The beginning of Advent is a magical time across Europe when Christmas markets overflow with Yuletide cheer. Many of the festive traditions we celebrate in Britain can be traced back to the famous Christkindlmarkts which sprang up in German-speaking towns as well as other regions of the former Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages....

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If anywhere embodies the archetypal German scene, it is the Rhine gorge, all chocolate-box riverside villages, half-timbered houses, vine-shaded pub gardens and window boxes cascading with brilliantly clashing geraniums. Not to mention the castles; fairy-tale structures of turrets and towers, some ruined, some still inhabited, each one gazing out over gravity-defying vineyards. The gorge isn’t...

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