Siebengebirge Despite rain showers, thick clouds and wind, the opening weekend of the “Unique Christmas Time” at Drachenburg Castle was well attended. Around 8000 visitors went to the special Christmas market.
Henrietta Smith and Mr Davenport are standing in a draft. The pretty woman with long blond curls pulls her bonnet lower down onto her face. Her counterpart is holding an oversized cognac glass with an unknown liquid in his hand.
“Hot apple cider,” explains the English gentleman in the red coat. “Highly recommended when it’s cold. Would you like a sip?” Later perhaps. The pair give a friendly smile and saunter off across the Venus terrace, where visitors to the “Unique Christmas Time” were already impressed by the special atmosphere at Drachenburg Castle in the early afternoon.
Even though Ebenezer Scrooge has not yet appeared in the flesh, the grumpy miser from Charles Dickens’ Christmas story is omnipresent. Besides Mrs Smith and Mr Davenport, Ralf Winterhoff of “Pirates Action Theatre” has brought around 20 other actors and artists with him to Königswinter. “We are creating a journey back in time here to 19th century England,” he says and winks as he pulls at his dark brown, slightly threadbare jacket lapel, which is definitely not 200 years old, but looks as though it is.
There are white pagoda tents and wooden kiosks all over the park and around 50 market stall holders are offering their wares at the seventh edition of the Christmas market high above the Rhine valley. It is a diverse selection, with historical postcards, fine silver decorations, aviaries, caps, leather goods, English sweets and liqueurs. Authentically dressed women in bonnets and long dresses complete with lace aprons serve mulled wine, red wine punch or waffles. In one corner, musicians are playing Christmas music on the saxophone and a choir is singing a capella of “Love is all around.”
Christmas exhibition in the art gallery
At the entrance to the castle buildings, a staff member in a long coat and top hat is regulating the flow of visitors. The rooms are open to visitors. The NRW Foundation is presenting its work and Michael Heider and his team have set up their exhibition in the art gallery with sparkling and glittering accessories to match the Christmas season.
“It is starting pretty well,” says Alexandra von dem Brinke, who is in charge of events management at the castle and is herself dressed in Dickens-style fashion for the “Unique Christmas Time.” Preparations began in the castle and park two weeks ago and everything was put in place in the past few days. She estimates around 4000 visitors came on Saturday, slightly fewer on Sunday. “That is similar to last year. We are happy.”
“Come into the puppet theatre,” calls Andreas Blaschke in a loud voice and swings the bell in his hand in front of the car hall. The artist from the Cologne Puppet Theatre is advertising the second of a total of three performances this afternoon.
Robert Blake proudly explains he is the three-times Dutch champion of street magic. He has just chosen eight-year-old Otokar and his mother Adela Havlova so he can show them one of his tricks using a wand, string and coins. Mother and son are impressed. “We are here for the first time,” says Havlova, who comes from Prague and recently started living in Bonn with her family. “I couldn't really imagine what this Christmas market was like. But the atmosphere is really special.”
Only the weather had not yet adjusted to the pre-Christmas atmosphere on this first weekend in Advent. With thick clouds, wind and rain, some had their fortunes told (in English on request) in Madame Heloise’s tent while Seraina De Block explained “historical funfair curiosities” in the Panoptikum next door.
At around 4pm, the lights go on at the castle. The buildings, park, every corner is bathed in colourful light. Rain or no rain, the Drachenfels train is full and visitors are queueing at the entrance.
Original text: Heike Hamann, Frank Homann. Translation: kc