Rüdesheim on the Rhine’s Christmas Market of the Nations

Rüdesheim is a small (population under 10,000) town on the banks of the Rhine in the middle of Germany’s wine-producing Rheingau region, which is noted for its Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. Its other claim to fame is tourism, since Rüdesheim is also very “picturesque”. The town’s best-known thoroughfare, a narrow alley called the Drosselgasse, is lined with festive taverns and it’s here that cruise passengers routinely head when their ships dock.

Weihnachtsmarkt der Nationen GmbH

It’s common for cruise ships from different lines to be in port at the same time and in a small place like Rüdesheim, this means you’re going to have a lot of company. During my own visit—which lasted two hours max—my most vivid memory is of scores of German seniors thronging the wine bars—obviously feeling no pain—singing and doing the Chicken Dance. My daughter, who was only around eight and not yet self-conscious, got right into the spirit and danced along with a young boy from the cruise. I remember laughing a lot and, even though part of me was thinking, “OMG, this is so touristy,” I obviously had a good time. What I don’t remember was the wine, though I know I drank a glass or two. I guess the moment just wasn’t conducive to connoisseurship.

I came away with the impression that the Drosselgasse was Rüdesheim so I was quite surprised to learn that its Christmas market is rather sizable and encircles the heart of the old town. Its official name is the Weihnachtsmarkt der Nationen, or Christmas Market of the Nations. Last year there were 124 stands with merchandise from 12 countries. The town square is the setting for Germany’s largest nativity scene.

Once again, it sounds as though this is another market that’s not the same-old/same-old. Should I be fortunate enough to do a holiday cruise on the Rhine someday and revisit Rüdesheim, I’ll make it a point to pay better attention to the wine I drink–and I don’t mean the Glühwein.

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