My 5 favorite trips in 2009

With all the recent snow and cold causing mass delays and cancellations to rail and air connections, staying put for the remainder of the year doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all. Numerous fantastic trips spiced up my travel calendar in 2009. The following places made up some of my favorite destinations over the past year. What were yours?

Lucerne, Switzerland – a last minute invitation saw me hop the train to meet up with a friend who had met the New Year there. The city’s January 1st fireworks were supposed to be a big deal, but being happily ensconced in the warmth of the Mr. Pickwick Pub, we missed them completely. Our highlight? A day out on the beautiful Mount Pilatus, reached by cable car, followed by a toboggan ride down. Tip: jeans make a poor choice of clothing for this particular outing.

St. Wendel's Christmas market is worth a visit

Here’s a tip for those in search of quaint Christmas markets in the smaller German villages -- don’t expect to find a lot of them open on weekdays. Last Friday, I purchased the German Rail’s Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland ticket and decided to explore the markets of as many smaller towns as possible. While I did visit some lovely places, including Idar-Oberstein, Bad Sobernheim, Bad Münster am Stein, Bad Kreuznach and Bingen, only one on these places, Bad Kreuznach, had a Christmas market, but even there, there wasn’t much to see.

However, I did make one discovery that brought a smile to my face: St. Wendel. Although its Christmas market was not open yet, it boasts of a “Zwergenwald,” a term I had not heard previously. But I checked it out, and found a miniature city of papier-mâché characters going about their daily lives. Peeking into various doll-house like structures, you were met with scenes of a classroom and pupils, a pub and drinkers, a hospital and its patients, and scenes of daily life.
According to information posted on the town of St. Wendel’s Web site, tourists pour in by the busload to check out the nearly 200 12-inch high dwarves that inhabit these 14 little houses that are set up around the time of its Christmas market. The dwarves are the creation of a group of enthusiastic hobbyists who make them in their free time.

Purchase train passes for German rail at your local supermarket

Looking for a gift for a friend or relative who loves to travel in Germany? Mark your calendar and set your alarm for an early visit to your local Lidl supermarket as soon as it opens Monday, Dec. 7. This unlikely venue will be selling Deutsche Bahn train passes for two persons making a single journey together for a very reasonable 66 euros.

The DB Lidl-Ticket will allow you to travel within Germany or between Germany and Austria on days of your choosing, Fridays excepted, between Jan. 4 and March 31, 2010.

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