Vacations Newsletter – November 2019
Month’s theme Introduction:
Do your travel differently?
Anyone can tell you that it is more fun to do the different. Especially when it comes to travel. It is possible to beat the ‘trend’ and find something different and unique even in the most common destinations. Take Europe for example. Most people would choose Europe for a summer vacation and South-East Asia for a winter vacation. This results in overcrowding, and it becomes tough to have a great experience when everyone wants to see the same place, take the same pictures and eat at the same restaurants as everyone else. Surely, you can relate to this.
One way to experience a place differently is through backpacking. Removed from the cocoon of a starred hotel, you can get a rustic, raw experience of travel when you backpack across youth hostels. Another simple way of turning your travel experience on its head for a truly sublime experience is to visit the place in a different season. For example, choose European destinations for winter vacations. While it is true that Christmas is big travel time for everyone, but even then European destinations are not as crowded in winters as they are in summers. And the biggest advantage of going to Europe in winters (Nov/Dec) is that you can bask in the glow of Christmas lighting everywhere. The whole of Europe becomes like a town out of a fairy tale and wherever you go, the atmosphere is festive, cheery and even if there exists snow and chill in the air, the warmth of the Christmas spirit is unmatched. Add to this, the charm of the Christmas markets.
Soul Trip: How to find the off-beat track!
Your travels can be a reflection of your attitude to life itself. If you have a yearning for something extra-ordinary, something off-beat when you go travel, then it means that at heart you are an adventurer. You have the drive to do something new, something different from what the rest are doing. Most worthwhile goals require us to swim upstream. And let’s face it, swimming upstream is more challenging than floating downstream. That’s why the word “dare” fits so well with “different.” It takes guts to go off-the-beaten-track. But not just guts. It requires effort, the push, drive, comfort with uncertainty and rock-solid confidence in your own ability to handle any situation that comes along. The cocoon of ‘package tours’ is not for you. You crave for the boldness of taking a path that few others take. And that results in the kind of travel experiences that only you can boast of. Stories like you meeting a stranger on your hike and then that stranger inviting you and your companions to his/her house for a meal that becomes the most memorable meal of that entire trip.
Most people think that to find ‘off-beat’ holidays, you need to find some secret place, some secret secluded beach or an isolated village but in reality, if you only remain open to the range of human interactions as you move through days, you will experience something unique. In the middle of the busiest cities, you will find connections and new friendships. Even in everyday commutes, we can find memorable experiences. The trick is in understanding that ‘off-the-beaten-track’ doesn’t necessarily mean where no one has gone before, it means where you have been afraid to go before. The idea is to get out of your routine and go beyond your comfort zone. Once you learn how to go beyond that, you are truly on an ‘off-the-beaten-track holiday.
Discover Your World
There is no place like Western Europe to spend November and December. While the weather itself is quite cold, the air is crisp, and the sound of Christmas music in the air transforms all big and small cities of Europe from mid-November.
Germany is known to be the birthplace of Christmas markets where it started in the 16th century. The Christmas market – also known as the Christkindlmarkt (Christ child market) or Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Eve market) celebrate the Christmas season during Advent, the four weeks leading up to the holiday. They're known today for festive stands selling regional treats and crafts, and for exuding all sorts of Christmas-y cheer.
Some of these markets transport you back in time to when the tradition of having Christmas markets started. And indeed some of these markets are hundreds of years old – still being held at the same place where they started a long time ago as a testimony to local culture and tradition.
If you ask someone, which is the best Christmas market in Germany – you will get a long list Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, etc. and indeed they are all correct. But in our theme of doing the unusual, we bring to you the most magical, and yet rather unheard Christmas markets. Top of our list is 14th century Erfurt.
Erfurt: Erfurt is a 1,250-year-old city in Thuringia, or Thüringen, in the "green heart of Germany." Its medieval city centre is packed with historic buildings, including the Augustian Monastery where Martin Luther became a monk and the Cathedral where Luther was ordained as a priest.
The main Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt is on the Domplatz, a large square in front of the 70 steps that lead up to St. Mary's Cathedral, the St. Severus Church, and the Petersburg Hill with its walled Baroque fortress. More than 200 booths sell everything from Thuringian handicrafts to Stollen and other holiday foods. Do try the Riesenbratwurst--a huge veal sausage served in a mini-baguette--and the Gulaschsuppe, a meaty concoction that's more stew than a soup.
Dresden: Dresden is said to be Germany’s Christmas capital. The Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany – more than 550 years old - and is the place to go for the best Christmas market food. The wooden huts sell traditional products manufactured in the region alongside Saxon folk art, both of which make the Striezelmarkt so popular. Weekly events, music, a Ferris wheel, an enchanted forest and a puppet theatre keeps both kids and adults entertained.
Stollen is a heavy, sweet, fruit bread with nuts, spices and dried or candied fruit, usually topped with icing sugar. You will see it at most Christmas markets in Germany, but the official stollen is only baked by certain Dresden bakeries and has been around since the 15th century. Do try the stollen here and if mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate don’t warm you up, a dip into one of the enormous wooden tubs in the public bathhouse might do the job.
Nuremberg: Packed into the Old Town, the gold-hued Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt oozes with history and tradition. You can attend the opening ceremony outside the church and look up at the balcony to hear the festive blowing of trumpets. The city’s picture-perfect medieval Old Town plays proud host to “the little town of wood and cloth” that is Christmas City, a 400-year-old tradition awash with handmade decorations. Locals claim theirs is the world’s best gingerbread called lebkuchen. Order a drei im weggla (three in a roll) Nuremberg Bratwurst and search the stalls for gifts from all over the world, such as Czech wooden angels and French marmalade. Some of these stalls are originals built-in 1890.
Also, a unique feature here is that instead of Father Christmas, you will probably see Baby Christmas with a local young child playing Christkind for the festivities.
Rothenburg: The medieval town of Rothenburg is a sight to behold, especially in the Adventszeit, when the city’s long-running Christmas market lights up the long winter nights. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, founded in 1274, in northern Bavaria known for its medieval architecture. Half-timbered houses line the cobblestone lanes of its old town. The town walls include many preserved gatehouses and towers, plus a covered walkway on top.
The medieval Town Hall has a tower with panoramic views.
With its winding streets and Tudor houses, the whole city feels like a fairy-tale, and the appearance of the mythical Reiterle (rider) at the market’s opening ceremony certainly enhances the impression. Don’t leave without trying the famous Rothenburger Schneeball (‘snowball’) pastry, fried golden and made with plum Schnapps.
The truth is that all Christmas markets are magical. The ones in Germany are even more so. And if it snows then it gets even more magical. Just grab a hot cup of Gluhwein, it will wrap its arms around you and give you a big, warm holiday hug!
Travelling light in winters
The following will sound so familiar. You are about to head off on an amazing winter vacation. Perhaps it’s a long-awaited ski break, or Christmas and New Year vacation with kids in Europe or a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the Northern Lights. You have got all your cold-weather gear ready to go; toasty coats, gloves, long boots and scarves to keep you warm. But there’s just one problem: all this is now double the size of your suitcase and triples the luggage weight that you wanted to carry.
It seems like there’s never enough room for all those bulky winter clothes, but with a few little hacks, you can stay warm and stylish — without going over your luggage limit. If you are backpacking, you will find our winter packing trips especially useful.
Here are our tips to not let your winter packing give you cold feet:
- Do not take bulky jackets. More bulk is not equal to more warmth.
- Carry layers. Two thin layers of warm clothing will keep you better insulated than one thick jacket.
- Carry good quality thermals. Find the best thermals that your money can afford and suitable for the temperature you are going to.
- Take long under layers. Full sleeved vests for top and full leggings.
- Sweaters sometimes are bulky without any additional warmth. Don't take such sweaters.
- Use high-performance accessories: Buy good quality gloves, caps, scarves and socks from a specialised mountaineering gear shop.
- Practice minimalism. While this is an evergreen golden rule for packing, in winters it's even more so. Take basic pants that you can wear with different tops or different scarves.
- Leave all non-essentials like extra shoes and handbags, etc. at home.
- Take ankle-high shoes to keep your feet well packed.
- Carry small size toiletries.
Finally our top two tips:
- Copy how the locals dress: They know how to beat that cold. You will probably see them in tight pants and tops (with thermals underneath) with boots, caps and scarves.
- Keep an eye on weather and temperature forecasts before packing: Global warming is a reality and it might not be as cold as you think it might be. Pack as per the forecast.
News you can use
Events, festivals from around the world in November
- Nov 04 – Nov 12: Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan India
- Nov 23 – Nov 24: Lopburi Monkey Banquet, Thailand
- Nov 11 – Nov 12: Yee Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Nov 05 – Nov 06: Lewes Bonfire Night, Lewes, England
- Nov 02: Dia de Los Muertos, Mexico
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