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Christmas vacations time to remember

The recent chilly temperatures, snow flurries and holiday lights helped me recall memories of the winter holiday seasons that I’ve spent abroad.

While nothing beats being home for the holidays Christmas in Europe especially Germany was a magical time for me and my family.

Many folks who travel abroad do so during the warm months of summer which is a splendid time to visit.

Gardens are blooming there’s al fresco dining and plenty of outdoor activity. However there are some negatives to peak season travel like hordes of tourists and hours spent waiting in museum lines

There are special rewards, sights and sounds available for those who travel during the off-season.

I am a huge proponent of off peak travel as prices are lower, crowds are non-existent and special events are unique.

I have been fortunate to spend three Christmas seasons in Bavaria enjoying the local traditions and festivities.

My travels took to me to Christmas markets in fairy tale places like Rothenberg, Nuremburg, Munich and Coburg.

A few years back I was able to travel beyond the German frontier and marvel at the holiday markets in Hungary, the Slovak and Czech Republics.

I’ve experienced Disney and New York City in December. These sights and sounds are impressive but my preference

is still in the Old World. It is still unique and steeped in tradition.

My first KristKindl Mart was in Coburg Germany. The medieval town square sparkled with lights and booths offered Christmas tree decorations, wooden toys, ceramics and porcelain of all kinds. The fragrant aroma of roasted almonds, “Lebkuchen” (the delicious German-style gingerbread) and the famous Coburger Bratwurst pervade the air. A carrousel in the centre of the market square delights children and music adds to the wonderful atmosphere of the Christmas Market. You can also find daily performances of traditional regional handicraft e. g. porcelain paintings (M.I. Hummel figurines), glassblowing of Christmas decoration, wood carving and more. The State Theatre performs the childrens’ play “King Thrushbeard” by the Brothers Grimm. In addition, Santa Claus arrives on special days at the Market with gifts for the children. The Christ child will make appearances from time to time to talk with the kids.

There’s the Winter Carnival (a European Mardi Gras) and other remarkable experiences but my favorite is still the Christmas Marts with the German ones ranking “die besten” (Germany for the best). These Kristkindl marts traditionally open during the last week of November and run through the Christmas Eve. It doesn’t matter where you are, be it the villages, towns, and cities, there is almost always a Kristkindl Mart. It’s in these markets that you can find some of the most authentic German goods, because mostly they all hand-made. Each stall in a Kristkindl Mart offers different things from delicious baked goods, wooden toys, nut crackers, fine leatherwork to bratwursts grilled over a pine cone fire. Beer stands complete with liter steins is another staple as is the gluwein booth. Gluwein is a hot mulled spiced wine that seems to take the chill off of a winter Bavarian evening. Music either live or recorded is played throughout the event.

By Christmas Eve most markets will have closed down while some of the smaller will close earlier so your travel window is basically American Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. Visit http://tinyurl.com/ydurjyn to explore some of Bavaria’s Kristkindl Marts.

Travel Professor Talks.

The fine folks at Briggs Library have invited me to talk about travel this January. I’ll share my thoughts about Caribbean “No Passport” required travel to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. The dates are Tuesday Jan 5th at the Chesapeake branch and in Ironton on Jan 7th. Destination Weddings and Honeymoons will be the topics in Ironton on January 19th and Chesapeake on Jan 26th. All presentations start at 6:00pm. Light snacks and travel prizes will be provided.

Got travel questions? Contact thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.