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Published: December 5th 2006
"Stretch your arms out and make a T as you are going down the stairs"
This morning I woke up around 8, got a good breakfast in and regrettably left my umbrella at home as I ran out the door and headed for the train station. I'm off to Münster, Germany!
This is the second SMIT (student exchange office) excursion. The first one was in Utrecht and I had such a great time and met some lovely Spanish girls. Since then, I actually had a dinner night with them and I was glad to see Clara and Laia waiting at the train station when I arrived.
This time, the trip was only 7 euros which included the train ticket and a nice walking tour. I met two other Spanish guys named Israel and Jesús (pronounced the Spanish way: "hey-soos"). Now that I write their names together I think it's kind of funny to have traveled with Israel and Jesus. hehe
The train ride took about an hour and a half and we just chatted, took some not-so-flattering photos of eachother and then arrived in Münster. Another side note: as you are reading this, appreciate my correct use of the accents because each time, I have to copy and paste from microsoft
"Please don't lean against the trains"
word since my computer is accent-handicapped. Münster is a smaller city but has a lot of charm, especially with the Christmas markets. I didn't know that there would be more than one. Turns out, there were 4 markets scattered about the town, all within walking distance of each other.
Our group was about 30 students and we all walked together down the street to meet up with a tour guide. Of course we all got a bit lost and it took 25 minutes of waiting on the street corner until we were united with the guide. He took us to the Münster university, talked about a bunch of history and then we walked through the Bishop's gardens (which are locked at sundown to keep the gardens peaceful and hobo-free). There are lots of churches in Münster and it was quite hard to keep up with all the names. I keep forgetting to bring with me a little notepad to jot down the names of places I see along the way.
We went inside a large cathedral called St. Paul's. It was built in the 13th century and then rebuilt a bit after the city of Münster was destroyed
in WWII. Inside was beautiful stained glass and a very large statue of Saint Christopher, the patron of travelers. He holds Jesus in his arms as well as a large walking stick. Also inside the cathedral was this amazing astronomical clock dating back to around the 1540s. It keeps correct time according to both the sun and moon. Noon is the most popular time to go because then these little figurines up top ding bells 12 times and then a wooden bishop slides out of a door, bows to the watchers and goes back behind another door. Sadly, it was 1:30 when we were there, but the clock was still very impressive.
We also saw St. Lambert's church, which is the famous Münster church with a blackened steeple dating back to around the 1370s. There were 3 cages hanging from the steeple which the tour guide explained were torture cages. Lovely. One of the guys that was put in the cage was Jan van Leiden - a Dutchman who was king of Münster before the army took over and captured him. Jan was quite the bad guy and to make a long story short, didn't rule the city for
Near Münster University
The city has canals but they don't function like the Netherlands canals. Too shallow
the people of Münster, and endorsed polygamy. He had 16 wives. Anyway, his body along with 2 other men were tortured with hot knives and the like and then each body was put in a cage and left to hang to let the people of Münster know that they were free from Jan van Leiden's communalistic rulings. The steeple was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt but the three cages are still the original ones.
Back to the pleasant Christmas market.
There was so much to see and it took over 2 hours to just get through one market. Tons of people packed through the narrow walkways. Most of the booths sold Christmas decorations and most of them were skillfully handmade - a lot of them out of thin pieces of wood. If I didn't have to cram all my belongings into one suitcase and a backpack, I would have bought some fragile wood ornament. Instead a cute tea light holder caught my eye. It's ceramic and painted turquoise (my favorite color) with a smiling little hippo leaning on the edge.
There was also all kinds of food booths selling more glühwein, lots of sausages, french fries, candied
Respect and Recycle
Germany is really strict about their recycling and garbage sorting. I think this is awesome and should be adopted in the USA
almonds and nuts, gummi candies, and the popular German heart cookies on a string. We were all hungry and decided to eat something called Überbackene Laügenstange (no idea how to pronounce).
After the cathedral we were free to go and had the rest of the day to explore the markets. The 5 of us (me and 4 spaniards) went to the main market and within minutes found ourselves hovering near a glühwein hut. I had heard about this special drink from many people because it's special to this time of year and everybody drinks it to keep warm. I think it's like warm spiced/fruity wine - now I confirm it with wikipedia.....yep, it's mulled wine. "Glühwein" in German means "glowing wine," I guess because it's bright red in color and is mixed with honey and other spices.
The sigh said Glühwein €2
, which was quite a deal. However when I asked for it, the woman said vier euros
. Hm....let me think back to learning my German numbers 1-30 in high school...eins, zwei, drei, vier...4 euros? I was a bit confused. I said "zwei" back to her and she said some long sentance back to me in German and
Enjoying the view
Couple just relaxing on the bench looking out at one of the churches.
her tone at the end was higher, signaling it was a question. Umm.. "ja" (yes) I replied back even though I had no idea what she just asked me. At some moments it's good to be able to understand before responding with "yes," but I was only trying to buy wine, so it wasn't such a big deal.
Then she handed me a very cool blue ceramic mug filled with glühwein. I wondered if we had to return the mugs and then I realized that the other 2 euros was probably for the mug. Cool! The mug says Münster on it and will be a great souvenier.
This was the first day the Christmas markets opened and it was overpacked with very tall people. The tour guide said that they expect more than 50,000 people to pass through the markets each weekend day. once again, travelblog has failed me and deleted parts of my blog as I attempted to save it. grrrr
The market stands had a lot of homemade trinkets, mostly Christmas decorations and lots of ornaments. There was some great jewelry and metal children toys. A lot of the items were either ceramic or
Entering the Bishop's garden
The gate there is the one that's locked in the evening
delicately made out of thin pieces of wood. I would think about bringing something like that home but then I remember I have to squeeze all my crap into only one suitcase and a backpack.
My eyes did fall upon a cute tea light holder that was ceramic and turquoise (my favorite color). I really appreciate handmade crafts, especially ceramics and glass since I used to do it in high school and I know how hard it is to make clay look good and not like just a dried blob of clay. =)
We were quite hungry and meandered around a lot of the food stations. There was lots to choose from - I really couldn't tell whether there were more food huts or craft huts. I'd say about the same. There was all kinds of food including many more glühwein stations, lots of grilled sausages, french fries, gummi candy, candied almonds and other nuts, and the popular Germany heart shaped cookies that kids wear around their necks.
We decided to try something called Überbackene Laügenstange. This was made out of soft pretzel dough and shaped into what resembled a figure 8 or something but without the
holes. Then the stop is filled with various vegetables or meat. I bought one topped with 5 or 6 pieces of broccoli which was then covered in a thin layer of melted cheese. tasty, or as they say in Dutch: lekker!
Clara and Laia bought all their Christmas gifts at the market and the boys didn't buy anything but food (typical, haha). I love markets in general because you really make contact with the people and there's so much energy floating around and bouncing off all the highly decorated huts.
We finally managed to visit almost every hut in the main Christmas market without losing anybody. Walking through a chaotic market in a group of 5 really made me appreciate the joys of traveling solo. It was good to experience group travel though. After the market we tried to find another one, but the second one was not as lively. I think it was more of an advertisement market run by local organizations who wanted donations for different charities. We walked through this one much faster and as we were about to leave two old ladies flagged us down and handed me, Clara, and Laia each a small
St. Paul's Cathedral
More of the Cathedral
wooden angel and a 3-D wooden dove. They spilled off a few sentances in German and we all smiled, listened, and said "Danke" (thank you). I wonder what they said, but there are so many other ways to communicate other than just with words - smiling and selfless giving.
On our way back, a warm cafe called out our names and we sat in the cafe for about an hour just doing the normal chatting and exchanging of stories. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I decided that morning not to take my umbrella. A bad idea because although it was sunny and bright when I headed off to the station, it was pouring down buckets in Münster.
Sopping wet and wind-whipped, a short wait at the train station, and then we were on the train back to Enschede. It was a great day and I definitely loved the Christmas markets as well as seeing Clara and Laia again and meeting Israel and Jesús.
I posted some of the good pictures I took and I'm waiting for some of Clara and Laia's to add to this blog. I'll update this one with their pics once I
St. Paul's Cathedral
Inside. Great vaulted ceilings
Up Next for Myia and her Adventures:
- Edam (15 minutes from Amsterdam), famous for Edam cheese
- Amsterdam to meet up with a friend from Seattle who's studying in Spain
- Cologne, Germany with German friends Nina and Wiebke
- PARIS solo trip!!!!
- Amsterdam again for Christmas (maybe some outings to nearby cities)
- Back to Seattle!
Love to all the readers and the fam. Also, good luck with those about to take final exams. See you soon! xoxo
P.S. Remember to look at page 2 of photos. Also, a cool thing if you're interested - you can rate my photos with starts if you like them. =)
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