Cologne Christmas Markets 2013

All of the Cologne Christmas markets open on the 25th November with the exception of the Cologne Harbour Christmas market which opens on the 22nd November 2013.

This Christmas Adopt a Vine with The Georgian Wine Society

Georgian VineyardThis Christmas what do you give the wine lover who has everything?  Their own vines of course!  With the launch of The Georgian Wine Society’s Adopt a Vine program, British wine enthusiasts can for the first time adopt their own vines in one of Georgia’s most celebrated vineyards.

Georgia’s rich winemaking tradition allowed the Society to partner with the Telavi Wine Cellar, one of the country’s top wine producers.  This year the Georgian Wine Society has reserved an allocation of vines in the world-famous, 300-year-old Kondoli vineyards in Kakheti.  Located in the controlled appellation of Tsinandali, between the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains and the Alazani River, the Kondoli vineyards produce some of Georgia’s best wines.

Adopt a Vine customers will be able to choose between two traditional grape varieties: the fresh white Mtsvane, and Saperavi, the national red grape of Georgia, described by Oz Clarke as a potential ‘world beater’.  Kondoli’s Mtsvane vines are found along the banks of the Alazani River, where the breeze from the mountains ensures cool growing conditions and fresh, crisp aromas.  While, the Saperavi vines are planted further back from the riverbank, where warmer conditions encourage the rich black fruit flavours for which the grape is renowned.

Customers joining Adopt a Vine now will adopt vines for the 2011 vintage, which allows you to follow the development of your wine for a full year before it is sent to you in the early summer of 2012.  The price per vine per year is just £29.99, or you can adopt 3 vines for £54.99.  The best bit?  There is no limit on the number of vines you can adopt!

What You Need to Know

  • You will receive one bottle of wine from the award-winning Kondoli vineyards from each of your adopted vines.
  • To offer Adopt a Vine as a gift, simply name the person you wish to give it to.  Orders for Christmas 2010 need to be received by 18th December.
  • To join email
  • All adopters must be over 18 years old.

For more information visit

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Why You Should Visit Dubrovnik this Winter

The Unesco World Heritage City of Dubrovnik in Croatia is a popular summer holiday destination, however, there are lots of reasons to visit in the winter too.  For one, during December the city shines with magical decorations and sparkles with fairy lights, creating the atmosphere of a fairy-tale renaissance city. In this month of gift giving a fabulous Christmas Fair takes place. Traditional handicrafts, Christmas decorations, candles, toys, glassware, embroidery, ceramics, porcelain and all the objects which the artists’ hands manufactured for Christmas are displayed. While caterers offer Christmas cookies, sweet delicacies, mulled wine, bruštulani mjenduli (candied almonds), and traditional Dubrovnik sweet delicacies including kontonjata (quince cheese), mantala (must cheese), prikle (doughnuts), hrostule (deep fried biscuits) and other delicacies prepared for this holiday time. To the accompaniment of Christmas songs, the fair will be opened from St Nicolas’ Day to Epiphany.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, 31 December, the musicians of Dubrovnik see the old year out with traditional Dubrovnik carols and a music programme lasting all day, which will be the best possible introduction to the wildest night. Numerous visitors to Dubrovnik begin the New Year 2011 entertained by Croatian stars. The finale is the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra’s New Year’s concert in the Stradun on 1 January 2011. The orchestra will perform the most beautiful operatic pieces that will additionally enhance the unforgettable New Year’s fun in Dubrovnik.

So this winter, head to Croatia to enjoy a very different break in Dubrovnik!

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Enjoy a Magical Christmas in the Czech Republic

Czech RepublicIf you want to get yourself in the mood for Christmas then why not head to the Czech Republic to enjoy a little festive cheer? Festivities begin on the 28th November when Christmas trees are lit up on town squares, cities are covered in Christmas decoration and the craft markets open.  There is no more magical Christmas tree in the world than that at Prague Castle. While if you want to get your Christmas shopping done, there is an abundance of unusual gifts available at the traditional craft markets.  There are displays of old Czech crafts such as woodcarving of sculptures and wooden kitchen utensils, making of straw Christmas ornaments and straw dolls, pottery, beeswax candles, original jewellery, and glass Christmas-tree decorations. A little bell made on the spot by a blacksmith in their stall could be an original Czech souvenir. Should you become hungry while shopping taste some traditional delicacies. Those with a sweet tooth will certainly enjoy the ‘trdelník’ (sweet pastry made from rolled dough usually topped with sugar and walnut mix) or roasted chestnuts. Visitors prefering something more savoury can try some meat dishes such as various kinds of sausages accompanied with Czech bread. And finally to keep yourself warm purchase a hot drink – a cup of mead, mulled wine or punch are typical for this time of year. For those who want to celebrate the religious nature of the holiday season there are thousands of nativity scenes displayed around the Czech Republic in the Advent time. Even live nativity scenes with real donkey and sheep can be seen on squares. The Czech Republic also has several museums that specifically focus on nativity scenes. Probably the most famous “Mecca” of nativity scenes is Třebechovice pod Orebem.  The collections of this museum include over 300 nativity scenes created from various materials, the most prized of which is Probošt’s mechanical nativity scene. It is created from more than 2,000 mechanical parts.  The Museum of Paper Crèches in Zábrdí u Husince in Southern Bohemia is undoubtedly worth seeing. There are around 800 paper crèches created all around the world. The biggest crèche measures almost 4 metres, while the smallest can fit in a matchbox. The museum is open all year round and admission is free. Christmas in the Czech Republic also means listening to Christmas and Advent melodies. This year people will sing carols together on Pilsen’s main square on the 15th December. As with every year it will be the largest mass carolling in the Czech Republic. Czech Christmas is inherently connected with the Czech Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba, Czech composer from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Estates Theatre in Prague will present this work, also known as Hail, Master! on the 19th December. Then on 25th December you will have the opportunity to listen to the Czech Christmas Mass played by the Prague Chamber Orchestra in the Church of St. Simon and St. Jude on Dušní Street in Prague. The Prague State Opera will also be performing classical Czech Christmas pieces for its audiences. The Kühn Children’s Choir will sing songs from the works of Bohuslav Martinů, Vítězslav Novák, Zdeněk Lukáš, Petr Eben and Václav Trojan. For that final bit of cultural magic, take some time to visit the Czech castles and chateaux, such as Křivoklát, which are open to public during Christmas time. From the 1st December, visitors will also be able visit the Museum of Nativity Scenes. You can enjoy the festive atmosphere at Loket Castle as well on the 10th and 11th December when the traditional craft markets will take place at the castle courtyard.Then on the 18th December let yourself be enchanted by Baroque atmosphere of Wallenstein-style Christmas at the Mnichovo Hradiště chateau. Alternatively, special Christmas tours are prepared from 26th to 31th December at the chateau in Horšovský Týn. Christmas tours are also held on the first three Advent weekends at the Hořovice Chateau. You will be welcomed by guides in costumes who will relate to you the history of Christmas, its traditions, and Advent. Need to get into the Christmas spirit?  Get yourself to the Czech Republic!  You’ll be willingly partaking in festive cheer in no time!

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An Alternative Christmas Market – Kubik in Vienna

Kubik, ViennaLove Christmas Markets but looking for something slightly different this year?  Why not visit Kubik lightroom installation in Votive Park in Vienna.  At this truly exceptional location, architecture, light and sound merge into an unique Advent attraction.  Featuring electronic music by DJs, punch and Christmas gift ideas there really is something for everyone.  This installation has been hosted by several other European cities but is now open in Vienna until the end of December.  The Kubik consists of tanks, filled with water and illuminated from inside, creating a spectacular light effect.  Video artists can control each tank individually to create a light performance to the music.  Then there is the particuarly novel interpretation of the traditional punch bar!  This is definitely THE alternative Christmas Market to visit in 2010.

Open now until 31 December 2010, daily from 5pm to 10pm (closed between 24 and 26 December)

Sigmund Freud Park / Votive Church

1090 Vienna

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Bratislava Christmas Market in Slovakia

Tomorrow the Hlavné námestie square and the Františkánske námestie square in Bratislava will become a hub of activity with the splendid atmosphere of Christmas. The most beautiful part of the town is full of savour of various delicacies and Christmas carols can be heard.  Here it is possible to purchase wonderful gifts such as handicraft products, ceramics, wood, glass, cornhusk and textile products of the counters of the lovely stalls in the square as well as in the courtyard of the Old Town Hall.

Bratislava Christmas Market

Visitors can enjoy Christmas dished and drinks corresponding to the traditional national gastronomy, mainly cabbage soup and dishes of fish and meat barbecued directly in the front of them.  There is also an abundance of sweets for sale such as wafers, lokše (baked potato pancakes), honey cakes, plus a tasty hot toddy of punch or Christmas mead.  Then, just before Christmas vats with live carp and Christmas trees appear for sale!

To get into the Christmas spirit visit Bratislava this December for some festive cheer!

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A Colourful December 2010 in Maribor

This December Maribor in Slovenia will start to glow in festive atmosphere with the switching on of the Fairy’s Ball Festive Lights throughout the old town.  The Colourful December festival offers a rich event programme including numerous art productions and concerts in a number of cultural institutions and churches, street performances and open air music concerts of popular artists, a lively children’s programme, festive fairs and the biggest live nativity scenes in Slovenia. The Festival’s highlight is the popular New Year’s Eve Celebration in the Maribor’s old town core with the top Slovenian ensembles and soloists and a large midnight fireworks show. Check out the programme in full below…

Colourful December 2010 Programme:
3rd December: the festive switching on of the holiday lights
3rd – 5th December: St Nicholas Fair
11th – 25th December: a Christmas – New Year Fair
10th – 30th December: a Colourful December program for children
20th – 30th December: street performances
25th December: a Christmas concert
28th – 30th December: concerts by Slovenian music stars
31st December: a big open-air New Year’s Eve celebration with the best Slovenian ensembles and soloists, as well as a firework display at midnight

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Top 10 East European Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit.  Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts.  Here’s our top ten…

Vienna Christmas Market
Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna, Austria

During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city.  The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).

Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting.  The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste.  Open 9am to 7pm daily.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories.  Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.

Nuremberg, Germany

Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets.  While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them.  Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.

Berlin, Germany

With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation.  Open 9am to 9pm daily.

Budapest, Hungary

One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square.  There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks.  Open 10am to 8pm daily.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city.  Open from 10am to 9pm daily.

Cologne in London, UK

Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market.  While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design.  Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch”  and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold.  Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe.  December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity.  Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans.  These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree.  Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

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This Winter Sample Bavarian & Bohemian Christmas Markets

German Christmas markets have become almost a cliché, especially seeing the crowds at Munich, Nuernberg and Cologne. However, Bavarian Forest Holidays has come up with a different angle: a long weekend on any of the four advent weekends before Christmas, with accommodation in a five star village apartment, giving visitors the opportunity to see Christmas Markets in the big cities of Passau and Regensburg, as well as the smaller towns and villages of Bavaria and Bohemia.


Each weekend can be tailored to suit the preferences of a family or group and most of the markets can be visited by great value German public transport – so there are no restrictions on testing the Gluehwein! Accommodation is in the pretty Bavarian Forest village of Bayerisch Eisenstein, directly on the border with Czech Republic. Prices for three nights in five star accommodation (excluding travel and meals) range from €200 for a couple in a one bedroom apartment, up to €425 for 6 people in a 3 bedroom, all ensuite apartment. A welcoming glass of Gluehwein will help to get you in the mood. And, of course, award-winning Bavarian Forest Holidays can advise on travel by rail to and from the UK as well as to and from the Christmas Markets.

For more information visit

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Traditional Hungarian Turkey Recipe

Traditional Hungarian Turkey
Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Think of Hungary and goulash probably springs to mind.  However, the Hungarians are famed for much more than one traditional soup.  Hungary is arguably the home of mushrooms after Italy and Russia.  Moreover, its blessed with the sweet, soft chestnut and many of its sweet and savoury dishes benefit from its presence.

This Christmas, the Jones’ household decided to opt for a traditional Hungarian chestnut-stuffed turkey.  Serve with roast potatoes, your favourite vegetables and lashings of gravy for a favourite family feast.


For the stuffing

200g unsmoked bacon lardons or pancetta

100g butter

250g breadcrumbs

200g chestnuts, cooked and chopped

Plenty of thyme and parsley, finely chopped, fresh is best

For the turkey

Turkey whatever weight you need to satisfy your hungry family

Roughly (depends on size of turkey) 50g butter

About (again depends on size of turkey) 6 rashers of streaky bacon

Parsley and thyme


Dry fry bacon lardons in frying pan unti most of their fat is released

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Add butter to pan and melt

Add breadcrumbs and mix

Add chopped chestnuts

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Season with salt and pepper

Add the herbs


Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Remove from pan and allow to cool

When cool to handle roll into a ball

Stuff the neck of the turkey with the stuffing ball

(Excess stuffing can be used to make extra stuffing balls or a dish of stuffing which can be cooked separately. Alternatively, freeze a large ball of stuffing to use the next time you want to make a roast dinner.  Ensure you defrost thoroughly before cooking.)

Fill cavity of turkey with thyme and parsley

Coat the turkey with butter and top with the bacon rashers

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Cover the turkey with foil

Cook on 180 degrees Celsius (lower for a fan oven) according to weight (instructions on packaging) but allow extra time for stuffing

Remove foil 30 minutes before end time

When cooked (juices will run clear) allow to stand for 30 minutes before carving

Traditional Hungarian Turkey
Traditional Hungarian Turkey

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