Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid

The vivid lights tempting the children at the Christmas Market in Bonn.

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Getting in the Christmas mood

One of the stranger things in my job as a Graphic Designer is that I start working on Christmas designs when everybody else is thinking about summer picnics and trips to the beach while the sun is shining outside (one year I had to start the first Christmas design by the end of January). By the time winter and advent has arrived I am more or less sick of snowflakes, reindeers, Christmas trees and Santas and it takes some effort to get me into that Christmas mood again. Usually visiting a Christmas market with a mulled wine (or two) and a bratwurst helps.

I missed many events because I was spoiled for choice, running out of time or some days the weather was just too bad for my taste (I don’t mind it being cold as long as it’s dry).

I always like the atmosphere at the Chester Christmas market (and I don’t mean the Winter Wonderland!) and what better way to combine a visit to the market with some late night Christmas shopping and the Winter Watch Parade.

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So not the Christmas market but it looked pretty.

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The Winter Watch Parade is popular with young and old.

‘A Tudor Yuletide’ at Little Moreton Hall near Congleton in Cheshire was a bit different. The warm welcome drink at the entrance was much appreciated and I learned some things as well.

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Defying the rules of physics since Tudor times – Little Moreton Hall

‘Logically it should not still be standing up!’ but fortunately for us, Little Moreton Hall defied logic and physics for over 500 years. Also the Tudors, or those who could afford it, loved sweet flavours, a fact that sits quite well with me as I have a sweet tooth myself. I didn’t mind that the marzipan, or marchpane, looked like bacon, it was gorgeous.

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The Long Gallery, the reason why the building has its top-heavy appearance and has been described to look “like a stranded Noah’s ark” in the National Trust guidebook.

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The windows created interesting patterns

Saying that, I had to discover that I am not a fan of Tudor chicken paté. The volunteer had warned me I might be in for a surprise but I wasn’t prepared for this. Rose water, almost overpowering. Because the Tudors had a sweet tooth they even wanted their chicken paté to be sweet. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Live music in the hall that was set up for a feast.

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What Tudors would eat, if they were rich enough

The German Christmas market in Birmingham is one of the biggest German markets outside of Germany. I either get my yearly fix of mulled wine, bratwurst and Quarkbällchen (plain donuts) here in Manchester. I also managed to fit in some sightseeing and shopping which is always a bonus. But as last year, some people really should think about some of the aspects I wrote down in my personal code of conduct for Christmas markets.

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In need for some German Christmas treats

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It looks even prettier when night falls

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View from the library on the ice rink near the Christmas market.

Wrexham had some events on offer as well. The Victorian Christmas market is always nice and this year marked the first appearance of the Coca Cola Truck in town.

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Holidays are coming to Wrexham this year.

Chirk Castle was the setting for a medieval Christmas market this year. Unfortunately it rained when I visited so the courtyard with the market was deserted and everybody wanted to get into the tower for come craft workshops and the grotto. It also meant I head the other rooms in the castle more or less to myself.

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Due to the weather the courtyard was kind of deserted

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I wonder if one of the presents is for me…

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Not quite my idea of a Christmas menu

Finally I went to Erddig House, not for Erddig Glow which I heard was fantastic, but to take a look at some rooms that had been set up for Christmas dinner in the 1920s or 30s and all with real candles. It created a magical if quite dark atmosphere and was definitely worth the visit.

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Christmas in the 20s/30s – real candles were used in the chandeliers etc

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It was quite dark so you had to watch what you were eating. Thankfully the cooks were highly skilled.

Next up, hopefully, will be the Christmas market in my hometown Bonn in Germany on its last day and I will have myself another mulled wine or Feuerzangenbowle and bratwurst.

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My next and final destination – Bonn Christmas market.

Merry Christmas to you all!!

Teutons vs Brits

If I feel a little bit homesick in the run up to Christmas I am quite lucky as I have a couple of German Christmas markets to choose from to get my ‘German fix’. There are various German Christmas markets around the country and the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market with around 3 million visitors is even the biggest German Christmas market outside of the germanspeaking countries.

But in the last couple of weeks I have read articles in British and German newspapers that some Brits fear that ‘Teutonic’ Christmas traditions will supersede some British ones. Even the German Christmasstollen is starting to replace a British national treasure – the mince pie. And it doesn’t stop there. Magazine “Which?” tested 12 mince pies recently and to everybody’s surprise the mince pies by Fortnum & Mason (supplier to the Queen) ended up in last place with two discount supermarkets winning first and second. This wouln’t have been too bad weren’t those the German discount supermarkets Aldi (first place) and Lidl (second). Who would have thought….

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It’s not very big but has all the essentials, even Marmite. You can find the shop at Friedensplatz in Bonn.

But to ease your mind I would like to report that British Christmas traditions are coming over to Germany as well, in particular to a small shop in Bonn. I spotted it this weekend and you can get everything you want for a traditional British Christmas: Christmas crackers, Christmas pudding and mince pies…

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The shop seems to be quite popular. And the mince pies are delicious.

Frohe Weihnachten & Merry Christmas everyone.

Birmingham and my personal code of conduct for Christmas markets

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For me Christmas season means visiting a German Christmas market and combining this with some Christmas shopping (which means not only shopping for presents but also shopping for myself). After being to Manchester’s Christmas market for the last two years I thought it was time to revisit the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas market again. I really had a good time but what a day it was…

It already started a bit funny at the train station.
“A day return to Birmingham, please.” “New Street?” “Yes, please.” “Are you sure?” “Yes!?”
Maybe this should have warned me. I thought I knew what to expect but I wasn’t quite prepared for this.

First, some Christmas shopping and let me tell you, I wasn’t the only one…

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First stop – don’t think I need to tell you where I went

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It all looks very christmassy and busy…

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I can’t wait either

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Nicely decorated as well

After I had to queue to use an escalator like it was a fun ride in Disneyland (zig zag barriers and all), I decided it was time for some proper German bratwurst and gluehwein at the Frankfurt Christmas Market. What a delight and I even got served with a friendly “Guten Appetit!”. I really enjoyed the Christmas market even though it was very busy but everyone was in a good mood.

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A hot gluehwein just seemed perfect

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It does look nice when it gets dark

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Not quite ‘silent night’ more like ‘party around the christmas tree’

And then there are these moments when you swear under your breath because some people don’t quite realise they are not walking these streets alone.

So here is my personal code of conduct for Christmas markets or crowds in general:

  1. If you are not able to eat your bratwurst, hold on to your gluehwein mug, update your Facebook status on your mobile and walk simultaneously – DON’T! Mustard is not a colour every other person likes to wear… Actually this goes for any kind of food and drink.
  2. Don’t stop dead in your tracks to take a picture – or for any other reason. I like to take pictures myself because it does look pretty with all the lights and decorations. But have a look around you first, step to the side, maybe look for a shop window or entrance to stand in front of or even hide behind a lamppost and take your picture from there. It’s still going to look pretty and you can take your time to get it right.
  3. A visit to a Christmas market is most fun if you go with a group of friends. I agree with that. However, the fun stops if you are in a group of lets say 5-10 people, walking next to each other and holding hands as not to get split up or lost. You won’t get lost, I promise. And you won’t be able to talk to each other properly anyway. So give the rest of us a chance to pass by you and don’t block the whole aisle. You could even decide on a meeting point when it gets too busy in case you get split up. It would be so much more fun for everybody else.
  4. Don’t push. If the crowd can’t move any faster this won’t get you anywhere any faster at all. It just makes people in front of you uncomfortable and angry. Try to be patient.
  5. Smoking in a moving disorganised pack of people? Never! Ever!

You could probably add more to this list but these are my the top 5 from my recent experience. But above all, have fun and enjoy yourself!!