Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas Moments in Europe

A Midnight Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris( Prior to the recent fire)
So much has been already written about the beauty of Europe during Christmas that it is difficult to fathom another post on the subject. The mere presence at any place in Europe leaves a lasting impression during this time. I have been fortunate to be at some of these destinations, not by design but a mere stroke of good luck!
Wishing at Trevi Fountain in Rome to see more places
Celebrations in Europe start four Sundays prior to the eve of Christmas which marks the beginning of the Advent.  Post the Advent, most of the  Catholic countries also celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas on the 6th of December. This may not be the tradition in all countries but some of the best places to spend Christmas time do celebrate it as a part of their culture. Following the feast, the main celebration is that of the Christmas Eve wherein people attend the Midnight Mass and relish heartwarming meals with their families and friends. Depending on the place the variations of Roasted Potatoes, Ham, Chicken, Turkey, stuffings and puddings are the most favourites.
Midnight Mass at St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta in Malta
I would share my experiences with some of the places where I witnessed the beauty of places at this time starting with Malta. The relatively quiet country with immense natural beauty and splendid fortresses and cobbled alleys turn into a dreamlike reality. I learnt that the Midnight Mass at the St John's co-cathedral should not be missed, but the entry to it was only by invitation.
The Archbishop at Midnight Mass at St John's Co-Cathedral at Valletta, Malta
I scrambled all over until I discovered that these invitations come from the President's office. It was all within walking distance and after going past the security managed to get the passes for self and family. It was worth every bit, as the hymns and carols by school children and meeting the president at handshake distance was something unimaginable. The delectable Pastis and Coconut macaroons of Valetta were just out of the world. The festive mood is omnipresent with neon lights, Christmas trees and eats everywhere
The huge Christmas Tree at Galeries Lafayette in Paris
The memories of Paris and Nice of the time spent during Christmas are very fond ones. The amazing display of lights and throngs of people, the markets that spring up impromptu, patisserie and boulangerie, tarts and cakes are perhaps the best ones. The spellbinding decoration at Galeries Lafayette in the heart of the city is bound to hold you from moving ahead till you stand and admire the amazing Christmas tree and the shimmer all around
Hagia Sofia in Istanbul
The city of Istanbul was covered in snow when we landed around Christmas time. Among the most memorable moments were strolling on the Galata Bridge in freezing cold, devouring baklava and
Hafiz Mustafa in Istanbul
Turkish delights at Hafiz Mustafa, and a visit to Hagia Sofia which was beautifully illuminated and the interiors so amazing that one could spend the entire day there. Once a mosque and a church it has an alluring past.
Christmas festivities at Markthal in Rotterdam
The spectacular lights of Linjbahn and Markthal, a dazzling display of fireworks on the Erasmus bridge, Peppernoten(Dutch Spice Biscuits) the special dessert sold during Christmas are the high points of Rotterdam. The canals and streets of the adjoining towns like Gouda, Utrecht and others turn the Dutch landscape into a fairyland. A number of special festival events happen including Candle Light decoration in Gouda, Charles Dickens festival at Deventer transform these little towns to little havens.
The Christmas Market in Prague

It would be unfair to complete this post without a mention of the Prague, a Mecca of Christmas festivities. Cold weather is no dampener and hot chocolate and mulled wine pep up the evenings. Medovina ( the honey wine), Sausages, Trdelink(  a sweet cake made from rolled dough wrapped over a stick and grilled over a low fire and sprinkled with sugar) will leave the taste buds unsatiated with heavenly aroma spreading all around the Christmas Markets in the city.

This post can get endlessly long but just a glimpse of the few treats that await a traveller to these destinations have a huge magnet-like attraction. I would not mind repeating any of these  experiences ever again while I continue my hunt for more places

PS All Pics are mine

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