Our destination was the 18th annual Christkindlmarket. I first attended this German American holiday market while studying German in high school, and that very first one (1996) was held in Pioneer Court. The very next year it moved to Daley Plaza and has been there ever since, attracting an estimated 1 million visitors every year. With a large Christmas tree, choirs, dance groups and Santa, it is a great place to get into the holiday spirit… if you can stand the crowds. Best get there early if you would like to sample the kilometerwurst or glühwein, especially if you would like your mulled wine in one of the souvenir mugs. There’s an aftermarket on ebay, I tell you. In previous years I have enjoyed looking around to see what the various vendors are selling (one year I even worked there), picking up toys and ornaments for Christmas presents. This year, with four impatient boys (my brother Māris met up with us for the morning) we headed east.
The former Marshall Field & Co. building now houses Macy’s, and although the window displays aren’t as grand of a story as my nostalgia permits me to believe, the boys enjoyed the hoopla. With large crowds, moving parts and shiny objects in the windows, street musicians banging away and giant trumpets overhead, it was easy to feel overwhelmed by the big city-ness of it all. We made our way inside, braving the Black Friday crowds in hopes of buying a single box of Frango Mints. After taking one look at the line for the elevator I turned on my heels and we got out of there, as quick as those chocolates would have disappeared.
Māris knew the perfect place to stop in for a breather, the Chicago Cultural Center. The largest undertaking of the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co. in history is located in this very building that thousands of tourists pass by every year on their way to Millenium Park. The glass dome consists of 2,848 faceted glass jewels cut in a fish-scale pattern, and even on a cloudy day the room was bright as day. The rest of the hall is immaculately decorated as well, featuring Tiffany’s patented favrile technique mosaics.
We stopped at the Bean (Cloud Gate) because how could we not as no visit to Chicago is complete without a stop there (source: Noras tētis), watched the ice skating for a bit, then headed even further east into Lurie Gardens. Soon our fingers were feeling the cold and our boys were feeling the lack of nap, and so we reluctantly marched back to the closest el stop. Although it was nice playing tourist for a day, I was glad to get back to Lincoln Square and warm up with a cup of coffee at my grandmother’s house….