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Click here for this week’s European Volksmarch schedule.

For the past week or so, Christmas markets have been opening across Europe. Many of Germany’s markets date back centuries: Dresden’s was first mentioned in a document dated 1434! Augsburg, Bad Wimpfen, Frankfurt and Rothenburg also have markets established in the 15th century, and Nuremberg’s dates to at least 1628.

Regardless of age, Christmas markets have been known to develop their own characteristics. Aachen’s market is known for its gingerbread, Aachener Printen. Dresden is known for its Stollen. Dortmund is known for the largest Christmas tree, and Osnabrück for the world’s largest music box.

While Berlin’s market at the Memorial Church draws almost 4 million visitors a year, there are several smaller markets across the city. The largest Christmas market in one centrally located area is in Stuttgart.

But markets do not have to be large to be worth a trip. The little town of Monschau, nestled in a valley near the border with Belgium, is one of our favorites. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. As at most markets, parking can be a challenge, so dress warmly, be prepared to walk and be sure to enjoy the many foods, drinks, and music of a Christmas market near you.

A warning: Some German markets might have already opened, but with this Sunday being the first Sunday of Advent, chances are that some will be closed that day.

Some Christmas markets are incorporating Volksmarches into festivities. This Saturday, Colmar and Haguenau, France, offer evening walks through the cities that will be resplendent with Christmas decorations. Our experience with French Christmas markets is that instead of one large shopping area, as is sometimes seen in Germany, the French have several smaller areas set up with vendors’ booths. This works out nicely because you can walk between the markets and see the city sights. So after you have a fresh crepe at one square, you can walk it off on the way to the next, where you can have a fresh waffle.

The Colmar walk starts between 3 and 9 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. The Haguenau walk starts between 3 and 8 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Remember, the more presents you buy, the more you have to carry on the walk; and make sure you get back before the start hall closes so you can get IVV credit.

Thionville, France, is also having an evening illumination walk Saturday, but we don’t see any reference to a market.

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Pencil in the 15th annual Metz Illuminée in Metz, France, next Saturday, Dec. 8, on your calendar. This is a “must” walk. The 10-kilometer trail winds through the historic part of the city as well as through several Christmas markets. The start location is the Complexe Sportif Saint- Symphorien and walkers can begin between 3 and 8:30 p.m. More details next week.

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Gracias to the contributors to this week’s column: William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro, Manfred Dahl, Theresia Fontaine, Lew Harrison, Wayne Henry, Ramona and Horst Kechelen, David Kuik, Tim and Luchi Lynch, Mary Jo Piccin, Dawn St. John and Nancy Shawley. Special thanks to Pat Patterson for tracking down a Metz flier for us, and a “Get well soon” wish for Horst Kechelen.

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Notes about this week’s events:

• Those in or close to Kaiserslautern, Germany, should consider the 38th Nikolauswanderung this weekend at Hüttigweiler, north of Saarbrücken. Start times for the 5-, 10- and 20-kilometer courses are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Finish by 4 p.m.

• As for the folks in the Bitburg and Spangdahlem area, why not try the nearby walk in Landscheid on Sunday? You can start the 5- and 10-kilometer routes between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

• The Neustadt, Germany, walk has a new start hall — at the Haus der Begegnung on Queralle Street. The 6- and 11- kilometer trails start Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (finish by 4 p.m.). St. Nikolaus will visit the start hall at 11 a.m..

• The walk in Teunz, Germany offers what appears to be a small version of Santa on a rope that you could probably hang indoors. Children with a valid start card will receive a gift from St. Nikolaus.

• The prize at the Münchwald, Germany, walk is a mug decorated with a Christmas theme.

Notes from Clark Soeldner, our Italian walking expert:

• The last of the year’s three walks in Pinzano, Italy, is Sunday in Colle di Pinzano al Tagliamento. Although it is in the mountains, the grades are fairly mild. There is a small fest at the end. It’s best to arrive early to find parking. From Pinzano, take the road toward Vito d’Asio. Just past Campais look for the sharp turn to the right.

E-mail Volksmarch schedule information to two.walkers@yahoo.com. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.

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