From Cologne to Freiburg, these annual holiday celebrations are filled with bright lights, delicious foods and warm smiles.

By Don Heimburger
Photographs by Don Heimburger

The last time I was in the small and delightfully charming town of Rüdesheim, Germany, the streets were packed with a warm-weather crowd. They poured wide-eyed into the famous, tiny street called the Drosselgasse, and enjoyed seeing the luscious, green dangling grapevines, hearing German music pouring through open doors and echoing down the street and smelling the aromatic Schnitzel wafting through the balmy air.
On this trip, however, this narrow passageway, as well as the town’s other business district streets, had been transformed into a brightly-lit holiday feast for the eyes. At the beginning of Advent, Rüdesheim, and many other town centers along the legendary 766-mile-long Rhine River, metamorphose overnight into a land of twinkling lights, bough-enhanced vendor stalls and crowds of happy Christmas market devotees.
AMA Waterways’ marketing brochures had enticed my wife and I to spend seven days visiting Weihnachtsmärkte on the newly-built four-deck, 443-foot-long AMA Kristina, a 158 passenger, 51 crew ship, as it sailed between Amsterdam and Basel. I noted right away that the cruise itinerary concentrated sailing time and stops in Germany, and at towns where exceptional, tempting Christmas celebrations were to be held.

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