Many European Christmas markets—like Munich’s historic Wittelsbacherplatz and Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt—date back to the Middle Ages.Surrounded by your choice of picturesque winter backdrop—a fairy-tale castle in Austria, the fetching town squares of Germany or the towering Gothic cathedral and medieval streets of Strasbourg, France—immerse yourself in the wonder of the holidays at one of the continent’s bright, cheery and cinnamon-scented holiday scenes.In November and December, Christmas markets light up the Continent.You can choose from a range of rail journeys, river cruises and tours to see a number of these magical marketplaces within a short time frame.A native of Michigan, he recently returned home to Los Angeles after a decade in New York and Berlin.Two weeks after some idle internet research reveals that not only are those little wooden Christmas tree decorations still made in Germany, but in the Erzgebirge mountains there's a village called Seiffen devoted to making them, I'm on a flight to Dresden.
In a building at the back, a few visitors huddle in a gloomy former chair factory, now turned into a museum.
And after half an hour of driving along smooth, empty roads as the light fades, mist descends and dark forest closes in on either side, which is all very satisfying, I'm in the fairylit forest of decorated trees that is Stracoland."Where every day is Christmas Day! Frau Strassburger, a jolly middle-aged woman in black ankle boots and blow-dried magenta hair who is supervising the erection of a real 20ft Christmas tree in the middle of the shop, breaks off to show us around.
Clearly, Christmas traditions were not lost in the dark days of communism.
In the arrivals hall at Dresden I meet the owlish-looking Dr Pforr, a 76-year-old retired mining engineer and part-time guide who is going to translate for me.
"Ven you are a pensionist it is not good always to be inside the house looking at the television," he says, taking my case and mimicking someone slumped moronically in an armchair.