Updated: 2 days ago

The Christmas markets along the Danube River are filled with handmade ornaments unique to each city, thick molasses cookies and carolers proclaiming joyous tidings of the season in the crisp early winter air. Glühwein is part of the tradition and tourists and locals alike warm themselves sipping the mulled wine drink by the steaming mugful while browsing the vendors, who are dressed in authentic folkloric outfits from Germany or Austria.



In the early morning hours the riverboat is docked near Saltzburg, Austria, and there is a dusting of snow - maybe an inch if you stretch it - and opening the shades of the patio window to giggles, I discover that there are passengers lying on the ground making snow angels to their hearts delight. No one has to tell me that these six adults are from somewhere warm in the United States where snow is only a scary word on the national weather news for others to worry about.


By the looks of their head-to-toe Arctic gear, those folks came prepared for the worst conditions, which they would not encounter in a moderate European climate. Still, they are having a splendid moment, and I am not about to criticize them. No penguins. No glaciers. They would have to go elsewhere for those beauties.




In a couple hours after a huge breakfast buffet and the remains of the snow is a bit of slush, the riverboat unleashes it passengers and they walk in groups to the market. Houses along the streets are draped evenly in simple white lights, and there are no signs of plastic blow-up Santas anywhere on the horizon searching for rooftops.


It reminds me of New England houses with candles lit in every window illuminating the blanket of snow, and what decorations are inside remain in the privacy of the dwellers. That is somewhat like the reserved personality of a New Englander, too, not allowing strangers to peer into his innermost thoughts.


This particular market produces handcrafted wooden creches, and I find one that suits me, and hopefully my suitcase, too.


I buy a bag of dark molasses cookies like grandma used to make to take back home on the plane, but alas, that's another story how I devour the whole dozen - not a one of my fellow passengers assists me when I realize the cookies will be conviscated at Customs. I know better, and totally forgot the drill. My stomach isn't as excited as I am either.



One of my prized nativities brought back home from Germany.










Plane. Train. Auto. No matter your mode of transport and the miles you will cover, Thanksgiving is the biggest travel week of the year.


Know that it will be a slow go at the airport, the roads no doubt clogged and people in general dsiplay the worst of the worst manners when they get frustrated.


Deal with the inconveniences postiviely. Make someone's day by letting their car inch in to your lane, or help a young family get situated on a plane without rushing along to your seat.


Be grateful for town organizations and restaurants that offer meals for people who have nowhere to go. Support their endeavors.


Give thanks for all your blessings including the fact that you are able to fly, drive or perhaps simply walk to the dinner table, and take a moment to appreciate those around you for how they have made your life richer.


Happy Thanksgiving to all.





Russians have a fascination with outdoor lighting, and whether or not it has anything to do with the early darkness that holds everyone in its grip, I have no idea. I've seen similar in Reykjavik, Iceland although toned downed quite a bit.


The Christmas lights were up and animated in Red Square by the time I left the city in early November, too. It brightens the spirit if nothing else. Landing in the dusk in Rochester, New York there were lighted homes dotted along the flight path.


Here's the famous GUM Department store on Red Square.


Like other capital cities, weekends and holidays are for strolling outside with friends and family interupted periodically warming up with coffee or tea in a cafe. The Russians are "lookers" in store windows around Red Square, and the name brand European merchandise is way more than a typical Russian can afford on a skimpy salary.


Here's what I saw as I entered Red Square from The Metropol Hotel across the street.