While we had a busy year traveling through four continents December was our craziest month trying to find Christmas spirit in different parts of the world and celebrate the year’s end with a big bang in a new location.
Our first destination was Melbourne for a long weekend with plenty of monsoon rains. Despite it being summer in Australia the decorations along the streets and in the malls were festive and gave us our first sense of Christmas approaching.
It was a nice start into the season, but still not as it can be experienced in Northern Europe. The lack of early evening darkness, frosty temperatures and any sense of snow makes it less effective than seeing the markets in Germany. There it is not only the decorations everywhere to light up the dark, long nights, but it is a part of life as people gather with friends and coworkers after work at the food stalls to warm up with a glass of mulled wine, hot chocolate or hearty sausage. On the weekends families go out for downtown Christmas shopping and stop to have a “Bratwurst” and some “Schmalzkuchen” (deep fried dough similar to small donuts) for a lunch or dinner snack. The aromas of roasted, sugared almonds and maroons, barbecued meat and hot fruit or alcohol punch combined with freezing temperatures create an enchanting winter environment. The eyes are drawn to the many craft and gift item stalls all lined up to form outdoor wooden hut markets with people mingling among them throughout the month of December. It is a time to “hang out” with friends and family and huddle around against the chill until it is time to go home.
Thus motivated we set up a little Christmas in our own home.
And found that there were areas in Abu Dhabi decorated with effort and style to make it feel festive, too. With our personal highlight being invited to a Christmas Day picnic with friends in the desert. We found a spot in a small dip overlooked by sand dunes on three sides. Perfect for setting up tables and chairs and a cosy campfire after sunset. Stories of huge camel spiders running after people made it an memorable and slightly spooky evening. 🙂
We had not made any specific plans for finishing the year and on a spur of the moment flew to Sydney to participate in the big New Years Eve festivities to be among the first in the world to see the beginning of 2018.
Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour, sits on the edge of Sydney’s Chinatown, a 15 minute walk from the harbour’s restaurants and the museum station with direct access to the airport. Despite our overnight flight we felt refreshed and enjoyed the walk along the waterfront with its street performers and bustling with people visiting from all over the world. An evening market in Chinatown allowed for some additional entertainment and interesting views. Our dinner meals were Malaysian one night, Australian pies the second and Korean Bibimbap the third. The advantages of staying in this part of town. Arriving this last minute meant we had not obtained tickets to some of the waterfront parks or events to see the famous fireworks from a preferred spot. As we didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars to have guaranteed seating at the Opera House or the Botanical Gardens since more affordable locations were sold out, or had planned on sitting in a park for 12 hours to have a view, we decided to “wing it” on New Year’s eve. We had the idea to walk over to the Rocks as we had been there earlier and noticed that some areas were elevated enough to see through the line of buildings to the Harbour bridge. After 40 minutes walking we found a spot on a street corner in front of a small hotel and pub overlooking the houses and a good view. Just in time to see the fireworks and exchange New Years Cheers with our newly met Australian acquaintances. This event did not disappoint with multiple firework barges along the bay and view of sparkling cascades in any direction we looked. Sydney truly has the biggest, most spectacular fireworks on New Years eve!
To a happy, healthy and peaceful 2018 around the world and you, my dear readers! Thank you!