Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Caves in Valkenburg

Tis the Season for Christmas Markets throughout Europe - and of course to be jolly!!!
Together with Karen and Brady we headed for Valkenburg in the Netherlands. It ended up being the rainiest, coldest, windiest day we have had yet. Brrrr. We felt very hard core hoofing it from the parking lot to the market. It ended up being a hike!The market here was in a series of underground caves. Really. We were thankful it was inside and cozy warm when the weather outside was frightful!
Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph were there. So were the deers and polar bears.
The Christmas market takes place in a cave called The Velvet Cave. Here is what I have learned about this place: The Velvet Cave...A labyrinth of mysterious passages situated under the Castle Ruins, the Velvet Cave was created around the year 1050. The caves are closely connected to the history of the Castle of Valkenburg. The blocks of marlstone extracted from the cave were used to construct the Castle of Valkenburg as well as other buildings in the area. The extraction of the marlstone resulted in an extensive labyrinth of ancient passages. These secret escape passages, only discovered in 1937, would have originally enabled the knights and their warriors to secretly vanish from the castle in times of war, and attack the enemy from behind. The Velvet Cave contains numerous mysteries and a treasure of impressive mural carvings, inscriptions, and exceptional sculptures in the soft marlstone walls, as well as a romantic refuge chapel dating back to the French occupation period. In World War II, during the occupation of the Germans, the cave served as a shelter for Jewish people, locals, and American troops.
And now this historic cave hosts a Christmas market. But those hidden Jews during WWII would never have thunk it!
I was impressed by the Valkenburg Christmas market. We were lucky on our timing (Monday afternoon) since we didn't have to battle crowds. It might have been a little claustrophobic if the caves filled up.
There were sumptuous leather wallets...
And what would Holland be without wooden tulips?...
We found another creche scene above the restaurant.
The nice thing about being in contained caves - there was only one direction for the kids to run. We were able to give them some stroller freedom to frolic and enjoy.
Connor found Santa Claus. She told him her Christmas list and that she had been much more nice than naughty this year!
I found Santa too! I bought one of these guys for 2 euros. I love him. Old-timey-Santas have a special place in my heart.
The Valkenburg Christmas Cave Market really is one of Europe's most unique. The passageways were transformed into a glittering Christmas grotto with a myriad of candles and lights creating a magical ambiance.


Dallas said...

That looks like a really cool place. I'll have to add it to my list for next year.

Karen said...

I hate we didn't get pictures of our hike UPHILL in the POURING rain! But what a fun adventure!