While I might have spent my Christmas in Hainan lounging on the beach and sipping ice cold Coronas, there’s a decidedly northern hemisphere feel to things as I huddle up in front of my computer and occasionally gaze out at the snow falling over Nanjing.
Despite this being my second Christmas in the northern half of the world, I’ve still yet to experience a white Christmas; so Sebastian’s guest post on a rather unorthodox way to spend a European Christmas grabbed my attention immediately.
Rug up, grab a hot Milo, and let’s go for a little ride.
A European Christmas by Caravan
People that want the opportunity to experience a truly European Christmas, and encounter the different ways the holiday is celebrated, have few better options than travelling by caravan or motorhome. While it’s impossible to see everything on one trip, there are some places that should be fighting for a place near the top of your must-visit list.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is a great first stop as you can get a ferry into Haarlem, which is under an hour away. The city is compact, so base yourself on the outskirts and travel into the city to experience the delights of a Dutch Christmas. Santa Clause – or Sinterklaas as he’s known in the Netherlands – arrives on 5 December to hand out presents to young children, but Christmas Day itself is also celebrated, so expect the holiday festivities to be strong throughout the month.
German Christmas markets
Whether experiencing the world’s oldest Christmas markets in Dresden amongst beautiful baroque architecture, enjoying mulled wine against the backdrop of the Gothic Cologne Cathedral, or finding the perfect Christmas gift in Düsseldorf, Germany is considered the ultimate destination for Christmas markets. It can be tempting to travel from one city to another to experience the unique qualities of the individual markets, but do remember there is so much more to see…
In the Catalonian capital there is a unique Christmas tradition, the caganer. The caganer is a figurine found in traditional nativity scenes from as far back as the 18th century: a man squatting with his trousers down defecating. Although banned from official government nativity scenes, the figure remains popular with locals and tourists alike, especially as these days’ caganers of famous people and fictional characters are sold in the Christmas markets.
The capital of Croatia is a fascinating place to visit during the Christmas season. The Christmas market is centred on Ban Jelacic Square – here you’ll find Croatian culinary delights amongst folk entertainment and a stronger sense of the religious importance behind the holiday.
While some beautiful cities have already been mentioned in this list, the Austrian capital is perhaps the most picturesque. Beautiful at any time of year, the addition of Christmas decorations, the mixture of friendly locals and curious visitors, and if you’re lucky a bit of snow, makes Vienna at Christmas breath-taking.
A final word
How much of Europe you get to see will depend on how long you have to explore, and how far you want to travel. However much of the continent you intend to see, make sure that your caravan insurance covers you completely and that you know before you set off what to do should you need to make a claim. With that taken care of, you can relax and revel in the wonderful sights, smells, sounds and tastes of a European Christmas.
Have you ever had a European Christmas? Where did you spend it and what did you find most charming, alarming, or interesting about the local traditions?