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Winter Wonderland in London

Winter Wonderland Hyde ParkIt turns out that there are German Christmas Markets right under our noses in England. Only a week ago we were touring the real thing, and today we spent time at one in Hyde Park, smack in the center of London.

Actually, as markets go, it was less than impressive, but the Winter Wonderland amusement area erected for the holidays is very lively and enjoyable.

The not very large funfair contains a number of rides, from an old-fashioned carousel and a haunted mansion to several high-tech simulator-ride capsules. Kids of different ages can also enjoy sliding down an ice slope on tires or jumping on a trampoline while tethered to pulleys by bungee cords. There is a Ferris wheel, always going well with those wanting to escape the cold in the hermetically-sealed safety of a pod for 13 minutes, give or take.

There is also what is touted as the largest outdoor skating rink in England. It did not look as it warranted that distinction to us, but it was regardless of that packed with skaters. In fact, the ice time was sold out for the day, as the helpful signs at the ticket booth announced. We had no intention to subject ourselves to the futile endeavor of dodging the crowds on ice, anyway. (When I say we, you certainly did not imagine me on skates, did you? I meant the girls.)

Then, there is this market imitation. It consists of over a dozen stalls that sell souvenirs and craftwork akin to those found at the German fairs. The variety is considerably more limited, though. Attendant food stands offer sausages and mulled wine, but their efficiency leaves a lot to be desired: We estimated that waiting in line would take at least 30 minutes. Nonetheless, fair-goers exhibited plenty of enthusiasm, and the souvenir stalls did brisk business, by the sight of it.

We met up with our friends Mila and Andrey, whose 13-year-old son kept perfect company to Becky. Younger kids, both Kimmy and her 5-year-old counterpart, clung to parents most of the time, but still managed to savor the experience.

I made a strategic mistake of not wearing winter boots, and with the temperatures just slightly above freezing, after a couple of hours I started to approach the loss of feeling in my toes, but as nobody else in our party fought a similar problem, I had to endure for a while. That was the only blemish on the otherwise fun day.