Saturday, 18 December 2010

From Riyadh to Germany: Christmas Market Tour

Last week, three Kiwi ladies, myself, Margaret and Michelle, flew out to Germany for a six night, seven day Christmas Market tour.  It was brilliant.  Margaret organized the tour through Blue Danube Holidays – basically she said I’m going, I said, can I come, she said I'll send you the link.  All I had to do was fill in the form and stump up with the money when the request arrived.  Headache free planning on my part.

I’ve never flown Lufthansa before – loved it.  We had the 2am flight (yay) but the rear of the plane was empty so I scored a row of seats for a 5 hour kip.

Margaret’s friend Ken, who moved to Germany 30 years ago, picked us up from the airport and, after we had dropped our bags at the hotel, he whisked us off to his place, a good hour out of town, to meet his wife, Liz, and spend the day.

We were lucky, the temperature the day before was -15C. Today was only -5C. Snow was everywhere. Brilliant!  I haven’t spent much time in snow.  Taumarunui had snow if you went up the mountain, but to have snow falling while you’re shopping is a novelty, and I was like a kid on her first holiday – ‘Look at that’, ‘look at this’, ‘can I get a photo’, ‘Oh that looks soooo German’ - I couldn’t get enough.  I didn't realise they grew so many grapes in Germany - there were kilometers of vineyards.  A summer time wine tour must be on the cards!

We passed through small villages down in gully’s that were so picturesque with their pitched snow covered roofs and narrow streets. In between were snow covered fields, some being turned so the brown sod was a contrast to the whiteness.

Ken explained that all the farmers lived in the villages.  The government didn't allow housing on farmland because it was used for farming, so the only buildings on the land were sheds, and small ones at that.  I quite like that idea. It worries me sometimes that New Zealand has allowed our farmland to be cut up into lifestyle blocks. Soon we’ll run out of that green grass Destination NZ likes to promote.

In this part of the globe Kiwi's are well known for our milk and lamb (You’re from New Zealand, you guys make Anchor milk!) Once the life-stylers get sick of the life style New Zealand will have major urban spread as the blocks get subdivided and built on. I like the adage ‘more grass, bigger cows’. It will be a sad day when NZ has to start raising our sheep and cattle indoors because the green pastures got gobbled up by housing.  It's an absolute fact that, in comparison to produce from other countries, NZ milk, cheese, butter and lamb all taste better, I’m certain because of their outdoor life – or maybe I’m just Aotearoa biased.

Anyway, moving on. I totally enjoyed our ride to Kens little village. The roads lined with snow covered trees were Christmas card picture perfect - I used to think they made those images up!

On the way Ken asked what we’d like for breakfast. “Bacon!” was the chorus. We bought two packs. We ate them both, along with eggs and some lovely German Danish and a Custard Round, home baked in the local village bakery, that was delicious. We couldn’t find another like it on our whole tour.

The supermarket really drove home that we were in Germany.  In Riyadh we are used to chaos, utter chaos and dust and noise and clutter.  The German supermarket was clean, with wide aisles and washed vegetables and not a sign of rot anywhere.  Germany is very organized.  Honestly, we were blown away by the supermarket – and it wasn’t even a big one.

After breakfast, Ken took us on a tour of neighboring villages. They are cobble stoned and winter cute. I’m glad we had the chance to visit smaller villages with someone who knew the place and in such a relaxed fashion, because we didn’t get the opportunity on the tour.  Ken took us up the hill for a snow walk – guess who landed on her butt?  Fresh fallen snow is so fluffy. And everything, everywhere is so white. With the sun out you actually forget it’s cold.  Real cold.

Lunch was bread and various sausages and meat followed by Gluwein – warmed red wine with a few spices thrown in.  Lovely. We had a lot of Gluwein in the next few days. It certainly warms the cockles.

Later in the afternoon, Ken took us back to the hotel. We had a light meal for dinner and headed off to bed early. Our bus tour started the next day, and we were a bit tired from our early morning flight.

Ka Kite,

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