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The German Christmas, Whether You're There Or Here

Rudesheim comes alive at Christmas.

The Rhine River flows out of the Swiss Alps and through Germany before emptying into the North Sea in the Netherlands. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley is cruising along the Rhine in a riverboat. This week, he’s in the small German city of Rudesheim.

The Christmas Market

White lights are strung above narrow streets as families mill through stalls selling crafts, sausages, cheese and spiced wine.

“It’s only 28 degrees here, but the atmosphere is so incredibly warm,” Brumley said.

The Christmas markets here are famous, not only as places to pick up local goods and food but also as gathering places during the holidays.

“The Germans pretty much invented the traditions that we follow, with Christmas trees and lights,” Brumley said.

Wine Country

If you like Riesling, you’re in luck. Most of the wine that comes from this region is the sweet German type. That’s because the grapes used for Riesling grow here.

“The Romans are the ones who founded Rudesheim, and founded most of these villages along the Rhine,” Brumley said. “Wherever you see vineyards, note that those were created by the Romans 2,000 years ago.”


If you’re not headed to Rudesheim at Christmas, there’s still plenty to see and do, much of it relating back to the region’s history.

“[The Rhine] was the Audubon of the 12th century,” Brumley said. “There are these trails where the horses used to pull the barges that are now bike trails and jogging trails.”

The area is also replete with castles, monasteries and historic homes. 

When And How To Get There

Obviously, it might be a bit late to head over for Christmas. But Brumley says Rudesheim is worth it any time of year. Spring and fall are beautiful, and summer offers numerous outdoor recreation opportunities.

To get there, fly to Frankfurt and hop on a train right at the airport. It’s a long flight from Seattle. If you go directly to Frankfurt, it takes nine hours. There are other routes with stops. For those, count on 12 to 15 hours, door-to-door.

You can also rent a car once you land in Frankfurt. Rudesheim (one of many villages in the area worth checking out) is a 40-minute drive from the airport.


Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including KPLU. "Going Places" explores all aspects of getting from Point A to Point B. Have a travel hangup or a tip? Let us know in the comments.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.