Since we hadn’t done a christmas market in a couple of years, we decided that this year we would make the effort to go to one in the Netherlands and since Germany was so close we would find one we hadn’t been to there.
We had some Tesco vouchers that we converted into Eurotunnel vouchers to help make the trip cheaper. We converted those and paid the little bit extra to get Eurotunnel over – it is the best way! No choppy seas, no long travel times (i’ll get to that below), drive on and drive off.
I also booked an Airbnb in a little town on the outskirts of Amsterdam called Uithoorn (pronounced Outhorn). It worked out well, we had our own rooms and the bonus for me was that the house was on the final approach to Schiphol airport so I was in my element – being in a different country AND close to an airport.
Anyway, about the travel times. I got picked up straight from work and we headed to the tunnel. Eurostar usually has a policy that if you arrive within 2 hours of your stated travel time and there is room they will accommodate you on the next train with spaces.
We got there at 19:00 ish (this is important to know) and the next train with space was in just 40 minutes time but required an uplift of £40 to be paid. As frugal as I am, I politely ignored the request on screen. I decided that I would speak to customer service which turned out to be less than helpful. At this point we had 3 hours and 20 minutes before our booked train.
When I spoke with customer service, I was advised they only offer the 2 hour window if you arrive AFTER your allotted time. I was told this has always been the case (not true, we have always been able to get on earlier for free if there has been space). I was told for a £30 uplift, we could get on the 21:20 train. I am so glad we didn’t pay for it as about 20 minutes later there was a trespasser in the tunnel (a common occurrence since Calais has so many migrants trying to get to the UK for a better life) and that all services were delayed. Our departure time went from 22:20 to Please Wait. Not a good sign since we – Jamie – had a 3.5 hour drive from Calais to Uithoorn.
We ended up leaving at 23:00 because of all this trouble. It’s one of the risks when you use Eurotunnel.
We finally got to Calais and off the train at about 00:30 and headed off to our Airbnb. The drive there was pretty uneventful given how it was the small hours of the morning. We finally got to the house around 04:00 and headed straight to bed ready for the adventures of the next few days.
We have already been to the market in Aachen so that was not our main reason for visiting.
The main reason for our visit hear was for the Lindt factory shop. You can get Lindt so much cheaper here than in the stores in Germany and way cheaper than the stores here in the UK.
As an example, a 100g bar of Lindt would cost around £2.50 ish in the UK. The factory shop charged €1.10 which is about £1.00
I may have overdone it with the spending here. Haha. Oh well, it was being dished out to friends so that means it’s ok… right? I thought so too.
Since we were in Aachen, we decided that we would visit the christmas market (since we knew where it was this time). One of the reasons for going to the market were the thinly grated and fried potato fritters. They are delicious. If you ever go to Germany at christmas time you absolutely have to try them! We couldn’t find a decent stall for some Currywurst though. I really wanted some despite feeling under the weather.
Since we had already been here, there wasn’t a lot for us to see that we hadn’t already seen.
Here are some pictures from Lindt and the market
Munster was my choice as I wanted to go back into Germany to a town/city with a market that we hadn’t been to before.
I had my eye on a couple of places but Munster won. It turned out to be a good choice too. As well as having around 130 stalls, there were also a couple of churches and a cathedral.
We found parking before we left and headed to the car park so we could go from there. We parked up and let the rain pass and then took our umbrellas and headed out to the market.
Jamie was the guide and guided us to where the stalls were. It was in a tiny square and we though there had to be more stalls than were presented to us there.
The square was cozy and the stalls were nice. One of the features was a full size Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid). If you are not sure of what these are, they are pyramids that have several layers. On the outside of each layer, it has holders for candles. Once you light the candles, the hear then turns the propellers at the top and this in turn rotates the central decoration. They really are quite cool.
This is the one in the square in Munster
From here, we decided to follow the map and the crowd. They had the main streets cordoned off once we got closer to the market stalls. When I say there were a lot of stalls, there were a lot of stalls. The stalls in the smaller towns/cities are generally better as they provide a lot more hand made crafts and not so much of the mass produced tourist trap tat. This is why we try and go to the smaller markets.
We found somewhere that sold Schmalzkuchen (it’s a vanilla flavoured donut dough with powdered sugar). The literal translation is Lard Cake but they are from from this. They are actually quite delicious. We also managed to find some more Kartoffelpuffer – literally potato pancakes. These are delicious. You have to try them!
We found one of the churches and sat in there for a while – our feet were killing us so this was welcome relief. We were there for about 30 minutes and then headed out to see the stalls that we missed and then headed to St.-Paulus-Dom. We spent maybe 45 minutes here. There was a lot to see given the size of it.
We decided to head back out to some of the stalls to find some Kinderpunsch – a non-alcoholic version of Glühwein. Again, it’s something else that taste nice. Be warned though, it is expensive but that is because they force you to buy the cups the put it in – makes for a good souvenir I suppose. We headed back to the square for more Kartoffelpuffer and Currywurst before heading to the car and heading back to Uithoorn.
Below are some pictures from Münster
We decided since we were staying on the outskirts of Amsterdam that we would visit here. We had a look and there weren’t really any christmas markets going on in Amsterdam during the time we were here so it wasn’t a huge rush to get to the city.
The markets were before and after we were here. Jamie has an app for Rick Steve’s and he does walking tours of various cities around the world and he had some for Amsterdam. We decided we would do that. Jamie would listen (I am not a fan of his so wasn’t so bothered about what he had to say) and give me the important info and I would follow along with her.
We parked at the Olympic Stadium (extortionate prices – be warned) and got a tram to Dam Square. Jamie found a cheese shop so we headed there. They were giving away free samples. Who couldn’t say no to that and to trying some of the samples they had out. Needless to say, we got some cheese and then headed to get some lunch. We were both hungry at this point.
Once we were done with lunch, we headed to the start of the tour which was Dam Square. It took us from Dam Square to Molsteeg and then over the Singel canal bridge, then along Oude Leilestraat and across the bridge over the Herengracht. We continued on down Leilegracht and then across the Keizersgracht. We then walked down Keizersgracht (the street not the canal) and stopped at the Homomonument, Anne Frank statue and Westerkerk.
We then walked up Prinsengracht (again the street not the canal) and crossed over the canal. We then walked down Nieuwe Leilestraat to Tweede Leliedwarsstraat and then to Egelantiersgracht 105 and stopped at Sint Andrieshofje and looked in the courtyard. This is where the tour ended. We spent a little over an hour doing this. Once we were done, we headed back to Magna Plaza to get some hot drinks before we headed to the Amsterdam Light Tour.
Below is the route we took on the Rick Steve’s tour and it was just under a mile.
The light tour turned out to be really good despite it being cold and on an open boat. One of the better parts was that the captain was also the guide. No pre-recorded crap. He gave us an insight to all the light installations around the Herengracht canal. Plenty of hot chocolate was had by Jamie and I to help us keep warm. We didn’t do the smart thing by wearing heavy, warm jackets. At least he had blankets on the boat.
Below are some pictures from Amsterdam and the Light Tour
One of the parts of the Netherlands that has always fascinated me is in the south of the country and it is an exclave/enclave area. It is very confusing. You would be forgiven for not knowing what country you are in when you are in this area. The area is called Baarle Hertog in Belgium and Baarle Nassau in the Netherlands.
I decided that we should go home that way so we could get some pictures and some souvenirs from this fascinating area. It is believed to have started from 2 aristocratic families not wanting to relinquish land once formal borders were in place between Belgium and the Netherlands. The result is the Belgian enclaves within the Netherlands. There are a couple of Dutch exclaves within Belgian enclaves. Are you confused? Welcome to my world.
The only way to truly determine which country you are in is to look at the house numbers. When you are in the Netherlands, the house numbers are on a Dutch flag. When in Belgium, there is a Belgian flag in the top left corner. In parts of this area, there are white crosses on the ground that denote the border too with a B and NL on either side.
There are a couple of places where the border runs right through the house and where this happens, the houses have 2 house numbers – 1 for Belgium and 1 for the Netherlands. It really is quite a unique area. There was one part we were in where we were in the Netherlands in Belgium in the Netherlands. It was a Dutch exclave in a Belgian enclave in the Netherlands. You can see the map below of the exclave and enclaves. I have marked it to show this confusing part we were in.
Here are a few pictures from this area
Once we were finished looking around this area, we decided to head towards the tunnel. We again had a late train and were hoping that we could get an earlier one due to both working the next day.
The drive seemed to take forever – not sure if that was due to the sat nav taking us the scenic way or if it was because the trip was over.
We found a Subway in Dunkirk and had some food before heading back out to the tunnel.
We got to check in and it said there was a train an hour earlier on that we could change to free of charge. We dutifully accepted this. I thought this strange since I was adamantly told Eurotunnel do not offer this kind of service just a few days prior! Well, that hour was appreciated. It meant we both got home at a semi-reasonable time and not some unearthly hour like on the way to Uithoorn.
You can see all the pictures from the trip here