Sundays in Germany are, for the most part, incredibly boring.
It is actually the law here that stores cannot open on Sunday. A few exceptions are made; gas stations and restaurants are typically open, as are the touristy and historical sites. Every once in a while, a city might have an “open Sunday” where you’re allowed to shop. I’ve noticed this is especially common in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but for the most part, the seventh day of the week is very quiet (and I mean this literally—you can’t mow your yard and you’re not supposed to run the vacuum either).
Unfortunately it seems Sundays are also the day that we run out of everything. I can’t tell you how many times Zach has said something along the lines of, “Stop by the store and see if you can find any (insert random item here).” Last Christmas Eve, I spent at least thirty minutes contemplating running out to buy a new coffee maker “before the stores closed” when Zach reminded me that they were likely never open to begin with. I’m not entirely sure I shopped that often on Sundays before we moved here, or if the concept that I can’t just eats away at me, making me want it more.
As far as I know, the countries that surround us are slightly less strict. I’m almost positive you can buy groceries in Luxembourg (a tiny country wedged between Germany and France, about an hour and a half away from us) any day of the week. I know that not everything in the Netherlands is accessible, but a quick Google search tells me if I wanted to go to an IKEA, I’d have to go to Heerlen (Netherlands, 2 hours). Considering I have to drive at least 45 minutes to access any sort of city amenities, neither of these places seem unreasonable.
One thing that is consistently open on Sundays is the Flohmarkt in Tongeren, Belgium. I’ve heard enough people talk about it that it peaked my interest, despite flea markets not typically being my thing. Tongeren attracts people from all over the world looking for everything from demijohns to Dutch cookie molds. And while I don’t really have space for any of these things, I figure someday, I might. With boring Sundays and wishful thinking in mind, a friend of mine decided it was time for an impromptu day trip.
We were definitely beginners, slowed down by both poor planning and less than satisfactory road conditions that also dictated which car could be driven. The 2WD Explorer, in all of its roomy glory had to stay behind, crushing my dreams of hauling home that perfect wooden ladder. Leaving at nine meant we arrived in Tongeren sometime between eleven and noon, and most of the vendors were closed by one. Despite arriving only an hour or so before the market’s closure, we were still able to cover a lot of ground and found many things that caught our eye. I was especially drawn to the wooden crates, cookie presses, and a teapot that I’m almost certain must’ve been the inspiration for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie. I kept thinking I would make it back around in time to buy at least one of these things, but unfortunately I came home empty handed.
Of course, the market also had its fair share of ugly, creepy, and downright bizarre. Creepy figurines? I’ll pass. Old framed portrait photographs? I’m not sure why anyone would want that. Great Grey Owl? Say what?! He wasn’t for sale…
Though the market seemed to go on forever and ever, we eventually found our way back to where we started just as most of the vendors began packing up. Knowing our time in Tongeren was coming to an end, we decided to trust TripAdvisor’s #22 pick for restaurants in the village by heading to an Italian place called Etna. Italian is always a safe bet, right?
Well, actually, this was probably the best Italian food I’ve ever had. And I’m not just saying that because I totally caused the poor waiter to drop a handful of dirty dishes. It was reasonably priced too. He didn’t even charge me for the broken plates!
On the walk to the restaurant, we passed the village’s cathedral and stopped in to admire the sight. These are the kind of impromptu things you can do when the kids are at home and your plans aren’t dictated by their urgent hunger. It’s quite the life.