Or The Search For Santa
I swirled around the ice waving to Den as I passed. This really is fun, out in the night with all the lights and noises of the Weinachtsmarkt all around. A quick toe loop, get a bit of speed, up….and down, cool! With hair flying behind I navigated the crowded ice for seemingly ever, a grin fixed to my face.
BRRRRNNNGGG! BRRRRNNNGGG! BRRRRNNNGGG!
My hand reached out for the bell that Den was ringing.
BRRRRNNNGGG! BRRRRNNNGGG! BRRRRNNNGGG!
There was a clatter, which caught my attention and brought me quickly awake, jeez, my alarm! My arm flailed in panic and finally actually made contact allowing me to turn it off. I pried my eyes open, urgh seven thirty! It took a moment longer to remember where I was, hmm Köln, Christmas markets, sugar I'd best get organised. I reached out for my trousers, hang on these aren't… it all came flooding back then… oh *&%$£!
“You coming?” Den enquired through the door fifteen minutes later.
“Coming.” I slipped my feet into my boots as I reprised last night's outfit, hey its cold out there!
“There you are.” Den sighed as I exited my room, “looks like Nena's back then.”
“I guess so.” I agreed.
“Well let's be up and at it then.”
Although it was cold the day was promising to be bright although the river was supplying some early morning mist. Its not a long drive to Koblenz, maybe an hour on the motorway, not a great deal longer going the ‘scenic' route along the river – well from Königswinter at any rate. Although it was billed as a ‘relaxing day' we were still scheduled to depart from the hotel at nine thirty. It was probably the extra half an hour but I was pleasantly surprised when we were actually all loaded ready to go at nine twenty five.
“Güten morgen everyone.”
There was a chorus of greetings from down the bus.
“We hope you all enjoyed the Köln markets last night, Den and I certainly did. Well today the pace will be a bit less frenetic with our visits to Koblenz and Bonn. We will take a fairly leisurely drive to Koblenz this morning where you will have time to explore shops and markets as well as look for Santa! Then about three o'clock we will depart and make our way to Bonn where we will spend the evening at the markets before we return to our hotel for a buffet dinner. I will be around shortly if you have any questions but for now sit back and enjoy the drive.”
“Looks like we're going the right way.” Den noted as I returned to my seat a few minutes later.
“Cologne is gonna be jammed today, look at this lot.” He pointed at the other carriageway.
“You're not kidding!” just about every other vehicle was a coach, Dutch, French, British, German and some clearly from Poland and places east. We must have passed at least fifty before we crossed the Zoobrucke – that's a lot of market goers! At least we were going against the traffic.
“Tea please.” Den requested.
I made my way back to the little kitchen area and started the brewing process. My thoughts went back to the last time I was in Koblenz, back in the summer.
"So where are we off to?"
"Koblenz, we'll catch the train, it's easier than trying to park in town. And I've got a season ticket" she giggled.
"What about the others that are going, coming whatever?"
"We'll meet them at the restaurant, most of them live in Koblenz or nearby."
By the number and dress of the people on the platform waiting, a lot of people were doing the same. I was a bit nervous of the group of teenage Goths but no one else was taking any notice so I did my best to ignore them too. The southbound train arrived and we quickly joined the other passengers on the 'party' express - well that's what I dubbed it.
We chatted about our respective days, the effects of Ma Polch's schnapps and my taste in women's clothing and seemingly in minutes we were crossing the Mosel on the approach to Koblenz Bahnhof. Compared to Andernach, Koblenz is a roaring metropolis! We made our way out of the station into the plaza that provides a site for the taxi rank, bus station and Mika informed me, an open-air ice rink!
"Walk?" Mika asked.
Well it was still quite mild and I was wearing comfy shoes.
Mika led the way; our arms linked like you often see girlfriends, me in a short dress and my friend in a glittery boob tube and straight leg trousers. I made a mental note of our route but so far it seemed straight forward, straight along Löhrstrasse, over a dual carriageway and then into the pedestrianised shopping.
"Not so far now" Mika observed.
"You never said it was a ten mile hike."
"What is this 'ten mile hike'?"
"Sorry, long walk."
"I forgot how far it is from the station, it is only a short way now" we crossed another street and entered what was clearly the home to Koblenz' nightlife. Café's and restaurants spilled onto the street and at different places everything from jazz to disco permeated the airwaves.
We finally turned into a small square and headed for an eatery on the far side.
"Mika!" a woman's voice greeted us.
Mika changed to German; I won't be speaking English again tonight!
"Ah Claudia, the others they are not here? Oh sorry, this is Nena, my friend from England."
"Hi Nena, pretty dress."
"Thank you, nice to meet you." Claudia looked to be thirty something and was wearing what could be termed conservative chic, silk blouse and straight cut leather trousers!
"No, Heidi rang to say they'd be a few minutes late."
We sat ourselves down and Mika ordered a couple of cokes for us.
"So what brings you to this neck of the woods Nena? Holiday?"
"Work I'm afraid, I'm a tour host."
"Tonight will be a change from your hotel then eh?"
"Quite a change" she wouldn't know how big however!
"Where do you stay?"
"Andernach, the Vulkan-Eifel."
"Ah you are with Margrit," she observed.
"You know her?" Mika asked.
"Yes, we went to school together."
The rest of our party chose that moment to arrive. Claudia took charge of the introductions, Susan, Anna, Heidi and Tina. Anna looked to be in her forties but the others at a guess were all late twenties and I was feeling more than a little overdressed! Ah well, too late to do anything about it now.
The restaurant was Italian and provided a decent range of Mediterranean cuisine, I settled on Tagliatelle Carbonara with a salad. By nine thirty we were ready to move on and our gaggle of chattering women, and me, set off for the dance bar. When we got there we had to queue for a few minutes before being admitted to the heaving mass of bodies inside. Remember Seefeld; this place was nothing like that! In here, I was the one who fit in, as we joined gyrating, half dressed girls - and boys on the dance floor.
I was amazed however when everyone started getting on down, even Anna. Hey why not. I'm not going to tell you too much about the evening in the club, other than we danced, we drank, Heidi did karaoke and we all had a good time! I was really enjoying myself and when Mika suggested we should be getting off, I could have happily stayed. We all started walking together but the others spotted the last bus and had to make a dash to catch it, leaving Mika and me alone to get back to the station for our train.
I smiled to myself, that was a really good night, mind you I was being Nena then too, at least I'm dressed a bit less, um, sassy!
By the time I had done the rounds and returned to Betsy's front seats we were motoring alongside the Rhein south of Bonn.
“What are you grinning at?”
“Nothing much, I was just thinking about when we stayed at Andernach back in the summer.”
“Ah Mama Polch!” he replied with feeling.
“And other stuff.” I added with a hint of annoyance in my voice.
“You don't fancy another schnapps party?”
“Not without warning!”
“There is that.” He agreed.
“The river looks high.” I noted.
“It's been pretty wet over here this week, I guess it's making its way to sea.”
“Where are we dropping?”
“Okay, that should be okay, we can park down by the Deutches Eck then.”
“If there's space.” He noted.
Despite the traffic as we approached our destination we dropped our cargo of eager shoppers just after eleven. The fact that other coaches were dropping off hinted at busy markets and some potential parking issues for us. Indeed the usual coach parking was fully occupied when we reached the symbol of unified Germany. However the authorities soon had us parked on the bank of the Mosel alongside the cruise docks by the Balduinbrücke.
“We having a walk in?” Den enquired.
“I guess so, might as well see if I can get some info for that private hire in March.”
“Thought they were supplying the itinery?”
“They have already, its really vague, a few places they want to visit but it looks like muggings here is getting to organise things tho. I'm supposed to be meeting the bloke in charge on Monday night, you can come for your two pennath if you want, eight o'clock at the Royal Oak.”
“I'll see what my other half is up to.” He locked Betsy up and we crossed to the steps up into the town.
Unlike a lot of places, the Weinachtsmarkt in Koblenz is spread around the old town and a couple of other small bits elsewhere rather than all concentrated in one square. As a result we found ourselves in amongst the early shoppers virtually as soon as we cleared the steps into the Florins Markt.
We had been wandering around for a while when a voice caught my attention.
My head snapped around. (<> In German)
<“It is you!” the woman exclaimed, “I thought it was but I wasn't sure.”>
I tried to place her.
<“Claudia, Mika's freund?”>
Then it came back to me – leather trouser woman!
<“Ah Claudia! What a surprise.” We did the air kiss thing – well it was sort of expected. “How are things?”>
<“You know, so so. And you? Who is the hunk?”>
I coloured up like a light bulb going on. <“My driver, Dennis.”>
<”You are working? Such a shame.”>
<“Yes, the markets.”>
<”I must go, my husband is so impatient! It is good to see you again.”>
<”Tell Mika hi for me?”>
<”Sure, take care Nina, tschuss!”>
“What was all that about?” Den enquired.
“She works with Mika, we met on that night out.”
“When you wore that short dress thing?”
“You fancy one of these?” he offered a paper bag to me.
“What is it?”
“Er kleine Butterstollen I think it said.”
I fished one out, hmm still warm from the oven.
“Hmm, that's good, marzipan.”
By the time we returned to the bus it was not only getting colder but we had eaten in the Dinea, found a book for the spring trip and slipped in a cup of glühwein! We had time for a coffee before driving around to pick up our passengers.
We only had to wait for one old couple who had trouble crossing the busy street!
“Everyone have a good time?”
“Yes!” a good percentage replied.
“Has anyone found Santa yet?”
“No.” one of the kids replied sadly.
“Well maybe at our next stop eh? It is not too far to Bonn, we'll drop you off at the Bahnhof, it's only a few moments walk into the shopping areas and the markets.”
The drive wasn't much more than forty minutes so I didn't do a drinks run but I had a plan for later.
“So?” Den asked as we headed towards the schloss to park for a couple of hours.
“You wanted a supermarket?”
“Oh right, I thought we could get some glühwein to warm them up on the way back to the hotel.”
“Sounds like a good idea, there was one back towards the centre I think.”
I think most people were glad when we picked them up at six thirty, the kids were worn out and the older passengers were looking quite weary too. The glühwein went down well with everyone; I had hot chocolate for the kids and those not wanting to indulge. The microwave certainly came in useful to heat the mulled wine, we soon had lots of smiling faces again, in fact almost a party atmosphere as Den put his Christmas CD in. I had to grin as the coach spontaneously ignited into a karaoke version of that great song ‘Wombling Merry Christmas'!
Back at the Citi Hotel we had enough time for a shower before heading for the warm buffet. I took the opportunity for a relaxing bath, something Nena does but Chris doesn't! With no ‘special' dinner on this trip there was no reason to dress up to eat but I could hardly go down in the same stuff again. I had at least bought something suitable yesterday in Düsseldorf, a deep red taffeta skirt and a matching vest top with a sort of bolero jacket thingy. Not too dressy but it looked like I'd made some effort, after all as the tour host I do need to make some effort. Den was in his usual ‘off duty' uniform, supplemented tonight by a Christmassy jumper with reindeer on it!
The food was good and the buffet made a change from the set meals you get used to. I had the Blumenkohl Suppe, then a selection of Frikadellen, warm Salat and mini Schnitzels with Käse and Sahne dressings. We even got Apfelrösti and Zwetschkenknödel for dessert! I think most people were shopped out, the Köln markets were but a stroll away but those that didn't go to their rooms stayed in the hotel bar area where we enjoyed the remainder of the evening sipping Kölsch then coffee into the early hours of Sunday.
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