Europe Magazine - December 2021

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

Photo copyright: Yasemin Volders, Visit Europe team.

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE

SINK INTO A RURAL RESPITE IN EUROPE

Photo copyright:Juho Kuva, Visit Finland.

TABLE OF CONTENTS EUROPE'S ADVENT

AND CHRISTMAS IDEAS The holiday season is twinkling in Europe: towns and cities are festooned with lights and decorations and merry shoppers throng the streets and shops. December is a wonderful time for invigorating winter sports, too! Schuss down a ski run, take a romantic sleigh ride, or build snow people on a winter hike. Even if you can’t make your planned trip this year, you can get ready for 2022! Prepare for your actual trip by trying out some of Europe’s treasured Christmas customs at home this year. Do some Santa sleuthing: how many places claim to be his hometown? What a great question for a Christmas quiz, in person or onscreen. Plan a gingerbread challenge: bake a few of the dozens of different recipes from different regions. Taste, and compare notes! Find the holiday customs in the countries of your family’s heritage and try them out. Can you imagine the looks around the table when you start throwing walnuts? Wherever and however you celebrate the December holidays, do so in joy, peace, and planning your next trip to Europe!

Romania: Christmas in Romania Denmark: Danish ChristmasWonders Switzerland: SwissWinterWonderland Monaco: Monaco’sWinter Wonderland Finland: A True Finnish Christmas Germany: Germany’s Christmas spirit San Marino: Christmas in San Marino Croatia: The Most Beautiful Advent Slovakia: Take a seat at our table! Italy: Living Nativity scenes Portugal: Christmas in Portugal Estonia: An Estonian Christmas Tale Poland: “Xmas Dream”, Polish-Style Europe: AWinter Holiday In Europe Ireland: Christmas in Ireland

07 08 10 11 12 14 15 16 18 19 06 20 04 22 23 03

Cyprus: Cyprus wonderland

BelgiumWallonia: Enchanting Christmas Markets 24 Belgium Flanders: A cultural winter wonderland 25

Slovenia: Festivespirit inSlovenia Greece: Christmas in Greece

26 28 29 30

Czech Republic: Magical Czech Christmas

Spain: Ski with sea views in Spain

PLAN YOUR TRIP SAFELY

www.visiteurope/informationpage

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

EUROPE

VISIT EUROPE

Photo copyright: Mümliswil-Ramiswil. © Switzerland Tourism.

A WINTER HOLIDAY IN EUROPE I AM #NATURALLYCURIOUS

Winter in Europe is magical: snow-capped peaks on the horizon, bright Christmas markets, happy faces and adventure await! Here are some top spots to enjoy Europe at year’s end. Start in the heart of Germany, a winter wonderland of ski resorts, ice-skating rinks and the famous Christmas markets. Although you’ll find markets are held throughout Germany, Dresden’s is one of the best. Dating to the 1400s, it offers a range of gifts from blown glass and handcrafted goods to the world’s tallest nutcracker and loads of sweets. After your Christmas market fun, take a train to Prague for more celebrating. Start by ice skating in Old Town Square. Then, enjoy a concert and night on the town. Be sure to save time for one big sit-down meal; Prague’s cuisine may be less known than its European counterparts, yet is equally delectable. Next, to the Austrian Alps! Ski, snowboard, and sled at the famous Solden ski resort in western Austria. Its offers a picturesque European skiing experience perfect for enjoying an Alpine winter. Tucked away on its own, it has a relaxed, secluded feeling, yet is still close to shops, restaurants, and your next adventure.

On to Zurich, the must-see Swiss city to cap your holiday. Ski the slopes, order flights of beers in pubs and enjoy this European city that shines in winter. The best way to end your winter trip? With hot mulled wine in hand and snowy mountain peaks in the distance. We can’t wait to see you! Plan your travel to Europe when the time is right.

COVID 19 page I'am #NaturallyCurious

3

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

FINLAND

A TRUE FINNISH CHRISTMAS

EXPLORE HOW FINNS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS Everyone knows that Santa Claus comes from Finland, but there’s more to this traditional holiday than Father Christmas and the presents he brings. During the festive season, Finns like to take things slowly and enjoy the company of loved ones. Finns love to celebrate the holiday season. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, beginning with pikkujoulu ’ (Little Christmas) parties in early December, the atmosphere is exuberant. Markets bustle with activity and are lit up at night, offering an abundance of unique gifts, delicious food and hot glögi (Finnish mulled wine) to take the chill out of the air. Experience some wonderful yuletide cheer and shop the markets for high-quality handmade goods, Finnish design, and edible seasonal treats.

COZY IS KEY The natural atmosphere is a key element for a true Finnish Christmas. White landscapes enshrouded in darkness, lit only by the stars in the sky and ice lanterns on driveways, set the mood for a soothingly cozy festive season. As for most people, Christmas preparations in Finland start by deciding where to spend it. The family home is often preferred, but occasionally some jazzing up is in order and a villa or a cottage might be rented in the countryside. Obviously, food plays a central part in Christmas celebrations in Finland, too. SAVORY DISHES Pork roast is the main dish in most households and a variety of fish, casseroles and salads are served with it. The most authentic Christmas Eve breakfast is rice pudding. After a couple of Christmas ales, carols are sung with gusto. MAKE IT SWEET Sweet pastries, cakes and biscuits are Finnish Christmas treats loved by people of all ages. One of the most cherished tasks of Christmastime is baking small Christmas tarts which are called joulutorttu in Finnish. These iconic, star-shaped treats are made of puff pastry and are traditionally filled with plum or apple jam.

4

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

NORTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Julia Kivelä/Lahti Region.

Finnish Christmas would not be the same without gingerbread cookies of all shapes and sizes. In fact, one of the most cherished tasks of Christmastime is baking and decorating these little cookies, together with family and loved ones, often to be hung on the branch of a beautiful spruce tree. FINNISH MULLED WINE Glögi, a type of mulled wine, is a favored hot drink at Christmastime. It is usually made from red wine or red juice of some sort, mixed with spices such as cardamon and cinnamon, and served with raisins and almonds. CHRISTMAS SAUNA An old wooden sauna surrounded by white snow and warm candlelight, shared with friends and family – what more could you want from your Christmas Eve? FROM CHRISTMAS EVE TO BOXING DAY While quiet and relaxing quality time with close relatives is preferred on Christmas Eve, visiting friends and eating leftovers is the thing to do on Christmas Day. Partying steps into the picture on Boxing Day, and many like to head out to bars and clubs in high Christmas spirits.

SANTA CLAUS Everyone knows Santa – the one and only – comes from Finland. What some people don’t know, however, is that it is possible to meet him in person all year round. Santa’s official office, situated on the mysterious Arctic Circle, is open to everyone. In Finland, Christmas Eve is the main event of the holidays, and is the night Santa comes with his presents. Did you know that Santa Claus’s post office has received letters from all over the world and that he receives hundreds of thousands of them every year? Santa can be reached at the following address: Santa Claus, Santa Claus’s Main Post Office, 96930 Napapiiri, Finland.

Meet Santa Claus A True Northern Christmas

5

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

MONACO

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: © BVergely.

MONACO’S WINTER WONDERLAND EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS IN MONACO

A magical Monaco is not just a destination, it is the experience of a lifetime. For over a century, the Principality has been an aspirational symbol of luxury and glamour, and renowned for its safety. What the country lacks in size, it makes up for in history, culture, entertainment, and character. Today, it is reinventing itself while preserving its environment. Discover how the Principality of Monaco sparkles with magic during the holidays. Admire the grand decorations that adorn the streets, shop fronts, hotel lobbies and restaurants. You will be amazed to see the twinkling golden lights of the giant Christmas tree on the Casino Square and glowing igloos dotted all around. Visit Monaco’s Christmas Village on Port Hercule. Along with ice-skating and shopping at holiday chalets, visitors enjoy culinary specialties such as “barbajuan” a baked or fried puff pastry filled with Swiss chard, ricotta, leeks, garlic and herbs; “fougasse,” a small, sweet orange flavored bread and decorated with nuts, raisins and anise; and the traditional “U Pan de Natale” Christmas bread.

On December 24, join locals for midnight mass at the Roman Byzantine Cathedral of Monaco. On New Year’s Eve, raise a toast with revelers at the legendary Casino Square while watching the fireworks to ring in the New Year. Whether you are looking for a solo or romantic break, a friends’ or family getaway, a gourmet or revitalizing experience, Monaco is FOR YOU. At last!

Visit Monaco Monte-Carlo SBM – Holidays

6

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

ROMANIA

EASTERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Suceava County Council.

CHRISTMAS IN ROMANIA WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES FOR ALL THE SENSES

In Romania the Christmas period begins on the 15th of November, when Christmas fasting (Advent) starts. During this period carols are sung and preparations are made for the big holiday. The 6th of December is a special day when St Nicholas is celebrated. On the eve of the holiday, children leave their shoes by the door or window, waiting for the gifts of Moș Nicolae (Old Man Nicholas). Those who did not behave receive a decorated stick. BeforeChristmas Evewomen prepare traditional dishes such as sarmale (pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice, and spices) and cozonac (sweet bread filled with nuts, poppy seeds, and cocoa). The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve and children wait impatiently for Moș Crăciun (Santa Claus) to bring their presents to put under the tree. On the evening of Christmas Eve caroling groups pass by peoples' houses to bring them the good news of the holiday, the birth of Christ. They are given nuts, apples, baked treats or money in appreciation. The men's caroling group has been declared UNESCO Intangible

Heritage in both Romania and the Republic of Moldavia.

On Christmas Day morning, the custom is usually to attend a church service and enjoy the holiday with family afterwards.

Christmas in Maramures Men's carolling group

7

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

DENMARK

DANISH CHRISTMAS WONDERS

READY TO EXPLORE THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN DENMARK? If we had to describe Danish Christmas in three words, it would be magical, tasty and hyggelig . Christmas time is all about gathering the family, enjoying delicious Christmas food and of course a lot of HYGGE ! There are many charming Danish Christmas traditions that you can experience when visiting Denmark at Christmastime. Cheers to the start of the Christmas season The Danish Christmas season starts quite early every year, namely on the first Friday in November, when the Danish Christmas beer is launched. This happens at exactly 8:59 pm and is celebrated by the Danes in

basically every pub and bar in Denmark. If you happen to be in Denmark around that time, you shouldn’t miss it! During November and December, most companies host their annual Julefrokost – which is a Christmas party. Fish filet, warm liver pâté and marinated herring are just some of the dishes that we eat at a Julefrokost . Of course, we also drink a few Christmas beers and some traditional Danish schnaps. Julefrokost is also celebrated with friends and family and is the highlight of the Christmas season for many Danes. Experience the magical Christmas markets At the end of November Christmas markets open across the country. If you want to experience some Christmas magic, you should visit Tivoli’s Christmas market in Copenhagen or the Old Town in Aarhus. In Tivoli Gardens you can see millions of Christmas lights and decorations brightening up the winter darkness. In Aarhus’ Old Town you can experience more than 400 years of Danish Christmas history and soak up the charming Christmas atmosphere in the old streets. If you want to encounter even more magical Christmas vibes, visit a Christmas market at one of Denmark’s

8

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

NORTHERN UROPE

Photo copyright: Paul Hanaoka.

many castles. The baroness of Gavnø Castle is a huge Christmas fan and welcomes other Christmas lovers to a huge Christmas market at her castle every year. You’ll find Gavnø Castle decorated in beautiful Christmas decorations and shining lights, and there are plenty of Danish Christmas traditions to discover. Get a taste of Danish Christmas food There are two things you will notice everywhere during the Christmas season in Denmark: Æbleskiver and Gløgg. Æbleskive r are sweet pancake balls that are served with jam and powdered sugar. We Danes are obsessed with Æbleskiver and even have a special pan to make them in at home. Along with Æbleskiver, we drink Gløgg – delicious Danish mulled wine. It’s a must-try combo! In Denmark, we celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December. This includes a generous Christmas menu – as you already know, we Danes love to have a hygge time with good food and company. For Christmas, we usually have roasted duck or pork served with caramelized potatoes and red cabbage, but the best part of the Christmas dinner is the dessert: Ris à l’amande . This sweet rice pudding with chopped almonds is served with warm cherry sauce and tastes

simply amazing! We usually hide one whole almond in the Ris á l’amande and the lucky finder gets a small present. Such a lovely Christmas tradition! Be aware of the Danish Christmas elves OnChristmasEve, theDanishSantaClaus, Julemanden , comes to put presents under the Christmas tree. The Danish Santa Claus is assisted by cute little elves, Nisser , who play pranks on the Danes during December. They live in the lofts of our houses and eat Ris á l’amande all day long. So be careful when you visit Denmark during Christmas time – the small elves are playing pranks everywhere!

Learn more about Christmas Hygge Danish Christmas Celebrations Best Christmas Markets in Denmark

9

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

SWITZERLAND

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo copyright: Switzerland Tourism.

SWISS WINTER WONDERLAND CHRISTMAS MAGIC IS IN THE AIR

A magical atmosphere, enticing aromas, twinkling lights and Christmas music: Switzerland does not disappoint in showing a truly special side during the pre-Christmas season. Skate around an ice rink, enjoy a delicious fondue and some spiced hot wine, or stroll through an enchanting traditional Christmas market. No doubt that Switzerland has something for everyone in the run-up to Christmas. A Christmas stroll in Eastern Switzerland Did you know that Santa Claus lives in Switzerland? He does, in Wienacht (German for Christmas), a 450-person village high above Lake Constance. Every year around Christmas, thousands of letters from children all over the world arrive in this far eastern corner of Switzerland. It’s a dreamy, tranquil, fairy tale-like place that awakens once a year, just before Christmas, when Santa Claus brings his hometown to life. It’s beginning to feel like Christmas in the cities Nothing could be more special than enjoying the magical Christmastime with your dearest at one of the many Christmas markets in Switzerland. Soak up the

festive spirit at the magical markets in Zurich, enjoy some mulled wine and the scent of gingerbread at the market in Solothurn, or let the twinkling lights of the largest Advent wreath in Lucerne, located in Central Switzerland, make your eyes sparkle as well.

Christmas in Switzerland Swiss Christmas markets Dear Santa Claus

10

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

IRELAND

WESTERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Tourism Ireland.

CHRISTMAS IN IRELAND GET A FEEL FOR THE YULETIDE SEASON IN IRELAND

Christmastime in Ireland is full of festive experiences and heartwarming traditions. Belfast’s Christmas Market is perfectly placed in front of its festively decorated and perennially handsome City Hall. In Dublin, a sense of magic and merriment fills the air on Grafton Street and Henry Street as Christmas shoppers take in the twinkling lights and Christmas music. Waterford’s Winterval festival hosts a traditional Christmas market in the city with plenty of food, crafts and entertainment. Hop on the Winterval Express and enjoy storytelling in Reginald's Tower. In Galway, Eyre Square turns into a winter wonderland for the Galway Continental Christmas Market. Bring comfy shoes for the dancing, and an appetite to taste treats from the food chalets. Come for the gifts, stay for mulled wine, hot chocolate, and live music. Curious about Ireland’s Christmas traditions? Christmas Eve is all about family and reuniting over a hot whiskey or creamy Irish coffee. Often people meet

in their local pub, catching up by a warm fire.

For the adventurous at heart, Christmas Day and December 26th are traditionally the time to get outside and take a long walk, or plunge into the Atlantic Ocean or Irish Sea for a refreshing swim. In Dingle, it’s the time of year for the Wren Boys in County Kerry, who mark the Day of the Wren. The town is full of life with live music, straw costumes, and a proud sense of tradition.

Will 2022 be the year you visit the island of Ireland?

Christmas in Ireland Ireland’s Christmas recipes Ireland’s Christmas Quiz

11

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

GERMANY

GERMANY'S CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

EMBARK ON A UNIQUE JOURNEY

with traditional methods that have been perfected over generations, and perhaps take one home! If you prefer being outside, Seiffen offers plenty of outdoor activities that are particularly fun in winter. Skiing enthusiasts can swoosh down the nearby alpine slopes quickly, while romantics will enjoy the winter landscape from the seat of a horse-drawn sleigh or a dogsled. Sledging down a mountain in the German Alps When the Alps turn into awhiteChristmas dream, plenty of snow activities begin. One special highlight each year is when the landlady of the Hündeleskopfhütte in the Allgäu Alps prepares the two-kilometer-long toboggan run from her small restaurant on top of the mountain. While waiting for their turn to sledge down the mountain, young and old can grab a bite to eat and quench their thirst in the comfortable mountain hut. The Hündeleskopfhütte is especially well-known for being the first vegetarian mountain hut in the Alps, where visitors can enjoy regional food made with organically farmed produce. Winter strolls by the Baltic Sea Enjoy Nordic air by the sea, hearing the cry of seagulls and watching snow crystals flying through the icy sky. Taking a winter walk at one of the ten Thalasson

When the days get shorter, the weather colder, the scents of roasted almonds and mulled wine waft through the chilly air, and lights make the night sparkle, one of the most beautiful times in Germany begins. It is winter. As temperatures begin to drop, Germany transforms into a winter wonderland with plenty to offer. Here are some of Germany’s most popular Christmas customs, traditions, highlights, and activities. Christmas throughout the year In the heart of the Ore Mountains you will find the village of toys, Seiffen, where it’s Christmas no matter when you visit. Take joy in examining the handmade Christmas pyramids, nutcrackers, and angels, made

12

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo copyright: DZT © Francois Thierens.

spa trails at the seaside resort of Warnemünde, the Stoltera nature reserve, or the Rostock Heath is highly recommended. Culture enthusiasts may also embark on an esthetic journey at Ahrenshoop, an artists’ colony that was founded around 1842. On a looped trail, visitors can explore the artwork of well-known painters who spent time at Ahrenshoop. “Flying” Christmas trees on board While taking a harborside stroll in Hamburg, see the annual Tannenbaumwerfen during the Advent season. This is a launch filled with traditional conifers motoring through the harbor. The pines and spruces onboard are thrown through the air onto ships leaving the port. This way, sailors going to sea can take at least one Christmas tradition with them and enjoy celebrating the holiday, even far from home. Ice skating at a World Heritage Sight Take a spin at what is perhaps Germany’s most beautiful, and certainly most original, ice rink, located in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year, the former coal mine Zollverein turns into an ice palace offering a 150-meter-long ice rink for young and old to show off their skating skills. At nightfall, skating becomes an even more memorable experience when

the light installations of British artists Jonathan Speirs and Mark Major turn the coke ovens and chimneys into an impressive spectacle. Throughout the year, the former coal mine offers entertainment of the highest quality: art, concerts, festivals, and two museums, as well as a swimming pool. However, for now let the German Christmas spirit enchant you!

German Christmas traditions Season’s Greetings from Germany

13

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

SAN MARINO

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: @visitsanmarino.

CHRISTMAS IN SAN MARINO THE WONDERS OF CHRISTMAS FILL THE TOWN WITH MAGIC

Every year at Christmas, San Marino’s historic center, a walled, medieval World Heritage site, lights up with twinkling lights, transforming the most iconic places into a fantastic fairy tale place. Themed entertainment and original attractions liven up the Old Town and the Christmas Markets are the icing on the cake. The characteristic wooden huts offer gifts items, tree decorations, and handmade crafts, along with local foods and wine. The Christmas lunch menu is rich in traditional dishes, such as cappelletti in brodo , a stuffed fresh pasta first course which is a classic country recipe. Among the most popular desserts, bustrengo is a typical farmhouse cake, traditionally made with breadcrumbs, milk and raisins. San Marino is the ideal destination for travelers in search of festive cheer. The Republic is colored with a fabulous, timeless atmosphere with beautiful Nativity scenes set up in numerous locations. In Montegiardino, an evocative medieval village, every year on 26 December and 6 January, locals re-enact a the Nativity scene. While strolling along the narrow streets, visitors experience a journey through time, enriched by old crafts and games.

Music plays an important role in creating the cozy warmth of Christmas. Both the Instituto Musicale Sammarinese orchestra and Corale San Marino choir perform concerts dedicated to traditional music and Christmas carols.

Visit San Marino

14

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CROATIA

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo copyright: Julien Duval.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ADVENT ENJOY CHRISTMASTIME IN CROATIA

The Most Beautiful Advent by the Sea is the name of the festive fairy tale that takes place from 26 November to 9 January in Opatija, a famous European destination with a long tradition that extends back almost two centuries. Its rich Advent program, the town's excellent restaurants, and modern wellness and spa hotels make Opatija the best destination for a perfect holiday this winter. December is also a time dedicated to chocolate in Opatija. Theat’s why cafes, bars, and restaurants sweeten the holidays with a large selection of chocolate delicacies. A cheerful atmosphere, mild winter climate, and the proximity to the sea are the perfect recipe for the Advent of your dreams. Croatia's capital city, Zagreb, was voted the best Christmas market in all of Europe from 2016-2018 and is still a must-see each winter. This year's busy program, from 27 November to 7 January, is, as always, rich with events that take place in various locations throughout the city. Visitors have a great musical and cultural offer at their disposal, as well as a gastronomic adventure, "Zagreb Jingle Mingles", a digital platform through which visitors are invited to "mingle" with the city in search of the perfect holiday meal. Many exciting

programs at this year's Advent also await the youngest visitors: oversized toys spread throughout the city, huge railway systems wrapped in a snow, interactions with characters from favorite fairy tales, and more. Croatia is full of magic and is waiting for you!

Advent in Opatija Advent in Zagreb Advent Zagreb

15

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

SLOVAKIA

TAKE A SEAT AT OUR TABLE!

A BIT OF EXOTIC CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE FROM SLOVAKIA Visiting a Slovak family on Christmas Eve might be quite an exotic experience for a foreigner. Just imagine this typical scenario: you are seated at the table that is wound with a chain; a fish scale is poking out of tablecloth; your host starts (out of nowhere!) throwing walnuts around and then begins to spread honey on your forehead. And the kids can’t stop asking about a mysterious golden pig! If you are unfamiliar with the origin of these customs, many of which are rooted in older pagan celebrations of the winter solstice, you might well feel confused – but believe us, there is no better chance to experience the well-known Slovak hospitality than on December 24th,

when the main Christmas celebrations in Slovakia occur. There is a reason why it is called Štedrý deň (Generous Day), and not only because of the presents being given. Of course, Christmas in Slovakia is mainly a time for family, yet it is also customary that every family have an extra chair and a plate on the table for an unexpected visitor. So, if you ever find yourself in Slovakia on Christmas Eve, take advantage of it. However, thanks to the country´s diversity, know that each region, village and even family has its own special customs and menu. For example, some families fast during the day and in the evening eat only vegetarian food. Fasting can be especially difficult for the children, so to motivate them they are told that if they manage to get by without food the whole day, they will see a golden pig in the evening. Dinner usually starts after the first star appears in the sky. First, the head of the family cuts an apple in two halves. If the cut reveals a star-like shape in the middle, it means happiness and health for the upcoming year. A cross-like shape portends illness and death. The apple is then shared with everyone to symbolize the unity of the family – just like the chain placed around the legs of the table.

16

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo Copyright: M. Kováč, Visit Bratislava.com.

In some families, this custom is followed by throwing walnuts in each corner of the room. Why? To ensure abundance of food for the following year. Then the head of the family dips a finger in honey and makes a sign of the cross on everyone's forehead to guard them against all evil. Next, the Christmas thin wafers called oblátky are eaten with honey and garlic to scare away the evils of sickness. After that, the real feasting can start. In general, the dinner consists of many courses (four, seven, sometimes even twelve). The most common one is a fish dish – a therefore you usually find a fish scale placed under the tablecloth, to multiply family wealth.) Next comes potato salad, sauerkraut soup ( kapustnica ) or special poppy seed dumplings ( opekance ). Once dinner has been eaten and presents opened, people usually visit their close family and attend midnight Mass. You do not have to wait until Christmas Eve to savor the authentic festive atmosphere in Slovakia. During non-pandemic times charming Christmas markets open in every major city. Probably the most famous one takes place in Bratislava, our capital, located only 60 km from Vienna, with dozens of cozy stalls selling traditional gifts crafted by our artisans and lots of tasty local specialties. You can enjoy the markets even

more knowing they’ve followed a zero-waste concept since 2019. Get some inspiration from Canadian travel vlogger Eileen Aldis in the video below. Merry Christmas, and see you soon in Slovakia!

COVID-19 information Follow us on Instagram Slovakia.Travel

17

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

ITALY

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: IDM Alto Adige/Tiberio Sorvillo.

LIVING NATIVITY SCENES VOLUNTEERS AND ARTISTS GIVE LIFE TO UNIQUE SHOWS

The tradition of Nativity scenes in Italy, originally conceived by St. Francis in 1223, comes to life as Christmas draws near. Italian homes always use a corner to recreate the Nativity scene with shepherds and sheep. More accessible to visitors are the highly evocative and meaningful Living Nativity scenes set against Italy's magnificent natural scenery and carefully create d by many cultural associations. Greccio, in Latium (Lazio province), precisely where St. Francis set up his first Nativity scene, stages a depiction involving “living pictures”. Everything is studied in great detail, and the location in one of Latium's 22 Most Beautiful Villages in Italy ensures unparalleled impact. Another very moving Living Nativity scene is staged in Matera, against the same urban backdrop carved into the rock that Mel Gibson chose for his film The Passion of the Christ. Narrow streets and alleys in the Sassi Materani come alive with figures who complete the "holy picture" with ancient crafts and local traditions. You’ll really feel as if you’re in ancient Palestine.

Finally, consider Custonaci, in the province of Trapani, where one of the most important events in the Sicilian Christmas takes place. It features very faithful representations of Sicilian crafts and traditions as documented by university studies. About 160 interpreters, including artisan-artists from all over Sicily, rural workers and local inhabitants, give life every year to this event staged in the Scurati cave.

The living nativity scene of Greccio

18

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

PORTUGAL

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Óbidos Vila Natal ©Câmara Municipal Óbidos.

CHRISTMAS IN PORTUGAL HAVE PORTUGAL IN YOUR HOME THIS CHRISTMAS

At this time of year, all of Portugal comes to life with Christmas entertainment, starting with the lights that bring sparkle and color to the city centers. You can enjoy shopping in the many stores and markets, listening to choirs singing Christmas carols, and sampling some of the foods traditionally eaten at this time of year. The Christmas villages of Cabeça, Óbidos or Monsaraz are very popular during the holiday season. Following tradition, Portuguese families gather on the 24th of December for dinner (consoada) where cod dishes are served, although in the north, octopus is also an option. For dessert, you mustn’t miss the Bolo- Rei, broas castelares and the traditional fritters such as filhoses, sonhos, and rabanadas. At midnight, the Rooster's Mass is celebrated; gifts are exchanged after midnight or the following morning, depending on each family. In churches as well as at home, a Nativity scene always occupies a special place. In places such as Bragança, Guarda and Castelo Branco, a log is burned during the night of December 24th in a large bonfire in the churchyard. The fires

serves as a meeting place to gather friends and neighbors and wish everyone a merry Christmas. Then there is Madeira, a favorite destination for New Year festivities with its remarkable fireworks display. After New Year's Eve, the festivities last until Epiphany, January 6th. On the street, at monuments and in churches, you can hear the Janeiras, traditional songs that wish for a good new year.

Christmas Holidays in Portugal New Year in Madeira Christmas Eve Supper and Midnight

19

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

ESTONIA

AN ESTONIAN CHRISTMAS TALE

A YULETIDE FAIRYTALE THE ESTONIAN WAY Imagine yourself walking past a series of market stalls. Light puffs of snow float gently down around you as you walk past the various booths full of crafts, food, and drink. As you find the perfect gift for someone close to your heart, you hear voices filled with excitement and awe as wonder is expressed in different languages. The enticing smell of gingerbread awakens your appetite when you take a sip of mulled wine and feel the warmth move throughout your body. Welcome to the Tallinn Christmas Market! This famous market is held in Tallinn, a medieval town built in Hanseatic days, that is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nestled cozily beside the oldest town hall in both Scandinavia and the Baltic region,

you can experience yuletide joy as if in a fairy tale. The atmosphere gives visitors the distinct feeling of being transported to a different world – and that feeling is only reinforced as you walk past the old castle walls and take another sip of mulled wine or hot cocoa. It’s easy to understand why this is often considered the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe. In fact, it was ranked the best market in 2019 and has remained at the top ever since. You might also find it one of the most delicious, with traditional fare that’s made with that autumn’s harvest. This includes treats such as:

- sugar-coated almonds - gingerbread - sauerkraut - black sausage - over-roasted potatoes - mandarin oranges

Standing in the market, you might look up to see the impressive Christmas tree that stands in the city square as part of a centuries-old tradition. While the exact origins of decorating with a tree at Christmastime are still something of a mystery, we do know that Europe’s first Christmas tree was put up by the Livonian merchant’s guild, the Brotherhood of Black Heads.

20

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

NORTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Kaupo Kalda, Visit Estonia.

That means that Estonia was the first country known to have Christmas trees. With the tradition dating back to 1441, the people of Tallinn take the matter of choosing a good tree quite seriously. As such, there’s some rivalry when it comes to selecting the right tree, which can go on for weeks with fierce competition. Of course, Christmas trees aren’t the only distinctly Estonian thing about the Tallinn market. There’s so much to experience everything the Estonian way. You might try the more well-known traditions such as making gingerbread, eating other traditional foods, or attending a church service. Christmastime for Estonia also comes with distinctive activities that include getting warmed up in a sauna and going to a cemetery to honor the ancestors , often by setting out candles. The most important part of the holiday is the large dinner held on Jőululaupäev (Christmas Eve). In addition to the traditional food served, there are a few customs to observe here as well. To court good luck, there will usually be seven, nine, or twelve servings of food. This includes a special bread called Christmas barrow. In accordance with folk beliefs, no one is to

look under the table where the house spirits reside, and unfinished food must remain on the table until the next morning. All together this means enjoying a warm, cozy, and unique Christmas market experience that you won’t find anywhere else. This year’s market will be held from November 26th, 2021, to January 2nd, 2022.

Eat Christmas dinner like an Estonian The tale of most famous Christmas tree Christmas Markets in Estonia

21

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

POLAND

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo copyright: NTO.

“XMAS DREAM”, POLISH-STYLE EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS IN POLAND

A Polish-style Christmas involves a Christmas tree shimmering with colors, fragrant gingerbread, and carols. Unique presents, beautiful decorations and the wonderful aromas of Christmas dishes are a few of the attractions to enjoy at the many fairs and markets set up in Polish town and city centers before Christmas. These fairs and markets invoke the traditions involved in preparing and celebrating Christmas. You can buy exquisite Christmas tree ornaments, local crafts and lots of charming gifts at them. You can also try regional dishes and taste local confectionery as well as mulled beer, wine, and mead. The goods on sale include ceramics, art glass, and amber items, and they all make great gifts for family and friends. While in Poland during the holiday season, you can also take part in the world’s biggest Nativity play and exciting events accompanying the Three Kings Parade. This merry and colorful Christian tradition is a favorite tourist attraction that concludes the Christmas season. Several hundred such parades take place across the country on the Feast of the Epiphany. Kraków’s Nativity- scene structures ( szopka ) are another incredible

tradition connected with Christmas in Poland, and are registered on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Visitors can admire the expertly crafted structures thanks to the Kraków Crib Competition. The Christmas season in Poland is a time of charming and intriguing customs that everyone will find fascinating.

“Xmas Dream" Polish-Stye Christmas Cheer In Poland Christmas Traditions

22

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CYPRUS

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Nicos Louca.

CYPRUS WONDERLAND A CHRISTMAS DREAM COME TRUE

In theheartlandofmountainousCyprus, for thefirst time ever, five picturesque villages will create the ultimate Christmas atmosphere. In the heart of the Troodos mountains, the quaint villages of Agros, Kyperounta, Platres, Kalopanagiotis and Kakopetria will be dressed in their holiday best and will warmly welcome you to our version of a Cypriot winter wonderland! Agros, in the Pitsilia area of Lemesos, has a longstanding tradition in cultivating of roses, in the production of cured meats (sausages, Lountza and Hiromeri ), and homemade marmalades and sweets, whereas Kyperounta, located in the same area as Agros, maintains its traditional character with climbing grapevines and small, colorful yards adding to its natural charm. Platres, Cyprus’ most prestigious mountain resort, also in the Lemesos region, boasts iconic nature trails, waterfalls and a winery waiting to be discovered. On thenorth faceof theTroodosmountains youwill come across Kakopetria and Kalopanagiotis, picturesque villages in the Lefkosia region. Kakopetria, with its old quarter and its narrow, stone-paved alleys, has been

declared a protected heritage site! Kalopanagiotis, on the other hand, is famous for its sulphur springs, traditional architecture, and panoramic valley views! All in all, anyone who chooses to visit these gorgeous Christmas villages is in for numerous treats, since you will be greeted by a variety of local produce to sample and over 300 different workshops in which to participate!

Visit Cyprus

23

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

BELGIUM WALLONIA

WESTERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: WBT - Joseph Jeanmart.

ENCHANTING CHRISTMAS MARKETS WALLONIA CLAIMS THE PRIZE FOR THE BEST

Wallonia’s Christmas markets are a joyful sight. These festive events are the perfect place to enhance the excitement of special year-end holidays; twinkling lights, the scent of mulled wine and roasting nuts mingling with the cold, misty air are part and parcel of yuletide fun. However, it’s the regional specialties of Belgium that make the difference: world-class chocolate, award-winning beers and sparkling wine, and delicious Liege waffles increase the competition for best Christmas markets in Europe. Don't visit just one Christmas market, try a few! Liege – a lively city in the southern region of Wallonia – boasts the oldest and biggest market in Belgium, with more than 200 stalls. Look for the special artisans who craft Walloon folkloric characters, plus a vast selection of local fare including marzipan, sausages, and the special drink, peket . More recent additions include retro photobooths, a Ferris wheel, a sledge run, an ice rink, and a circus. The city of Mons is also bathed in color and lights for Christmas, with the traditional market located on its magnificent Grand Place. Choirs, folkloric groups,

concerts, and marching bands all amount to a large dose of cultural cheer! It’s a real spirit lifter. Themodern and lively city of Louvain-la-Neuve is also worth a look: it has a more youthful, student vibe and is a great place to enjoy a drink, a dance, and some festive fun. The Christmas markets open in late November and last for about a month.

Christmas Market in Mons Christmas Market in Liege Christmas Holidays in Wallonia

24

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

BELGIUM FLANDERS

WESTERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Joël Hoylaerts.

A CULTURAL WINTER WONDERLAND PICTURESQUE LEUVEN: A TREASURE TROVE OF HERITAGE

Christmas is a time of togetherness, coziness and - when you’re in Flanders - enjoying centuries of heritage. During this end-of-year period, the Big Bang City Festival Leuven is turning Leuven into even more of a cultural winter wonderland. Exactly 90 years ago, Georges Lemaître changed the world. As a professor at the venerable Leuven University, this priest and physicist laid the foundation for the Big Bang theory; a eureka moment that changed our view of the universe for good. The city of Leuven is celebrating that historic event with a vibrant cultural happening: the Big Bang City Festival Leuven. This event lets you hear, see, and feel how the Big Bang still inspires art and science today. This cultural celebration is set in the center of the gorgeous historical setting of Leuven. This warm and welcoming city is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities. Leuven’s long history has helped turn it into an enormous treasure trove of arts and heritage, which makes the city the perfect setting for an invigorating stroll through its cultural and historical winter wonderland.

The beautiful Gothic Town Hall, meticulously decorated with 236 statues on its façade; St. Michael’s Church, with its unique outdoor altar; the impressive Ladeuzeplein, home of the centuries-old University Library; Museum M, which showcases some of the great masterpieces of Flanders’ classical and modern art... the examples are many and varied!

So let it be heard. Ho ho ho! Merry heritage!

Leuven, Mecca of Books and Beer

The Big Bang City Festival 48 hours in Leuven

25

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

SLOVENIA

FESTIVE SPIRIT IN SLOVENIA

IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR Slovenia is a destination worth visiting throughout the year, but December is something special, as the whole country becomes particularly fairy tale-like as towns and cities are overtaken by the glow of Christmas lights. Before the pandemic, the festively decorated streets of most historical towns bustled with people visiting Advent markets and looking for handicrafts and other goods typical of the locality. Though this has changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Christmas spirit lives on in a number of enchanting Christmas light installations that still create an amazing atmosphere. Actually, it would be difficult to find a town in Slovenia that isn’t illuminated by thousands of festive lights during Advent. What’s more, over the years, decorating has turned into a true art. Thousands of lights tell

stories linked to the history or character of a town or take us to the world of fairy tales. Since seven is a magic number, we have handpicked seven historical towns that showcase an intriguing fusion of contemporary fairy tales and legends from the past. Let us startwith thecapital, Ljubljana. Here, decorations each year are focused on a topic most relevant to current affairs, either in Slovenia or in the world. This year's topic for the light decoration is the old saying "Where there is unity, there is victory". The project, conceived by Urban Modic, focuses on the importance of the individual elements of the universe, life, and community that together form fantastic systems. Maribor, Slovenia's second biggest city and located in the north-east of the country, will enchant you with the unique Lumina light sculptures and the photo opportunity spots decorated for Christmas. Then there is the town of the Counts of Celje situated next to the Savinja River, which is a real feast for the eyes as it turns into a land of make-believe, with characters from children’s books, fairies, horses and the good men of December (St Nicholas, Father Christmas and Grandfather Frost). Kranj, on the other hand, relies strongly on Slovenian cultural heritage, as it

26

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo Copyright: Slovenian Tourist Board.

is decorated with verses from Slovenia's greatest poet, France Prešeren, projected onto the facades of townhouses in the old part of the city. Nearby lies Radovljica, known for its beekeeping tradition. Here, the center is redolent with the tempting aromas of Taste Radol'ca delicacies, which intertwine with the picturesque, illuminated houses that date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Another special characteristic is the town center, embellished with original handmade decorations crafted from natural materials under the supervision of a local gardening expert who also decorates St Peter’s Basilica for the Vatican City Advent celebrations. Though you may not experience winter in the true meaning of the word – the coldest season – in the Mediterranean city of Koper, you can experience Fantazima (fantasy winter) instead. Holiday lights and illuminated elements enrich the principal town venues and attractions. Children will be excited to see light images of animals in Hlavaty Park between Koper Marketplace and Semedela Promenade, while adults will admire the tallest environmentally friendly Christmas tree, at Kardeljeva ploščad. Another historic Mediterranean town worth visiting is Piran, where next to beautifully illuminated streets, as many as eleven

churches with displays of nativity scenes await you.

We hope we have inspired you to visit Slovenia in the holiday season. Remember to check our website for further suggestions.

Slovenia inspired gifts A recipe for Potica - the festive queen Add a pinch of Slovenian magic

27

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

GREECE

SOUTHERN EUROPE

Photo copyright: Shutterstock.

CHRISTMAS IN GREECE ‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY!

The happiest time of the year is near: time to spend the holiday with our loved ones, to take that highly anticipated Christmas trip, to taste the season’s special dishes, and to experience local culture. You can enjoy all the above during your travels in Greece. In cities, towns, and villages you will see colorful decorations along the streets and in squares, houses, and shop windows. Christmas trees are all lit up and Christmas model boats – the Greek counterpart to Christmas trees – are decorated with ribbons, lights and treats for the season. On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Epiphany Eve (Jan. 5), children and adults, too, visit houses and shops and sing carols, a different song on each special evening, while striking metal triangles or playing a musical instrument. Their rewards are money or Christmas sweets. On New Year’s Day morning a pomegranate is broken at the step of each house’s front door. The red arils, spread across the doorstep, symbolize the wish at the dawn of the new year for happiness, fertility, and good fortune for the family.

The festive culinary temptations are an extra reason to be jolly. Try Christopsomo , served on Christmas Day. It’s a special rounded loaf of spice bread decorated with a cross with a whole walnut at its center, as well as other motifs. Christmas sweet treats include melomakarona (honeyed sweets sprinkled with walnuts), and kourabiedes (butter cookies with almonds, dusted with white caster sugar).

Christmas in Meteora

28

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

CZECH REPUBLIC

CENTRAL EUROPE

Photo copyright: Shutterstock.com.

MAGICAL CZECH CHRISTMAS ENCHANTING ATMOSPHERE OF THE CZECH ADVENT MARKETS

Prague surely is one of the most magical places you can visit during Advent. The Christmas markets with beautiful wooden stands are among the best known in Europe and they have received many international awards. This year you can't see visit them, but normally they take place at various Prague squares, such as the Old Town Square, the Republic Square, St. Wenceslas Square and at Prague Castle. They offer traditional Christmas condiments and delicacies, hand-made craft products and delicious beverages such as hot chocolate and spicy mulled wine. You will definitely find inspiration for Christmas gifts amidst a wide selection of ornaments, toys, jewelry, winter clothes and accessories – and not only in Prague. Imagine if you could taste all kinds of punch and other hot drinks at all Christmas markets, but hardly as many types as you can find in Olomouc, where punch and Nuremberg Christmas Wine have become a new phenomenon. Next year, if you visit the Olomouc Christmas Markets, particularly the "punch town" on the Upper Square, you can taste wine and punch with different spices, sweet and bitter, enhanced with rum, cherry liqueur, or oranges.

The Christmas markets are naturally accompanied by a colorful program. For example, Český Krumlov is known for his rich program that draws on Czech folk customs and traditions, complemented by different concerts and fairy tale presentations for children. Naturally, there are also the old Bohemian Christmas markets with punch, mulled wine, and cookies which suffuse the entire town with a wonderful aroma.

Czech Christmas Traditions #VisitCzechRepublic

29

EUROPE MAGAZINE / DECEMBER 2021

Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker