I step onto the platform after a four hour train ride, march through the station out into the street and admire the utter quaintness of the scene in front of me. Rows of little wooden rooves, crowds of shoppers flowing as swiftly as the water in the river below the bridge and a tingling in my toes explained in equal parts by excitement and the fact that I stayed seated for too long on the train.
This is it! The Strasbourg Christmas market.
The seagulls dip and swerve over the surface of the river, seemingly taking delight in being the centre of my attention.
But I’m already distracted by my rumbling stomach. I sniff the air appreciatively, trying to find the source of the tempting smell of fried onions that is wafting towards me.
I join the flow of people and am reminded – as I often am in these situations – of a shoal of fish swimming together in the same direction. The streets feel narrow and cute, the sky is bright blue and the bustling shoppers’ enthusiasm is contagious!
It turns out that the scent of onions was only the beginning. I smell mulled wine, warm oranges and rich hot chocolate. Bacons bits, roasted chestnuts and sickly sweet marshmallows join the mixture and I start feeling vaguely faint with hunger. A half hour and a brochette later, I am ready to appreciate the Christmas market for more than its food.
The river of people is really rushing now, and a huge Christmas tree towers over us as we all crane our necks (and whip out our smartphones) to admire it. It’ll be absolutely beautiful once the sun sets and the twinkly lights are switched on.
All around me, I see the pink bricks people so often speak of when talking of the city’s architecture. I finally make it to the famous cathedral and see Strasbourg’s main Christmas market: rows upon rows of pretty little stalls selling spicy tea, quality coffee and chocolate and sweet-smelling soaps. There are the inevitable oddities that I love in these places, such as bags made entirely of brightly-coloured zips or pouches made of a waterproof paper-like material.
There are also many beautiful objects that I would certainly have bought if I was not trying to declutter my apartment: exquisite hand painted porcelain bowls, fragile glass baubles painted with glittery glue and hand crafted silver jewelry with brightly coloured gems.
The day passes quickly. We make it back to the train station after dark and fall asleep almost as soon as the train starts moving. 3 hours and one last metro ride later, I finally make it home and slip back into mindless sleep in the comfort of my my own bed. Now that’s what I call a good day.