One of the good things about going skiing in the North of the Czech Republic is that you are not too far from Germany. Christmas in Germany is special. It is magical and seems to be the perfect antidote to British over commercialisation, the fear of offending someone and the general, steady deterioration of taste when it comes to Christmas lights or decorations.
Nothing flashes, the lights are predominantly white or yellow and soft. Decorations are tasteful and carved
Even the snowmen exude a certain style and German-ness. They do not look as if they have arrived straight out of a box from a factory near Guangzhou.
'You can tell a Chinese Christmas decoration a mile off,' a vicar, who also had been a missionary in China, once told me. 'It's all in the eyes. The Chinese designers cannot get the eyes right. Father Christmas often looks a little like a taller and more rotund Chairman Mao.'
Of course, there is a certain eccentricity in German design too. This is the main decoration outside Altenberg Bahnhof. Though it smacks a little of 'Anthony Gormley does Christmas', it is tasteful and does not leave you contemplating what the message is.
I love Germany. The Germans do things properly. 'Urggh - why are you going there?' asked a friend before I went. 'The food is absolutely reeevolllllltting ...' she said, enjoying the moment and pulling a face, I presumed in case I had not got the message.
More fool her, I thought. I've always thought the food was good. You can still get veal. The salads were the best I have had and the Schwein Schnitzel was twice the size of the one in the Czech Republic and the drinks are wide and varied. Excellent german white and reds, gluhwein, glogg, beers and finished off with the local Altenberger Gebirgsbitter, a mountain schnapps made from bitter herbs.
And how can you beat a Hot Chocolate like this? Everything fresh. Everything simple. Everything with taste. It's sure to be like that back home.
Um...where's the microwave?