Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Market in the Valkenburg Caves

How's this for timing, now that it's Christmas week!

At the end of November, almost a month ago, we drove to the Christmas market in the limestone caves of Valkenburg, at the southernmost part of the Netherlands.

It was 170 km (105 mi) from our home, 13 km east of Maastricht.  
Not bad for a nice drive...made into an overnight stay (the next day later!).

It so happens that Valkenburg aan de Geul (its full name) is a huge tourist attraction because of its limestone caves which have been transformed into two different Christmas markets at this time of the year.

We wasted no time and headed for the larger of the two, Fluweelengrot,
also known as the Velvet Cave.

From the minute you walk in, you know you're in for a treat.

It's such a cozy feeling because it's like night-time, even during the day.
And even Santa came across our path a few tmes, both real and fake not real!

In case you weren't already in the Christmas spirit... didn't take long to get there.

Ya, man!

All this while finding the cave murals everywhere!
(click any collage to enlarge)

[And that reminds me of my disclaimer:  My f-stop somehow changed to something I didn't want on my new camera and I couldn't figure out how to change it back till we got home...which accounts for some of the graininess and terrible lighting.  My new PowerShot camera really does better than that!]

They even have a café in the cave, where we ate erwtensoep for lunch, and drank glühwein!
That's what you do at this time of the year!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 Then we walked outside, down the street and around the corner to the Gemeentegrot,
the second and smaller Christmas market in a cave nearby.

It had the same old-world charm as the first market...

...making us short of eyes, of course.

Doesn't your inner Child want to come out and play?!


Not as many murals this time but all were worthy, nonetheless.

Somewhere in the mix of it all, we watched the stroopwafel man craft his wares.

Astrid and I shared half each of a large one...because they're so sweet.
Half a stroopwafel is better than no stroopwafel at all!

How can you say NO to that!
(My animal guide is the wolf, you may remember?)

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

On that note...we were caved-in-out and left to walk around town.

We remembered seeing a cemetery as we drove in and walked to it before dark.

What is it about cemeteries?  You learn so much about a people and culture.

And not too far from there, the Lourdesgrot from 1926...
from which we could see the ruins of the Valkenburg Castle from 1115.
As if you can't tell, this is the Roman Catholic area of the Netherlands, way down south.

 As the late afternoon gave way to evening, we walked into town to eat.

How about Pub Henry!  Have you noticed that after my trip to Dublin in early September,
I've been on a Guinness kick.  HA!

Festive, night-time Valkenburg!
I'm still in awe of the cafés that serve food outside even during the winter months.
We always eat inside but we love to look once we're back outside.
This is so European!

And as we walked back to our car, we bought a heart Christmas ornament,
made out of limestone from the caves, with the name Valkenburg inscribed on it:  €1.

Yes, he inscribed it specifically for us and it's now on our Christmas tree.

And on that note...

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all, however/wherever you celebrate it!


  1. This post should bring the Christmas Spirit, if it is not already there. I am so glad that we went to the Caves, it is such a nice environment and I have to admit, I am glad there were not too many people..... claustrophobic as I am for too many people around me...
    At one point I recognized an 'alligator-caving'. As a kid, 9 or 10 years old, we visited the caves and I was impressed with it all. Great to be back after 50 years (if you say that quick, it seems like yesterday, grin)
    Absolute fabulous collages and everybody can see that we were short of eyes.
    Merry Christmas to you all.

    1. There are some things you only need to do once and it's enough...and this is one of them. But I'd definitely go back at other times of the year when the Christmas market isn't there. I know we missed a LOT...carvings and murals galore. But for now, it was a great experience. A Christmas market of a different color! :) Hartstikke bedankt, MLMA.

  2. Waking up to thunder and rain I took a quick look at the computer and saw your had a new post. I am so glad I did – it is positively beaming with Christmas cheer. What charming markets you showed us – I would have loved to be a little flea stuck on your coat… the colors, the food, the lights, the décor – so much to enjoy. Thank you dear Ginnie to let us enjoy it with you and Astrid. To both of you “Joyeux Noël!”

    1. You're such a sweetheart, Vagabonde. I'm so glad I could share this Christmas cheer with you! :)

  3. Christmas in a cave. I never would have suspected. In spite of your camera problems the colors come through beautifully.

    1. Now that you mention it, Ted, wasn't Jesus born in a stable "cave?" That rings a bell. Thanks for your vote of confidence in spite of my camera issues!

  4. What a great idea to have the Christmas market in the caves!! I would love to see that place. I do miss the Christmas markets! We always used to go to the one in Tübingen which is always held on the weekend of Advent 3rd and it's a non-commercial one. It's wonderful - with lots of good food and, of course, Glühwein! Those stroopwafel are wonderful - thanks to Trader Joe's we also get them here (although not as fresh, but in a tin - still sinfully good).

    1. I can imagine how much you must miss your Christmas markets, Carola. Germany definitely is the Mother of them all! I'm so glad you can still get some semblance of the goodies from places like Trader Joe's! :)

  5. So much to see, do and eat Ginnie...I just added this to my holiday travels in the future.

    1. As far as Christmas markets go, Donna, this one is most unique. I'm so glad we had a chance to see it. :)

  6. What fun, a real visual treat! We are wishing you two a very lovely, Merry Christmas!

    1. Many kind thanks, dear Susan and Larry. And the same to you!

  7. So much I want to talk to you about in here. My son should be here in a few minutes and get him to look at this location in relation to where he just was when in |H|olland. I told him he should buy his Christmas presents there. Perhaps he will bring some stroopwafels as he knows how much I love them. I have to put the turkey in the oven in three minutes. Christmas is here. Happy Christmas to you, Ginnie and tell Astrid the same. See you on the other side.

    1. Enjoy your time with your son and family, Mary. Tell me all about it...especially if he did, in fact, give you stroopwafels. :) The "other side" will be here before we know it!

  8. Oh, I have so much treasure to explore with posts I have missed. I want to thank you for sharing this fascinating part of your world with us all. Merry Christmas and I hope to be back to wish you a Happy New Year in a few days. I've been swamped with family this past week or so - no time for myself, but… well - what else does a mother want than all her children under one roof?

    So much color in this post - and Lourdes and St. Bernadette is a book & movie I adore.

    1. Of course you are/were with family at this time of the year, Margaret. That's as it should be. And I hope I'll see lots of pics from you to show for it...when I check in later. Continue this family coziness well into the new year. And thanks for taking the time to stop by here. BTW, I almost always think of you when I see the grottos and shrines!

  9. I'm glad to see the caves were not claustrophobic for Astrid and you. What a lot is encompassed in these small, tight spaces!

    Merry, merry Christmas to you and Astrid. And I believe we will be skyping on New Year's Day? :)

  10. Oh, yes, Ruth. We went early enough in the season and on a Friday during the day, so we were lucky to miss the huge crowds. That would NOT have been fun for either of us.

    Skyping on New Year's Day will be just what the doctor ordered!!!