Winter is not my favourite season for travelling. Normally by the time December rolls around, the rigours of so many other journeys from previous months have left me both broke and broken. Certainly that’s the case this year, when I seemed to be even more peripatetic than usual. I spent the whole of February and March drinking copious caipirinhas in the lead up to, during and after Carnival in Brazil (which is so much more than a five day party); and then it was time to follow the warm weather back to Europe where trips to Ljubljana, Warsaw, Krakow, Athens – and lots of toing and froing between London and Barcelona – have taxed both my body and my bank account. So maybe this December I’m going to take it unapologetically easy, and save what pennies I have left for some fresh adventures in 2015.

Another good reason to bury one’s head in the sand / snow at this time of year, is that this is of course when that all-pervasive festival of commerce blights us all, reaching out and infiltrating our TVs, radios, computer screens with infinite calls to consumerism. Although perhaps most terrifying of all is its invasion of the loudspeakers of virtually every public space in the land, forcing us to listen to Cliff Richard, Mariah Carey, Slade, Wham and The Darkness on a seemingly non-stop loop. I guess it’s easy, and suspiciously fashionable, to dismiss Chrimbo as a symbol of the greedy capitalist system that is enslaving the poor and incentivising us to kill our planet at an alarming rate. But economists might argue that it’s actually a vital annual catalyst to the spending that keeps the world ticking over, driving our progress in education, medicine and technology and, in the words of Mark Corrigan, ensuring that we are not lying in our own shit, dying at 43, with rotten teeth. In short I’m going to stay neutral on the subject.

The magic of Christmas is still alive in Prague

Neutral, but not silent, because if (unlike me) you are going to brave the cold and the dark to explore foreign climes we at Urban Travel Blog could recommend a visit to Prague’s Christmas markets, which, as these photos by Keven Erickson and Krystyna Dul testify, is full of romance and festive spirit. Certainly the Central and East European countries, from an outside perspective at least, seem somehow to have staved off the worst excesses of Christmas and retained a mite of the original mysticism and magic of the season. I myself have fond memories of sipping mulled wine on Krakow’s Main Market Square in Poland, with a piping hot plate of bigos and kielbasa, and shopping for hand made trinkets for mum at the wooden kiosks decorated with holly. Another bonus of going this far east is that there is likely to be that smattering of snow required to crank the Christmas romance up to 11. All in all then, Prague and Krakow are two places well worth bearing in mind if you are thinking of a December weekend away.

Baubles and Balderdash aside, it’s time to fill you in on what else the Urban Travel Blogger collective have been up to, starting with Ben Rhodes who made his second trip of the year to Budapest. Here he made a bid to escape from one of the city’s notorious Exit Rooms… a cryptic challenge that’s certainly not for the claustrophobic. He also filed his summer report from the epic Sziget festival on the Danube river, a festival I was lucky enough to go to way back in 2007 and which I can also highly recommend. Although at my age, even back then, the highlight was hitting the baths afterwards.

Fancy being trapped in a room with this guy?

Meanwhile newcomer to the UTB team, Josh Ferry Woodard reveals some of the highlights of London’s punky Camden town district in our latest “In The Zone” feature. We also met in person at the World Travel Market and he introduced me to his 8 inch friend… (no, it’s not that kind of blog folks!) … The Tiny Traveller. So do check out the adventures of Josh’s very own “Mini-me”, following his emotional break up from Barbie.

Camden calling…

Lastly I myself have some travel tales I would like to share with you… this autumn I enjoyed a walk around El Born in Barcelona in the company of a professional photographer, during a Foto Ruta ‘Streetscape’ photo tour of the city. Whilst I also tried to apply some of what I learned when I went with just my camera and myself around the Gazi district of Athens, taking these photos.

Street decorations in Barcelona

More stories of course on the blog every week during winter, but it might be January before you hear from me again, so merry Christmas y’all (yule?) and happy new year!

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