I made a hotel reservation at the Hotel Astra, which is in the southern outskirts of the city. As I turned down the hotel's road, we ran into traffic resulting from the flea market right in front of the hotel. I was looking forward to perusing it after checking in at the hotel but was denied entry to the parking lot of the hotel. What the heck?! As a result of the flea market, there were no spots available. When I asked the guy guarding the gate where I should park instead, he shrugged his shoulders and said "somewhere downtown." Thanks, dude. I was NOT pleased with any of the situation; I had chosen the hotel because it was inexpensive and had free parking. Since I wasn't from town, of course I wouldn't know a good place to park elsewhere!
Thanks to Mr. GPS finding us a Park and Ride lot, I calmed down from my Hulk Angry mode (I greatly dislike driving anyway so the parking situation didn't make me any happier). We ditched the car at the Südfriedhof P+R lot about two miles from the hotel. We fumbled a bit with figuring out the tram lines but we were soon on track and made our way to the Hauptbahnhof and then to the tourist information office across the street from it to get some information.
We visited the following places:
-Gut & Gerne Schockolade shop: in this quaint building with hardwood floors and light walls, the chocolates are anything but quaint. The store offers a wide variety of fresh chocolates in interesting gourmet flavors like balsamic caramel (actually really quite good without tasting like salad dressing). The chocolates are presented in display cases throughout the room; ask the staff to bag up your selections. Other gifts, such as chocolate bars, sauces, creams, and assorted sweets are also on offer and an adjoining cafe offers beverages.
-Christmas market at Flinger Strasse. There was a drink hut with a huge Christmas pyramid on top with somewhat frightening characters twirling around. We had no idea who they were or what they meant but I sensed some potential satire.
|We wanted NO part of this!
-Christmas market at Marktplatz. There was a Ferris wheel, among other things. We thought that the portion with fronts painted to look like old timey businesses was especially neat.
-St. Lambertus Basilica. Gothic and Baroque art and relics lay beneath modern stained glass windows that manage to enhance, rather than detract from, the interior. We stopped by the parish rummage sale and I picked up some ridiculous tchotkes that I plan to use to fully tease a friend for a somewhat inside joke.
-Stier Royal: we ate dinner at this burger place. I normally would run far, far away from burger places but there was both a vegetarian falafel burger and a vegan chickpea burger option. I picked the latter, served with marinated and grilled veggies on top and enjoyed the surprisingly hearty "burger." The sweet potato fries were crisp and delicious. C. enjoyed her very meaty burger and regular fries. We were impressed by the friendly and attentive waiter who helpfully explained the menu.
-More Christmas markets, followed by a trip to Primark, just because I haven't exploited any child laborers lately. I bought a sweater and a pair of gloves, a purchase that was most definitely influenced by how cold I was after walking around.
There was even a Gepäck Bus, which we took to mean that it was a bus where one could store one's purchases and continue shopping without being weighted down. It appeared that we were correct as we saw another one with an employee checking in some bags from a shopper.
|There was an actual human in addition to Santa to watch over the bags.