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Have you ever wanted to experience a REAL Alpine Christmas? A church group enjoyed this experience last December. So should you!!!!

My trip to the German Christmas Markets – which also included Strasbourg France, and Innsbruck Austria – was the most delightful trip I have ever taken!! I have been to many European countries at different times of the year, but never in December, and Germany at Christmastime is absolutely a magical time. It snowed almost every day that we were there, but it was not a heavy snowfall, just enough   to cover the tree branches and make every village and city look like a gingerbread landscape!

Everything is decorated so beautifully and so FULLY – it is like Christmas 200% plus, it seems as though even the birds are singing Christmas carols.A trip to the Christmas Markets of Central Europe is the quintessential Holiday experience. I basically felt as if I was roaming through a set of traditional Christmas Card scenes from Currier and Ives.

Once we landed in Munich, the guide met us at the airport and the bus whisked us to our quaint inn in the impossibly pretty town of Oberammergau, Germany. This town of Passion Play fame is also well-known for it's artisans who craft wonderful creches. This was our base for exploring the Christmas Markets of the region. The markets are very interesting and not like anything I have seen in the United States. There are many shops set up in a town square in temporary cabins selling many many different kinds of traditional crafts and toys. Despite the market atmosphere it does not feel commercial at all. People are with their families, eating lots of traditional street food like wursts, spaetzle with cheese, pretzels, etc. and drinking gluewein a hot mulled fortified wine, usually red but sometimes white,  (I preferred the white). The gluewein really does warm you up which is necessary because the temperatures are quite cold.

. No worries though if you don't drink, there is plenty of hot chocolate available as well. The journeys are not only about the markets however. In Munich, for example we were given a city tour which showcased the history and the modern life of the city. We were free to explore what we wanted and many of us walked over to the famous Hofbrauhaus for a real Bavarian Beer hall experience. I mean how can you be in Munich and NOT have a beer? In Nuremburg the focus was on Nazi History as we explored the Parade Grounds and talked about the reconstruction of this heavily destroyed city. But mainly it was about the Christmas experience. The landscapes were perfectly snow-kissed Another highlight was visiting an Alpine Village called Seefeld, and having a horse drawn wagon ride through the snowy countryside while keeping warm under heavy woolen blankets and singing ChristmasCarols along the way –. We were treated to a Christmas Concert performed by a local choir in a very old candlelit chapel in the Black Forest. And let me not forget the architecture – from the humblest village home and small chapels to the beautiful Cathedral of Strasbourg and Royal Palaces – there is so much art and beauty to behold!!! We had Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral In France, where I got to cantor in one of the most beautiful church settings I have even experienced. But most of all, our group became like a family and it felt like one big Christmas Party

. Our guide felt like a wise aunt who kept track of us and regaled us with stories. Evenings were spent at the bar socializing or walking around snow-covered towns at night. Celebrating Christmas at home a few weeks later was strange and almost anti-climactic after having been to the place where many traditions were started, but at the same time, made all the more richer when gazing upon the beautiful Christmas ornaments I purchased on the journey.

 The Christmas Markets themselves were filled with delightful gifts of all kind; Hand-Carved Ornaments and Carousels, Nativities, Glass Blown Ornaments, Ceramic houses, Fine Paintings, Clothing, Baked Goods, etc. I did all my Christmas Shopping (for adults and kids) on this trip! And the sights and smells – Hot Bratwurst and Glue Wine hit the spot every time!! 

 I will never forget my Christmastime in Germany, and plan on returning as often as I can. If I win the lottery, Every Year!!! Go, See, Smell, Explore and Enjoy… you will never forget the experience or the beauty! Froehliche Weihnacht!