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A gust of cinnamon from a pine-wreathed glühwein stand while the carousel plays Frosty the Snowman, and neon snowflakes decorate the neoclassical columns. A Pavlovian sense of festivity fights with my inner Scrooge. On the…

Spiritual gifts There are many more amazing churches and spiritual spots to visit than just the incredible cathedral with its 157-metre twin spires, one of Germany’s most famous and visited buildings. For example, Melaten-Friedhof is…

Tunnel through the Alps: Semmering railway Europe’s first standard-gauge mountain rail line, the Semmering – which connects Vienna with southwestern Austria – became the first transport route to be designated a Unesco heritage site. Completed…

Winning tip: Smoking carriage encounters A personal favourite is Stranger on a Train, in which Jenny Diski attempts to replicate her youthful forays on London’s Circle Line tube on the reliably unreliable Amtrak, setting herself…

Stirling Central Scotland Most visitors go to Scotland for the scenery, the culture, eventful history and the cold-Caribbean-like coast. As a base for exploring the Highlands, with shops and society yet no city throngs, Stirling…

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Running, music and adventure festival Love Trails is a weekend festival of guided trail runs around the Gower peninsula’s woodlands and coastal paths, followed by live music – with Futureheads and Shy FX among the…

How does a hostel stand out from the crowd? Sometimes by embracing novelty. A former courthouse in London threw off the shackles to become Clink; in Reykjavik the crumbs of a biscuit factory were swept…