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White Christmas in Europe

Published: 10:26AM Monday May 28, 2012 Source: House of Travel

A Christmas holiday that's a little bit more Winter Wonderland than jandals and BBQs.

A Bavarian Christmas is a truly magical time of year, characterised by snow covered churches and christmas trees, fairy lights and stockings filled with wooden toys hanging in front of a roaring fire place.

The traditions and rituals that surround Christmas somehow feel more authentic. All the senses are awakened whether it be the aroma of mulled wine (gluhwein); the crackle of the logs on the fire, the soft flutter of snowflakes against your cheeks, or the melodic tones of the carollers in the town square.

MUST DOS FOR A BAVARIAN CHRISTMAS

Christmas Markets  -  Christkindlemarkt in Nurnburg, Germany is one of the countrys oldest Christmas markets, dating back to the early 16th century. The Christmas Angel opens the market on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday, reciting a solemn prologue.  With over 200 wooden stalls, the famed markets attract over 2 million visitors a year.

Bavarian townships such as Ulm, Rothenburg, Fussen all hold festive Christmas fairs. Frequently in the town square, the markets are lit with Christmas lights and bustle with shoppers buying all manner of Christmas sweets and treats, decorations, toys, clothes and stocking fillers.

This is often the ideal time to dabble in a little mulled wine or local Christmas delicacies like home made ginger bread, fruit loaves or succulent roast sausages. 

The markets run from late November to end of December.

Christmas Mass - The cathedrals through central Europe are stunning masterpieces of architecture and craftsmanship, which can be enjoyed at any  time of year. But at Christmas they take on even greater significance.  These places of religious worship transform with stunning nativity scenes, fairy and candle lights to add to the winter ambiance.

Dressed and lit in the most celebratory manner, Bavarian towns like the Baroque Wurzburg; Nurnberg; and world heritage listed Bamburg celebrate Christmas with their town squares and cathedrals as the centre pieces of holiday spirit. Attending Mass makes for a truly authentic Christmas experience.

Castles in Winter -  Ludwig IIs  Neuschwanstein Castle is perfectly situated in the Bavarian Alps. The castle, built in the 1800s was meant as the retreat for the reclusive King of Bavaria.

Otherwise known as the fairy tale castle, Neushwanstein was built above the tiny picturesque village of Hohenschwangau, close to his birth place and childhood residence - Castle Hohenschwangau.  As one of Germanys most frequented castles, one of best ways enjoying Neuschwanstein Castle is to arrive there in winter by horse drawn carriage. 

The smaller but extravagant neo-French Rococo style Linderhof Palace is also within close vicinity.

WHEN AND HOW TO TRAVEL

To enjoy the true spirit of Christmas we recommend travelling from late November and through December.  The townships are dressed to their romantic best and bustling with seasonal spirit. 

Because of the wintery conditions, getting around can be treacherous.  Tour operators can navigate the changing conditions and alter itineraries to maximise your experience in spite of the weather. They are also equipped with the right apparatus to travel in winter.

For Kiwis with little experience driving in snowy conditions, we recommend guided tours or travel by rail.  Flying can be hit and miss depending on the weather, and roads can be dangerous to navigate on your own if self-driving.

OTHER EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCES

A Santa Experience in Lapland - For the child in all of us Christmas in Lapland is an unforgettable experience. Santas home town is situated in Korvatunturi (Ear Mountain) in Savukoski, Lapland. Experience Santa Claus village and learn to drive a reindeer drawn sleigh, just like the big man himself.  The winter park also has snow mobile rentals, toboggan rides and ice fishing for the true winter adventurer.

The back drop of the amazing Northern Lights are also an awe-inspiring sight during the winter months.

Immaculate Conception Eve in Medieval Italy - On December 7, Gubbio, Umbria comes alive when thousands of coloured lights are switched on to reveal an 800m high, 400m wide Christmas Tree laid out on Mt Ingino. The spectacle takes 3 months to prepare by a band of enthusiastic volunteers.

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