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December 3, 2006

Christmas market in Brussels

The Travel Channel

It's closing in on Christmas, and I have just been on my my final weekend trip to Brussels this year. This highlight of this trip was the opening of the annual Christmas Market in downtown Brussels, as is the annual tradition on this first weekend of December. As usual I got on a flight there right after work on Friday, and being tired from a week at work I headed straight to Carina's apartment in Ixelles when I arrived in the evening, leaving the fun of exploring the markets for the next day.

Saturday morning we headed downtown as soon as we got up to see what all the market-fuzz was about, and some fuzz it was! Several kilometers of streets were lined with booths and stands were everything from home-made souvenirs to foods and artwork were for sale.
First of all however, we decided to get most of our shopping for christmas presents out of the way, so before exploring the markets we stopped by several place like MetroShop and Waterstones bookstore to get the most important stuff that we would be bringing back to Norway. Once that was done we headed into the market area where progress was slow as we often stopped to look and taste of all the wonders available. We enjoyed many a cup of Glühwein, which is a heated red-wine suitable for those frosty days outside. I also found a new favorite in pastries, namely the spanish Churros which is fried dough-sticks with frosting sugar and a cup of melted chocolate or Nutella for dipping, simply amazing! Yum!

The market area was spread out through all the streets between Grand Place and Place St. Catherine where there even was a carnival sporting carousels, an ice-skating rink and a ferris wheel! We just had to go for a ride on the latter to see the view of the Brussels skyline from the top of the wheel, and we could even see all the way to Atomium. Other things of note at the market was the very detailed and beautifully lighted Jesus-crib with live sheep at Grand Place and a very large breathing blow-up ice-monster that kids could enter to get a scare. Last but not least were the Tallinn Christmas Village, a set of market-stands with thematic Christmas foods and decorations from Estonia to celebrate the city of Tallinn being this years guest of honor. Have a look at some pictures here!

As the day passed we started craving more wholesome foods, so then we found ourselves another market specialty; cheese-boiled potatoes&ham. While it was good food both filling and hot, it was a tad too fatty and making me nauseous. Combined with our arms tiring from all the gifts we bought early on we decided to head home to rest for a while and to leave all our heavy bags behind so we wouldn't have to drag them around all night too.
Then after spending a few hours at home waiting for the daylight to fade, we headed back downtown to have a look at the spectacular light-show and the beautifully lighted Christmas tree at Grand Place. After enjoying the show we walked back through the markets to see the new stands that had opened, as well as seeing the spectacle of lights from the carnival while snacking on some delicious popcorn and cotton-candy. There we just had to go on another spin in the ferris-wheel to get a birds-eye view of the city by night. Being full from all the snacking we ended up with just having some classic Belgian fries with curry-ketchup and mayo for supper before heading home for the night.

Sunday was as usual a day to relax, so we just went to an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood for dinner and otherwise just hung out in the apartment before I had to leave for my evening flight back to Oslo. For killing time on the flights this time around I plowed through the Orwellian classic 'Animal Farm', which shouldn't need any further introduction in its criticism of utopian equality among people. I also read Kate Wilhelms cloning dystopia 'Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang', which gives a chilling vision of a future where humanity itself is poisoned through environmental disasters.

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