December 15, 2008

Celebrating Christmas and New Year Around the World

When Christmas comes, most likely you will go home to celebrate the holidays with your family and friends, but for some restless travelers, Christmas is a perfect time to travel and see how other countries celebrate the holidays.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year Around the World

(This is the New Year of 1988, the last time all my family with grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles was celebrated together in Russia. This is with my cousin, who is 20 years-old now. The memories of such holidays are grand.)

If you are like the characters in “Four Christmases,” who either at all costs avoid to visit a family and friends over the holidays or you just crave something different to be festive, then the world is your oyster and I just have the information you might need, whether you are going to France, Germany, Russia, Iceland, or to Los Angeles. I might have just the tips, tricks and thrills you might be looking for. Only I put it in the terms that are easy to dissect and digest, rather than going through numerous guide books and travel sites. Moreover, this is first-hand experience, not a hypothetical testimonial suggestion.

Feeling like a good hot spiced wine at noon in a friendly crowd of loudly-spoken locals? Feeling like a Bratwurst with a sour kraut? Feeling like Mozart?

There is nothing like the south of France for winter getaways, or feeling the Christmas spirit of Weihnachten in the “petite” towns of Germany, or Iceland – from surreal to sublime.

Iceland winter holidays: with probably the greatest variety of stunning scenery and un-spoilt wilderness of any European destination, in Iceland you will find dazzling landscapes ranging from surreal to sublime. Do not mind the winds, it adds to the extreme holiday time in Iceland with its extraordinary beauty and wealth of volcanic features that make Iceland very special during the winter. Whatever you feel like doing - chilling out and relaxing, or living it up at the pubs and clubs, Reykjavik is one of the places in Iceland that will surprise you again and again.

If you are traveling in early-mid of December, consider Germany, Austria or Switzerland for its festive Christmas (Weihnachten) markets.

If you are traveling in early January, go to Italy for big sales (Florence has 50% off on its impeccable leather.)

If traveling oversees with a grand plan to rent a car, here are a few “inside” notes on how to interpret the local “rules”:

Barcelona – would accept your driver’s license but would not guarantee that you will be fine when stopped by a local police (try to explain the identity of your passport.)

France – would let you drive as long as you will translate what is written in your license in a perfect French.

Germany – it is all about the way you say Guten Tag and auf Wiedersehen, but Germans are nice…usually.

Italy – what? What license? Go, drive and enjoy!

Greece – I don’t really care; just don’t run over my donkey!

Britain/UK – As long as you are not driving on the right side of the road.

Tokyo - As long as you are not driving on the right side of the road.

Russia – there is only one rule: bribes are welcome (stock up on easy cash flow and the local 'militzia', a.k.a. Russian police, would love you and your foreign driver’s license)…All you need to be able to say in Russian: "Вы имеете деньги? Сколько Вы можете дать мне? Вы - мой друг."

Read more on individual cities and countries in the blog.

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