Even the Santas Are Tall

Santa Hats
We went for a wander through the kerstmarkt on Twijnstraat today and had a festive time. The market was even bigger this year and there were some really lovely items, as well as lots of tasty food and drink. We had our first gluhwein of the season, sipped after heading down one of the narrow alleys down to the Oudegracht. It’s always a nice break midway from the crowds!

From the very beginning of the market, there were people giving out free Santa hats. I got one, which came in handy at times since it was misting with rain. One of the people giving out the hats was the giant Santa on stilts. Or is he just particularly tall and skinny? Here in the Netherlands, it’s hard to tell sometimes!

Dutch Saint Nick
However, there was also a more traditionally sized Santa on hand, and kids could sit on his lap and have their picture taken (by their parents). There was even a Mrs. Claus, as it turns out, although I didn’t see her until later and didn’t get a photo.

The market is taking place again next weekend, so be sure to check it out if you can make it into town. I think there will also be a market at Janskerkhof. They were there yesterday, in small numbers, but there was no market there today.

Also, if you’re in the Den Haag area and want to order some Christmas baked goods this season, don’t forget my dear friends over at American Baking Company! They’ve even made a little video to wish you all a happy holiday season.

Christmas Blog Hop

Twijnstraat Kerstmarkt
Thanks to Twitter, I stumbled across a blog hop hosted by Blog In France, a fellow expat blog. What better date than 12-12-12 to have a Christmas/expat-themed blog hop! Best of all, it’s a great way to read about other traditions in other countries and how they get incorporated into an expat’s new life. I figured I’d share a bit about one of the Christmas traditions here in Utrecht (the Netherlands) that helps get me into the holiday spirit.

The kerstmarkt (Christmas market) may be more well known in Germany, but they pop up in cities and countries in this general part of the world. Utrecht’s is hardly the largest or oldest, but it takes place on Twijnstraat, a lovely historic street in the old city center, which also happens to be the oldest shopping street in Utrecht. Hidden behind the rows of shops on the right is the Oudegracht, one of the multi-level canals unique to Utrecht. Part of our tradition is to get a cup of gluhwein (mulled wine) from the market and wander down to the wharf level to enjoy the scenery.
Twijnstraat a/d Werf

Get Your Glühwein!

Twijnstraat and some of the side streets are filled with stalls selling food, drink, decorations, yarn, antiques, and more. Many of the kramen (stalls) feature organic products from the area. In fact, a monthly organic market combines with the kerstmarkt during the Christmas season.

Last year, the market extended down one of the side streets to Nicolaaskerkhof, the square next to Nicolaikerk (Nicholas Church). There were more stalls on hand, as well as a crepe stall and some special treats for the children, including a charming merry-go-round powered by bicycle (of course) and special sleigh rides with Santa and a couple of his reindeer!
Santa's Reindeer

Saint Nick

Not surprisingly, there was also a nativity scene with lots of animals to accompany Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The low-key donkey was a placid contrast to some of the llamas and goats that helped make up the menagerie.
Away in a Manger

Lunch at the Manger
This year, we’ll be visiting the kerstmarkt again, although it will also be held at Janskerkhof this year, in addition to the Twijnstraat location. Either way, we’ll be heading to Nicolaikerk on Saturday to listen to the Christmas and Advent Concert in the church, which I’m sure will help generate a bit more holiday spirit.
Nikolaaskerk

Please hop on over to the other blogs taking part in today’s blog hope. Many of them are giving away special prizes, as well as sharing their expat life.

Blog in France Bloghop

A Flamingo in Utrecht
Expat Christmas
Box53b
Word By Word
Vive Trianon
Fifty Shades of Greg
Books Are Cool
Perpignan Post
Jive Turkish
Very Bored in Catalunya
Life on La Lune
Scribbler in Seville
Blog in France Christmas
Les Fragnes Christmas
ReadEng. Didi's Press
Steve Bichard .com
Edit My Book
Zombie Christmas
Christmas in Cordoba
The best Christmas blog ever
The Christmas Surprise.
Sci-fi Writer Jeno Marz
The best Christmas quilting blog ever
Painting in Tuscany
The Business of Life…
Funny tweets
we've got a new house but no stuff and it's Christmas
Paris Cheapskate
What about your saucepans?
When I Wasn't Home for Christmas or Celebrating
ShockWaves Launch Party
The French Village Diaries
Melanged Magic
Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France
Piccavey.com – An English Girl in Granada
Bordeaux Bumpkin
French immersion
Callaloo Soup
Grigory Ryzhakov
Piglet in Portugal
Beyond MÃnana
Chronicles of M Blog

Kerstmarkt

Germany isn’t the only place to have Christmas markets; The Netherlands has it’s fair share of them and we went to one of them yesterday here in Utrecht. De Kerstmarkt in de Twijnstraat (The Christmas market in Twijnstraat) was a one-day event down in the southern tip of the city center. We weren’t really going to do any shopping, we just wanted to get out and enjoy the sights, particularly as the weather was clearer than it has been in a while, although it was quite a bit colder than it’s been so far this winter.

As you can see, the sun was out and shining brightly. This wasn’t late afternoon, though, despite the long shadows. Nope, this was shortly after noon. Of course, when the sun sets around 4 p.m., I guess noon could be considered late afternoon.

This was one of the more surprising scenes we saw. Quite realistic, isn’t it! Although, in this case, it was the dog that I was really trying to get a photo of, because he was just adorable and so calm and placid. There were lots of dogs about, so I think it was a good idea we didn’t take Pippo with us. I think he would have been overwhelmed! I saw a few dogs sniffing closely at some of the food stalls, as it was.

The stalls were a mix of food, Christmas decorations, and random odds and ends. There were some nice star decorations that I’m kind of wishing we’d bought now. Some of the stalls like the one above were representing the shops they were standing before. In this case, it was an Italian delicatessen. I think I read that Twijnstraat is the oldest shopping street in Utrecht, and there were certainly a number of interesting shops that I’d like to go back and visit. One of them is the butcher that was selling these sausages:

Of course, it’s not a Christmas market without some glühwein (mulled wine). There were plenty of stalls selling vats of the stuff. We couldn’t resist and soon had a cup warming our hands (and our insides). There’s just something so gezellig about a cup of glühwein on a chilly afternoon!