Christmas holidays for Teachers in England

    • Christmas holidays for Teachers in England

      How’s that first term in England going?  By now you should be getting to grips with most of the differences in the UK school system and have settled into your routines. Hopefully you had a nice mini-break during the October half-term so the next thing to look forward to is your first European winter holiday!

      If you’re from the Antipodes, the idea of Christmas without a BBQ and a trip to the beach probably sounds weird; but if you’re from the States or Canada then a white Christmas will make you feel a little closer to home.

      At the end of the first term, you’re going to have 2 weeks to enjoy and explore what this part of the world has to offer in the way of Christmas holidays so let’s have a look at a few places to get you started.

      Christmas Markets

      There is absolutely no shortage of traditional Christmas markets but in our opinion, for the greatest experience, head to Germany and/or Austria.  They do this time of the year so well!

      Although both countries share a similar heritage, there are certainly differences.  Austria is a lot more like the southern reaches of Bavaria (due their proximity) and these areas have slightly different customs and traditions when it comes to Christmas (see the Krampus legends – it could even be a good cautionary tale to keep your more unruly children at their best behaviour next year!).

      Vienna and Salzburg both offer some wonderful markets and events over this time of the year – check out Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg; Vienna has a whole range of great options depending on taste and budget).

      For somewhere a little more off the beaten track, you might want to consider Tallinn, Estonia.  As well as some amazing markets, you’ll pretty much be guaranteed a white Christmas in a beautiful medieval city.

      The Northern Lights

      The Aurora Borealis are one of the great natural phenomena in this beautiful world of ours.  For many, a must on life’s “bucket list”, especially those of us who will spend the vast majority of our lives in the Southern Hemisphere.

      Because you can never be guaranteed to see them, you’re going to need to set aside a bit of time for this one and choose a destination that has some other things you can enjoy just in case.

      Generally, the further north you get, the better the chances of seeing the lights – but this is also offset with the fact that the further north you get, the colder it gets and the less other activities you can do outside.

      So, to balance your holiday, here a few places we recommend looking at:

      • Alta, Norway
        One of the most northern cities in the world and a place that has long been established as a destination for seeing the lights.  It has an observatory that was built in the 1850s specifically for viewing the Northern Lights.  For those with a bit more of a budget, you can also book an igloo hotel here to enjoy the experience in comfort.
      • Tromsø, Norway
        One of the most popular destinations in the Northern Lights Oval.  While this may be a good thing for those wanting all the amenities and comforts of a tourist destination, it also means that it is a bit of a victim of its own popularity as artificial light pollution can be a bit of a problem.
      • Abisko, Sweden
        Right in the middle of Sweden’s largest national park, Abikso is surrounded by mountains that keep a lot of cloud cover away, making for some of best viewing conditions in Scandinavia.  It also offers a range of other things to occupy your time while you wait for the lights to show – reindeer experiences, dog-sledding to name a couple.  Check out some of the other activities you can do here:
      • Shetland, Scotland
        You probably hadn’t considered Scotland as a place to watch the lights but the Shetland Islands offer a chance to visit a rugged and secluded part of the UK (although they are closer to Norway than England) where you can explore a bit of Viking culture while you wait for the lights to turn on.  It can be a bit of a mission to get there but well worth the effort if you like to visit those “more out of the way” locations that aren’t crammed with tourists.

      For those who aren’t all about the Christmas spirit…

      If you’re more about the winter experience rather than Christmas, and the Northern Lights aren’t really your thing, then how about hitting the snow for a skiing holiday?  Skip the Alps and head somewhere you can have a great time for a much more affordable price.  Check out Slovakia – mountain passes, food and accommodation are all much lower than similar places in Western Europe and the people are amazingly friendly and welcoming.  Try Jasná for great snow and an easy trip from London.

      For something even further afield, try Bulgaria or Kazakhstan and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

      As always, use the time to recharge your batteries and prepare yourself for the next term ahead. But before you know it, February mid-term will be upon you and you’ll have a chance to explore a whole new place!