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By Land or By Sea – Christmas Along the Danube

| December 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Inviting Christmas markets, glowing Advent candles, special foods, and holy music mark the season.

By Don Heimburger
Photographs by Don Heimburger

bylandseaThe grey, overcast afternoon sky is punctuated with tiny white lights and sparkling displays from 180 Christmas market vendor stalls which themselves are topped with distinctive candy-cane-striped awnings.

The large aisles between the vendor’s enchanting Christmas booths narrow as the afternoon crowd thickens, and then the sky opens up to large white snowflakes that envelop the whole holiday scene, as if it’s part of a colorful 1940s Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell painting.

This is Nuremberg, where the 386-year-old Weihnachtsmarkt spreads out on the main square adjacent to the Church of Our Lady every year, beguiling visitors with some of the most delicious foods and aromatic smells, most tempting handcrafted wooden tree ornaments and toys, and even a spectacular display of unique prune men (plum people) called Zwetchgenmannie.

Probably the most famous Christmas market in Germany, Nuremberg’s once-a-year extravaganza is one of numerous markets along the legendary Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, that 2,000-mile long stretch of water that provides a link between Germany and Austria, as well as eight other countries.

You can follow the inviting German and Austrian Christmas markets along the Danube as I did: by boat and by train. I booked a Viking River cruise for five nights between Vienna and Nuremberg, enjoying the comfort—and the first-class foods—of the Viking Aegir, as well as the many guided tours that are part of the cruise’s itinerary. This includes the famous Christmas markets along the Danube, a fascinating river landscape that was no less than the “Route of the Emperors and Kings” when Roman emperors and crusaders traveled it, along with King Louis VII of France and Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa with their entourages.

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