The Frankfurt Christmas Market 2014

Last weekend, I went to Frankfurt to go to the Christmas market. This was actually my sister’s idea, to go with our parents, and I was invited almost as an afterthought. I haven’t been on a plane with my mother since I was eighteen months old, when I spent the flight to Corfu sitting on her lap and I haven’t shared a room with my sister in a very long time.

We breakfasted at Heathrow, where I learnt that my dad, champion flyer, actually gets nervous and refuses to eat before he flies. I don’t know whether this is symptomatic of emetophobia running in the family or what because I always thought it was my mum who doesn’t like flying. And we discovered a little flying cheat. We had hand luggage only because you have to pay extra to put luggage in the hold on this particular flight. But when we got to the gate, the nice man said it was a very full flight and would anyone like to put their hand luggage in the hold free of charge? Well, I was going for it because I loathe taking a suitcase in the cabin and since I did, everyone else did. And it meant we were the very first ones checked in, the first ones allowed on the plane and we were able to get settled and make faces at each other before anyone else even came down the ramp. Yeah, four of us, three abreast seats. I was determined to have a window so I was the one who sat separately, a row in front and on the opposite side of the plane.

So there’s four of us – me, Mum, Dad, Sister.

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Me and Mum (and sister in background, hiding behind her scarf)
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Sister and Dad

While I’m doing photos of us, I just want to demonstrate exactly how long the tail on my long-tailed hat is:

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We flew from Heathrow before 8am and were in Frankfurt by about eleven, finally making it into the city centre after a very long journey which featured the most packed bus ride I’ve ever had from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 of Frankfurt Airport, where Dad bought four week-long travel passes (cheaper than four lots of four day ones) and we took the train to the Hauptbahnhof, where we paused for our first wurst before getting the tram out to our hotels in the suburbs.

I can’t sing the praises of the likes of booking.com and lastminute.com enough. Websites like this enable people like us to stay in hotels like the Radisson Blu, which looks spectacular from the outside and has a penthouse spa, with pool, massages, sauna, steam room etc. But we’ll get to that later. I was sharing a room with my sister. A twin room. We later ascertained that the only difference between a twin room and a double room is a sheet. Both rooms have two separate beds, with two separate mattresses and two separate lots of bedding but a double room has one sheet over the two mattresses whereas a twin room has a sheet on each mattress. I loathe sharing a bed and my sister thinks the whole bed belongs to her. There was shoving and punching and pulling the beds apart in the dead of night and I was thoroughly sick of having her looming over me, sleeping right up against the crack between the mattresses. She’s three years younger than me and about a foot taller. Twin beds, at our age, was a hideous mistake. Also, the hotel had made a hideous mistake in putting a massive window between bedroom and bathroom. Oh, it had blinds but they left gaps and they also were hung on the outside so the occupant had no control over whether their roommate was going to suddenly open the blinds while they were in there.

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But this was our view:

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We spend Friday afternoon ambling around the market, not really spending, just discovering what was available. 80% of the stalls were food and the smells! It was quite the assault on the senses – roasted nuts of all kinds, candy floss, chocolate, aniseed, wurst, honey, crepes, waffles, pretzels, schnitzel, corn on the cob, coffee, gluhwein, fried potato cakes, burgers, baked potatoes, hot chocolate, various punches and popcorn! If there was one thing that really tempted me, it was the smell of popcorn.

We also uncovered the mystery of the mugs. I’d heard that mugs were a thing at German Christmas markets and now I understand. You buy a hot drink and it comes in a mug. You keep the mug as a souvenir because every market has a different one every year. None of us like gluhwein so we were pleased to discover you can have just about any drink in these mugs, right down to hot orange juice. Or you can do as Mum did and buy a mug full of aniseed sweets. Or as Dad and I did and discover a stall selling them on their own. But when you buy a drink that comes in a mug, you pay a €2.50 mug deposit and are given a token. If you’ve already had six drinks and you don’t want to keep your mug yet again, you take it back along with the token and get your €2.50 back. That’s how the system works. Frankfurt’s 2014 mug is this one:

10428586_10100182791513981_6458108400138849670_nThey’re celebrating 25 years of something I can’t understand because I don’t speak German but the thing happened in 1990 apparently, since the mug is celebrating 2015. But it’s definitely this year’s mug because last year’s – with 2013 on it – was still available and it’s blue-grey.

So the mug was the most important thing to get. Dad also enjoyed sampling the various German foods and went so far as to say that if he had to live abroad, he’d like to live in Germany.

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P1030976We shopped a little. I have a wooden moose:

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Yes, it lives on my bookshelf along with my northern European sagas/fantasy

but that was actually about all I bought. There was a lot of very lovely stuff but there was also a lot of very expensive stuff. And we were flying with only hand luggage so we couldn’t take anything liquidy home – Dad was looking at the honey that he wouldn’t be allowed to take home and Mum bought two snowglobes which then had to go in the plastic bag with the toothpaste at security.

There was also weird stuff. These gorgeous chocolate tools:

P1030967And these dental tools:

P1030910Then there were the characters. This Death Priestess of Aza Guilla (see Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard books):

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These fine Venetian gentlemen:

P1030861And this hungry dog, captured while chewing a piece of sausage:

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She enjoyed it, it’s just the faces dogs make while chewing are hilarious

On Friday night, we visited the spa – well, Mum, sister and I did. Dad doesn’t swim and he does do trams, so he went out to play in Frankfurt on his own. The pool was freezing. The massages are extra (and extra expensive!) and there was a sign on a door saying “This is a textile-free area”. Well, we were curious, so I stuck my head through the door because I wanted to try out the sauna and steam room that were almost certainly behind that door. What I found was a corridor, overlooking Frankfurt, where a fully-clothed man was sitting with a folder apparently doing some homework. I fetched my sister and we both sneaked out there and into the steam room. Then she decided she wanted to have a look at the spa. She stuck her head out and immediately came flying back in, looking utterly shocked. “There’s a man out there!” “Is he textile-free?” “Yes! He’s wearing a towel but it’s on his head!” So we went back to pool, both of us unnecessarily giggly. A few minutes later a man in a blue dressing gown exited the textile-free area. “Was that the man you saw?” “I don’t know, I didn’t see his face.” And that was enough for hysterics for the rest of the week.

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Although I’m now moving on to Saturday, this isn’t day-by-day, there won’t be a Sunday and Monday section. We visited the market every day and everything above covers the entire weekend. It’s just that on Saturday we did something different.

Saturday we took three trams out to the zoo and had a very nice day, if an exhausting one. I’d borrowed some bread and butter from breakfast (great breakfast! Wish we’d taken a few photos of breakfast!) and I’d had the sense to bring some snacks so I at least had lunch. Many, many photos of the zoo – only a very select few here.

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