Ahhhh, Gluhwein ! Hot and spicy mulled wine, tastes so good with my bratwurst here in the marketplace of Mainz, Germany. Oh, the shopping! Christmas pyramid carousels (Weihnachtspyramids), incense burners called 'smoking men' (Raeuchermaennchen), nutcrackers and glass ornaments. Not my favorite, but certainly a holiday treat, Gingerbread (lebkuchen). I'll have more Gluhwein, bitte!.
It's Christmas time on the Rhine River. The holiday season is celebrated in marketplaces throughout Europe (Weihnactsmarkt). None better than in Germany. Having had the opportunity to live in Germany, I was introduced to this wonderful tradition of Christmas markets. We would bundle up our children (the oldest who was only 6 at the time) and visit market after market, each one more wonderful than the last.
The scents of baked apples, pretzels and gingerbread, coupled with the sounds of seasonal music and the lights ? added to the folklore of the marketplaces. For hundreds of years this tradition has been held in cities and towns throughout Europe. Beginning the third week in November and ending on Christmas Eve, various town squares turn on the lights and the sounds of the holiday.Heidleberg offers not only a wonderful town setting but the added ambiance of the castle perched high on the hill overlooking the festivities. If you stop to visit, take the English guided tour of the castle ? the guides are very knowledgeable on the history of past Kings.
Rudesheim, on the Rhine River, wonderful to visit all year long comes alive with the season ? shopping here is absolutely a must! We have wooden plaques, with wood burned picture landscapes, purchased years ago adorning our walls. Cologne, the home of the famous Gothic cathedral, reminds us of the religious significance of our holiday. Stand outside the cathedral in its beautiful square and look up to admire the spirals that reach toward the heavens. Nuremberg offers one of the biggest Weihnachtsmarkts I can recall. A giant Pyramid in the center of its marketplace, this popular attraction, with life size figurines, represents the story of the season.
If you go, remember that it is cold outside during this time of year. The Gluhwien helps, but so do gloves, hats and scarves! While we drove from market to market, living there we could visit one market a week. If you go during a vacation, I recommend a Rhine River cruise or similar packaged tour. Parking in the towns is not easy.
They were not created with cars and buses in mind. Rivers were the primary mode of transportation. Even today boats dock right along the edge of the market. While the market places are open until Christmas Eve, it is important to note that they (like all shops in Germany) close early on the twenty-fourth.As many times as I've been able to return to Germany ? mostly in warmer weather ? I would not have given up the opportunity to experience the Christmas markets.
So bathed in tradition they are part of the heritage of a wonderful Europe. The markets are visited by tourists like myself but also by the local citizens of these magnificent old towns..
Marci is a European River Cruise Specialist. Visit my website http://www.CastleCruises.com.
By: Marci Oakley