Germany, Part 1.

Christmas in Germany! I was very excited to go with Neenernator to her land of origin and spend a major holiday in a country that basically invented the Christmas we know and love. (Bringing trees inside and putting candles on them? All Germany all the time.) As I said earlier, no Krampus (boo) but also no Zwartepiet (thank Moses and all the Israelites). I noticed pretty soon after arriving that alcohol is everywhere and liberally used. I didn’t understand why until about my third day there. You know how we here in New York have winter and it’s awful but sometimes the snow looks beautiful and then the sun comes out and it’s okay for a bit? They don’t have that in Northern Europe. Freezing rain. Every day. Dark. No sun. No light. Icy rain. Sometimes hail. For months at a time. There were days, and I’m not exaggerating here, when I went sightseeing in nearby villages and I never took my camera of “night” setting for the entirety of the day trip. And when I got home I had to adjust a ton of pics in Photoshop because they all looked like this:


That is at about 12:30 in the afternoon, people. It’s a grim scene. I too would drink and invade other countries if it was that crappy for half the year. Which then leads to stands on every corner selling this:


I also was amused by how many different places were selling hot water bottles. I shut up right quick after I realized what a vital and exquisite item they are in this craptastic climate.

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Despite this being The Trip of My Butt Being Perpetually Kind of Damp and Cold I had a wonderful time. Neenernator and her family were so gracious. They took me around and showed me all the things in and around the port city of Bremen. I ate more cake and chocolate then should be legally allowed, I’m surprised my pancreas didn’t tap out halfway through. I cannot thank her family enough for their hospitality.

The first two days I was there we went to Bremen, mainly to check out the Christmas market in the main square. Bremen is an old European city and you know what that means – old European architecture!

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Here is one of the guild houses.

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And here’s the town hall. Note the alternating red and black brick. Nice touch.

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And, of course, there’s a cathedral called a Dom (pronounced “dome”).


Outside guarding the doors are some fun little critters. I think this one is a griffin killing a snake. And on the other side is a lion biting a something in the neck on top of a shattered man. Not really sure what’s going on there, but I like it.

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The doors were pretty bangin’ as well, especially the door knockers. (See? See what I did there? I will not apologize.) I think the designer was going for lions but it being 1100 A.D. he may have never seen a lion, so the final result is a sheep who ran into the back of a truck and hasn’t been the same since. Good try, though.


The church inside is polychrome, meaning that it was painted with intricate patterns over the stone.

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There was some neat ironwork that was partial to because, you know, monsters, griffins, dragons, etc. are a soft spot for me.


And some old stone carvings. I love the dog-faced snake.


Neenernator took me around the dom to a side door. She informed me that the air under the cathedral was very dry and cool so when they buried people there they didn’t decompose, they just dried out. Which, as you well know, is the magical way mummies are made. At some point they dug these people up and then there they were, looking very dry and dessicated.

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This one was my favorite. Clearly he was a fat man when he was buried, but as he contracted his hands, which had been sitting on his corpulent belly, stayed frozen up in the air.


And this is a close-up of someone’s fingernails. Seriously, these mummies had no preparation of any kind and they were in pretty great condition.


Outside the cathedral was some serious Christmas marketry.

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It is so massive that it spills all over the city. Right outside the train station was a blob of market, all blinky and cheerful in the gloomy rain.

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On top of one of the bars there was an animatronic moose. I caught some footage of it singing along with “Jingle Bells.”



Primarily, like most fairs and markets, there was tons to drink and eat. There was all the beverages I mentioned before (we’ll go into further detail about them shortly) and then there was currywurst (I circled the no-kidding-around mustard dispensers):


Wild boar wurst:


Horse wurst:


Rotating steak:

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Salmon being cooked on wooden planks:

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Pancakes caramelized in butter and sugar, then topped with plum jam:

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Gingerbread hearts:


Schmaltzkuchen (literally translated to “fat cookies”):


Smoked eels:


And chocolates that looked like tools. I bought Cricket a wrench. He said it was delicious.

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Now, drinks. My goodness. One that Neenernator insisted I try was feuerzangenbowle. It’s wine poured over a stick of sugar rotating over a fire. I think rum is involved as well. It was very dark, but I circled the area where the fire/sugar stick was.

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And there was a man who I was convinced was a weird librarian monk in a previous life and he was selling his own interesting liquors and wines. These two (and there were about twenty-five) are mango-ginger liquor and walnut-cognac.

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What’s kind of great about Germany and most of the world that isn’t America is that people take personal responsibility for things. For example, everyone is drinking, right? And since this is a fair of sorts, there are rides where things move quickly. But there are no guard rails. There is nothing stopping you from walking right up to the moving parts of the ride at any time. And surprisingly, no one gets their arm ripped out of the socket because maybe they’re just not as stupid. Or litigious. Whatever the reason, it was nice to see.

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I took video footage of two rides, actually standing on the side where one could just place one’s hand on the rapidly spinning cars if one wanted. In the first one you can hear Neenernator gleefully say exactly the same thing I wrote above.

Next post: further forays in the German countryside.

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