This is one of those late posts that I should have written a few weeks ago, but I ask you to please pardon my delay. In my defense, I got a good mark on the history exam that kept me busy for the first half of December and then holidays began. So, in order to hide my mistake, I invite you to read this post with a sense of nostalgia over the holidays that have just passed.
The reason why I believe nostalgia over the holidays gets you in the right mood for reading this post is that I am going to talk about Christmas markets – more precisely, about one of the most special Christmas markets I have visited this year. The Valkenburg Christmas market is special not only because it is situated in one of the loveliest little towns I’ve ever come across, but because part of it is located in … caves. Yes, you heard it right!
Starting with the basics, let me tell you a little bit about Valkenburg. This is a pretty, little town, about 20 minutes train journey away from Maastricht, so it was really easy for me to get there. The town is mainly known for hosting the only castle built on a hill in the Netherlands, the Valkenburg castle. Me and the friend that accompanied me in my little trip visited its ruins and were delighted not only to find out about the history of the castle, about the many conquests that it had endured (Dutch, Spanish, French), but also to enjoy a beautiful view over the city from the hill where the castle is located. What strikes you when you see Valkenburg from above is that, unlike other Dutch towns and cities, this one is really “messy”. Little streets are coming and going in all directions and the buildings don’t follow any pattern, but rather seem to be randomly scattered across the town. And it’s exactly this messiness that gives Valkenburg sort of a magic vibe!
This magic vibe that you get from seeing the town from above was also present in the Winter Wonderland, a cave in which, during the holidays, visitors can admire beautiful sand sculptures, illustrating various fairytale characters and scenes. Me and my friend were so delighted at the sight of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Andersen’s heroes. It felt like being in a dream, like those you have when you are a kid. 🙂
And if that didn’t get us in the Christmas spirit, then the gluhwein and gingerbread we had in the city center definitely did. After enjoying those and other goodies, we moved “underground” and took a long walk in one of the caves. There, the Christmas market continued with lots of little shops with cozy, knitted winter clothes, Christmas decorations, toys and pretty much everything else that you can think of when talking about Christmas.
In the evening, tired from all the walking, we caught a very busy train back to Maastricht. We both loved the little town and promised we’ll go back at some point. So, if you are thinking to visit the Netherlands, please don’t miss out passing by Valkenburg. I promise you will enjoy it! 🙂