kaiserslautern, but we enjoyed the time we had there, and would go back.
The first market of the season (for us) on Thanksgiving Day was very nice- the “big” Dresden market was already set up with the usual suspects of vendors. The new (to us) stall was a mustard stand with over 100 different varieties. The one we bought was tasty. The Medieval (“Mittelalter”) market was tucked away between nearby buildings and we wouldn’t have found it in the dark if there hadn’t been a brass band blasting away. The musicians from Russia played a wonderful mix of carols, followed by “Copacabana” and “Ipanima”. We would highly recommend this market, complete with unusual vendors and great food such as apple dumplings (like stuffed doughnuts) and veggie soup for Jeff. The first night there was no entry fee, but there were signs at the gates with a modest fee listed.
The market near the rebuilt church was still in the set-up phase, but we admired three live sheep munching on hay in one of them. The sheep appeared happy and their thick wool seemed to keep them warm enough in the cold.
There were several street musicians and plenty of restaurants to choose from. A touching display of photos and artifacts from the WWII bombing is in the basement of the big church, the Frauenkirche. The stairs are inside, to the left when you enter the church. It was amazing to see the rebuilding efforts, and moving to notice some blackened bricks were reused on the exterior of the building. The tourist information center had many flyers about additional activities and museums we didn't have the chance to check out.