We've really had a great (albeit rather short) vacation this time. We drove away somewhere around noon, stopping on the way to visit a second-hand bookstore which still had a book I wanted to buy and arrived to our hotel on time after a rather uneventful journey. Then we got lucky again, as our room, though budget, was on the first floor and really provided us with a good view out of the window unlike last year, when we had stayed on the ground floor and stared at the parking place all the time.
The hotel was practically empty but people started arriving on Friday afternoon, and on Saturday it was really full. The weather continued to be mild and rainy all through Friday and we actually ate outside and that on the 2nd of December! We also visited the two famous Christmas markets of Valkenburg situated in the caves (I'll post photos later). Here we got lucky yet again as on Saturday there was something like a 5-km line to enter one of them and we happily informed those asking questions about it that we'd already been inside and there had been virtually no one there (not entirely true, but sounded nice. Yes, we are mean...just a tiny bit:).
Saturday the weather started changing and there was frost on the ground. Luckily, we took some warm clothes. During breakfast the fire alarm went off. We all kept a stiff upper lip and continued eating as if nothing had happened - it didn't, really, they just had a faulty smoke detector. Half an hour later firemen arrived, looking very tough and macho in their gear. They provided a welcome distraction, with some folks going outside to snap pics of the fire engine. Their chief sent two guys to investigate and himself got involved in a lively conversation with the hotel's owner's wife, removing his helmet in the process. He proved to be just an ordinary middle-aged guy, not some superman - clothes do make a man after all:)
After breakfast we decided to visit Aachen, with great luck yet again had little trouble in parking our car. On the way to the center we visited a craft and a whiskey stores and some others. Arrived at the market at about 11.30 a.m. It was huge, it was full, and everybody was drinking mulled wine. My, do these Germans start early. It was full of tourists, too, including a bus of Islamic women all by themselves, without any man in sight. There were lots of security guys, too, but the sphere was warm and friendly, no machine guns in sight (unlike in la belle France where they use the army for patrolling the streets, or at least, they did when we went there).
We came back to our hotel, ate our lunch and decided to take a walk to Valkenburg instead of going by car. So we bravely climbed the mountain and about 1.5 hour later reached the city centre, marvelled at the amount of tourists, took pictures and in general, enjoyed ourselves. In the evening we came back yet again, for the Christmas parade. By this time it was like -4*C but the tourists weren't discouraged in the slightest, we had difficulty finding a place to watch. When we finally left, some (lady) folks were just starting to dance around in the streets. I hate to think what they might have come to later.
Next morning we were awoken by fire alarm at 8.15 a.m. though this time no firemen arrived. In the retrospect it was good, too, since the canteen was so full that those who came later had to eat their breakfast by the reception. Outside it was cold and glorious. We even had time to go for a walk before we left. And that's the gist of my vacation impressions:)