Christmas Eve is very important in Germany, more important than Christmas Day by most accounts. All of the museums were closed as such, so we got up and moving to get some time in at the Cathedral, then spent some time enjoying the hustle and bustle of the shopping district as busy shoppers finished up their Christmas shopping. I’ll leave the description of the Cathedral for tomorrow’s post and cover the day’s other activities instead.
After a visit to the Cathedral we headed down one of the main shopping streets. Cologne is a major shopping destination in Germany, and the shops went on for blocks and blocks. We enjoyed watching busy, mostly happy, shoppers rush about finishing up their Christmas shopping. Some of the department stores had fabulous window displays set up for the children. Galeria Kaufhof’s windows were all done with Stieff bears.
We stopped at the store’s excellent food hall to buy some food to take back to our hotel – as most everything would be closed for the next 48 hours and we didn’t want to be caught out.
The food hall has a fabulous selection of meats – in good German tradition – and Steve had to have a lot of self control as we had no cooking facilities – only a fridge for cold meats.
With our provisions we headed back to the hotel. Just a few minutes before two, as all the stores were closing we spotted a small hat shop on a side street. Steve convinced me to go in and I immediately spotted the hat I had been looking for! Steve bought it as a gift for me for Christmas:-)
As we walked back to the hotel everything was closed, and people were walking to their cars or the U-bahn to head home. The streets got very quiet very quickly – and it would stay that way for the next 2 days. Now with everything closed we settled into our hotel room for some R&R.
We splurged on a great hotel for our base over Christmas. We stayed at the Pullman Hotel – a large business hotel – based on its excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. It was quite a bit like a Westin. The room was very large, and had a view of the Cathedral spires. (A higher floor would have an even nicer view). The bed was bigger than an American King – crazy huge – with a feather bed and lots of pillows – good for all the naps that we took. I would highly recommend it if you’re in a position to splash out.
The hotel bar was open for dinner – so we headed down about 7 to get something to eat. The hotel was almost a ghost town. We asked how many people were staying in the hotel that night – and the waitress replied 40! The hotel has about 350 rooms – and if you figure there were two people in each room that is only 20 rooms! 2 rooms per floor. No wonder it was dead silent! We never saw or heard another guest on our floor during our entire stay. The front desk clerk was sitting on the sofa in the lobby and I think that the managers were doing the room cleaning on Christmas Eve so as many of the staff as possible could have the day off – a woman in a suit was manning the housekeeping cart with a vacuum in her hand.
We decided to go to a midnight mass at St Apostlen to Celebrate Christmas. It was beautiful – a full orchestra, choir and soloists. One piece they performed consisted of two sopranos doing some echos. It was startling at first, as their voices were so well matched that you would have thought it was the same voice if it wasn’t coming from a completely different location! It was a 2 hour full mass – and by Midnight I could not stay awake any longer – so we didn’t stay for all of the carols at the end, but it was a wonderful experience.