Fröhe Weinachten!  Christmas Market Tour of Germany and Austria:

With prime hotel lodgings close by, the first two days of our tour were in Munich, capital of Bavaria and home to one of Germany's best Christmas markets. The larger cities have several of various themes, in fact.

And there's no need to explain why we chose Germany. From the moment our ladies set foot in the city, they knew...

We always start each visit to a new location with an orientation tour. Then everyone is situated and can make the most of their free time. They had a few options here... Just a few.

And at these Christmas markets one can find everything to purchase... carved wooden ornaments, hand-knit sweaters and hats, manger scenes, cookies, sausages, jams, candles, soups, jewelry, and piping hot glühwein to warm your insides!

More ornaments and crafts than you could ever imagine... NONE made in China and all of the best quality!

Germany truly is the place for Christmas... for nearly a full month, booths and stands are set up and small villages are built on the walking streets and squares of its cities and towns.

While some in the group headed off on their own, we always lead a tour for those who share our interests and expertise - or aren't yet confident enough to explore on their own. Here, in the music wing of the brilliant German Museum, a favorite of ours, an organist played Bach Christmas music to our delight... Some museum!

And of course, we enjoyed plenty of German cuisine. From Wiener schnitzel to roast pork to sausages and warm, fresh bread, you simply cannot go wrong.

They do make some delicious beer, too...

And of course, there's apple strudel!

Grounds of the world famous Oktoberfest, this also happens to be home to one of Munich's biggest array of markets, all with different themes - under each enclosed tent!

And everywhere you walk, the air is filled with the sounds of Christmas carols, the smell of spiced wine, and the colors and lights of Christmas...

After two evenings in Munich, we headed south east into the Alps. We did have one cultural/historical stop along the way... We drove to the nearby town on the shores of a lake and took a ferry ride out to Herrenchiemsee... the tribute palace to Louis XIV of France, built by "Mad" King Ludwig.

It was every bit as impressive as Versailles - and in better condition and without cramped hordes of tourists.

And just in the distance one could see the Alps, our next destination.

We arrived in Ramsau, entering a higher, colder elevation. And what would a Christmas tour be without snow. To our delight, our travelers sang Christmas carols as we entered this enchanted snowy landscape...

A Winter Wonderland...

Leaving the hustle and bustle of Munich, Germany truly came alive as we got into a much more local setting. We did not encounter any other Americans... We were on their turf, and we had a ball!

This quaint mountain town is home to Germany's only Alpine national park.

Krampus! This bizarre, frightening, and hysterical local tradition was a key part of our tour - and no one wanted to miss this. If you're in the way of these mountain trolls, you'll get a good swat from a switch or have coal rubbed on your face. It's not a silly stocking stuffer here!

The "Krampus" pose! This was a tour guide's dream... and just the people we seek for clients. These ladies embraced every stop on this tour and added to the hilarity and wonderment!