Christmas Is Finally Here!

Study Abroad, Travel

Cologne, Germany (December 2015)

…And you know how I can tell? Everywhere has a Christmas market! After celebrating Sinterklaas and a friend’s birthday this past week, I was excited to go on a study trip with NHTV’s International Student Club, Compass. We went to Germany for the day to visit six different Christmas Markets!

We traveled by bus (only two hours from Breda) to Cologne, and spent the entire day exploring the city centre. I made some new friends from Venezuela, Greece, and Germany. We found three different markets and each one was very different. The first one was set next to the stunning Cologne Cathedral, which was recently cleaned since its Neo-Gothic origins have left it looking dated. There was so much to smell, see, taste, touch, and experience. The smell of cooked fish, cinnamon, and gingerbread filled the air. Many different vendors had art, local foods and drinks, and the iconic German gift, tiny wooden sculptures, for sale.

The second market we found was my favourite, as it was themed very much like an elf village. Gnomes sculptures could be found playing and doing mischievous activities throughout the market. There was an ice skating rink as well, where people could skate around a beautiful monument. I will be dreaming of the delicious gluhwein (mulled wine) and bratwurst on a bun (German pork sausage) for ages to come! So good!

Set along the Rhine river and near the Chocolate museum, the third market was also quite nice. There was a tall ship that also doubled as a concession stand in the harbour. The Rhine is the second largest river in Western/Central Europe and it also empties into the North Sea through the Netherlands. We also walked along the promenade and saw many buskers and cruise ships. Christmas Markets are the ‘thing to do’ at this time of year. I hope wherever you are in the world, you are well, happy, and spending time with your loved ones. Happy Holidays!

Weekend Adventure In Luxembourg City

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Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (November 2015)

I decided to take a weekend off from doing schoolwork and explore a new country! I spent three days in Luxembourg City, on a solo adventure, where I found lots of beautiful, old buildings, new friends, and vibrant culture.

I was pleased to learn that my French skills were sufficient to converse with locals. French, English and Luxembourgish are spoken throughout the small country. A highlight of this trip was couch surfing with my new friend who planned excellent activities for us that she knew I would love. We visited an outrageously expensive art shop where we ogled at how much the items cost and went to a music festival to listen to some Dutch and Austrian bands. We had great conversations and I’m so glad that I had the chance to now call her a life long friend.

Another memorable moment was being completely lost in the City Centre by myself and happening across a Christmas Market. Here I found many local artisans and delicious food vendors, cheery Christmas music performed by live musicians, and tasty beer. A funny (and strange) occurrence happened to me when I was touring inside a cathedral one morning. A bus load of Asian tourists came in for a free organ concert that was about to occur, and all of them proceeded to take my photograph. Why these people were interested in having photos of damp, young backpacker in their holiday albums, I will never know!