TRAVEL: Extravagant Christmas markets in Cologne, Germany

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — It’s tough to feel like Scrooge when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery. Travel Enthusiast Dana Rebbmann told KRON4’s Marty Gonzalez about Cologne, Germany, home to not just one, but about a half-dozen Christmas Markets. The markets here attract the likes of two million visitors every year, and it’s easy to understand why. I was on a river cruise on the Rhine River, and there were a number of markets within easy walking distance from where the ship docked on the Rhine River. Which made it nice because you could wander and come back and take a break when you’d had enough, or wanted to simply warm upThe wooden stalls are loaded with an assortment of goods, everything from handmade holiday decorations to pretzels. Ice rinks go up, Ferris wheels and carousels go around and around. It attracts tourists, but it’s embraced by locals.  Cologne’s Christmas markets can be very crowded, especially on weekend nights. For a quieter, more old school take.. let’s keep heading down the Rhine River.. (toward Switzerland) Welcome to Rüdesheim (Rude-is-heim). With a population of about 7,000 people (compared to Cologne’s million) the experience here is much different. Artisans working in Christmas stalls will have time to strike up a conversation with you, because they have the time to talk to you. There will be local kids running through the streets. You’ll hear Christmas music playing throughout the city, and plenty of lights. And again, less than a 10-minute walk from the ship to the center of town, so easy to go back and take a break, maybe drop off shopping bags, when needed. Though it is important to know, Rüdesheim rolls up the sidewalks pretty early, so you’ll want to enjoy the market sooner as opposed to later. I went for a walk after dinner around 8:30pm, and I had the place to myself. (Sun-Thu 11am-8pm Fri-Sat 11am-9pm) Our next stop comes complete with a castle.. welcome to Heidelberg. We’re working our way through Germany.  The Christmas Market here is scattered in squares throughout the old town. A long pedestrian stretch connects one square to the next, but with winding alleys and streets it’s a fun place to wander. Heidelberg has a population of about 150,000 thousand – more than 30,000 are college students. (It’s home to the largest University in Germany.) So much bigger than Rüdesheim, it has that classic academic feel. There are certain things you can expect at all Christmas Markets like mulled wine -called glühwein (glue-vine), big gingerbread cookies, wooden toys and crafts – but you’ll also notice different things at each market based on holiday traditions and local culture. Welcome to Gengenbach (Gangen-bach). Take a close look at that building.. the city hall with 24 windows doubles as an advent calendar during the holiday season. The surrounding market was my favorite of the bunch, because it was everything I envisioned a European Christmas Market would be, and it was very local. I met a sister from a local monastery selling paper stars and baked goods. When I asked one of the artists a question in German, it was the first time someone actually responded in German and kept going. The town has a population of 10,000, so the locals dramatically outnumbered the visitors.  WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON: 

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