Over the Columbus Day holiday, the family and I packed up and headed out for a low key weekend away in the Netherlands. We decided to stay in the relatively below the radar city of Maastricht and found ourselves incredibly charmed by the city.
We thought it would be a standard day of walking around the city, window shopping and checking out the local church, but as we were eating lunch on the main street, what to our wondering eyes should appear but a marching band in full regalia gathering a crowd as it paraded down the street. We hurriedly cleared our table and ran out into the street to give chase. We followed them across a bridge and around some corners and they eventually led us to the gathering grounds of a full on Mardi Gras style parade.
We never were able to nail down exactly what the name of this celebration was, but it was definitely Carnivale-like in spirit and costuming, and we cheered excitedly for each colorfully dressed crewe who passed by us as the parade rolled by. What we particularly loved about it was that it seemed to be a family affair. Small children banged drums or tooted horns in the marching bands, tossed candy in the crewes, and babies and toddlers were pushed down the streets in strollers by their mothers and fathers.
Once all of the parade had made its way by us at the start of the route, we tagged along to the end where a big stage was set up in front of the town hall. Our airbnb hosts didn't speak the best English, but what we gathered from them was that there was some sort of king or prince revealed at the end of the parade once all of the floats and crewes had arrived. By this point the girls were hungry and cranky and we didn't understand all of the Dutch announcements and speeches taking place on-stage, so we decided to call it a day and head back to our apartment.
The day before had been a gloomier day, so we made the short drive to the German city of Aachen, to visit the Aachen Cathedral, or Kaiserdom. This is the oldest cathedral in Northern Europe, begun in 796 and restored and added on to over the years with a final restoration done in 1881, and is the final resting place of Charlemagne. From 936 to 1531 the cathedral was the location for the coronations of 30 German kings and 12 queens. My favorite part of the cathedral was the glittering golden mosaics that covered the ceilings--they gave the whole place a mystical, ethereal glow. The Kaiserdom holds many notable historical items including the throne of Charlemagne and the imposing Barbarossa chandelier (1165/1170) which was lit for High Feasts.
And finally, on our way home, the event which spurred the trip to begin with, a stop at the Odysseum musem in Koln to visit the Harry Potter Exhibition, displaying a treasure trove of sets, costumes and props from the eight movies. I had the pleasure of being sorted into Ravenclaw, seeing the golden snitch up close and personal, plucking a mandrake root from its pot, reading Harry's pledge to Umbridge to no longer tell lies and the Half-Blood Prince's notes in Advanced Potion-Making, getting within clutching distance of Dumbledore's robes, visiting Hagrid's hut and so, so much more. It was such an awesome exhibit and well-worth a visit if you're a fan of the movies and it comes to a town near you!