Although it's still only half way through October and the Christmas markets, Christkindlmärkte, that spring up throughout Germany are not yet up and running and it is still warm enough to sit out in the sun and eat lunch al fresco, many of the shops here have a Christmassy feel. I love the way Germans do Christmas and shopping in Germany in the run up to it, is just a delight. Everything is just so "gemütlich" which is, if I have it right, the equivalent of English "cosy" only more so!
Cologne is a lovely place to wander around for shopping, not least because its centre is relatively compact and although most of the city had to be rebuilt after the Second World War, there are still narrow, cobbled streets inviting one down them like this one near the Buttermarkt in the Altstadt or Old Town.
And one comes upon delightful old houses with traditionally coloured, painted facades in chalky blue, buttercup yellow, pale mint green and strawberry pink like these which date from 1685 down near the bank of the Rhine.
Despite doing a bit of research for fabric and yarn shops in Cologne beforehand, I drew a bit of a blank on this score, on the ground. The first shop in the list Google gave me, turned out to sell a fantastic range of Regenschirme (umbrellas) but not a bolt of fabric or a ball of yarn in sight. Abandoning the umbrellas, the next shop on my list proved a slightly better bet - it sold plenty of fabrics, some beautiful cotton yarn and lots of interesting haberdashery. I decided against indulging in speculative fabric buying as the cotton prints were, slightly disappointingly, mostly ones I could get in the UK and there didn't seem much point using up valuable packing space for that. But some lengths of bias binding in very pretty prints and some jacquard braid in a traditional German pattern were more like it, as was some of the beautiful cotton yarn. And in Bonn I found some delicious and inexpensive, pure wool felting yarn which I bought in just a few experimental colours.
Turning from my fabric and yarn quest to Christmassy stuff and everywhere have been tempting displays of Christmassy bits and pieces - Christmas tree decorations, in glass and wood, papier mâché and silvered metal and everywhere materials to make items out of Filz (felt).
A felt wreath, like one of these, looks a lovely Advent project - beautifully simple and easy, and open to all sorts of finishing off touches - cut out felt stars, flowers or holly leaves, crocheted poinsettias with pointed petals or Christmas roses with rounded ones, attached in groups, little tinkly bells or baubles sewn on at intervals, etc, etc - all sorts of possibilities!
Advent is taken seriously as a season in Germany and there are many innovative ways to mark each day from the beginning of December such as Advent Tee - a box of twenty four different fruit and spiced teas for each day - and twenty four candy-shelled, chocolate beans in what looks like a pill packet from which you pop one each day. (As with all these things, I think the rule is to "finish the course"!) Every shop window is a vitrine in which to find new delights - sweets and cocoa-dusted marzipan, gingerbread, spiced Makronen, (macaroons) and Zimt (cinnamon) flavoured cookies, candle-holders and place-settings, baubles and gewgaws galore. Also, ubiquitously and entertainingly, toadstools of the cheerfully red-and-white-spotted, Fly Agaric variety in felt and glass and wood. I love toadstools and had to buy a tiny glass one. New to me as a Christmas motif, but may be there is a German Christmas tradition allied to them? The German for toadstool appears to be "Fliegenpilz" which really means "flying mushroom" - isn't that a lovely concept? I think so.
So what did Mrs T do in the midst of all this? Well, need you ask?! She bought a variety of the above - that's what, within the confines that purse and suitcase space allowed, (the latter stretched to the utmost!), and as a little thank you to those of you who have so kindly commented here in the last few days and kept me company on my little German foray, some of them are for you, if you fancy them!
If you have commented on any of my posts since and including last Saturday and fancy a little German parcel, with a Christmassy touch or two, coming your way to get you in the mood for Weihnachten, then leave another comment to that effect at the bottom here and three of you, randomly selected by the trusty random number generator, can expect one to be on its way to you shortly! Unfortunately I can't ship edibles to the US because Customs won't allow it and they pinch the goodies, so the contents of the parcels will vary slightly depending on where they are going but I will send anywhere and I hope you will enjoy them and that your Christmas, when we get there - not so long to go now - will be truly gemütlich and fröhlich!