Your favorite European celebrations or festivals

Yes, this is a "it must be the weekend" question, but in honor of Independence Day, I want to know about your most memorable experiences with celebrations or festivals in Europe, whether planned or happy accident. When I was in Sienna one early May some years ago I ran into neighborhood parades all over town. All the participants were wearing period costumes (16th century-ish) and carrying banners with the emblems of their respective districts. On some of the narrower lanes, I was about run over. I quickly learned that when I heard the rat-a-tat of the drums to look for a niche or a doorway to get out of the way, but I got some great pictures! I guess they were already gearing up for the Palio even though it's in the summer? I was also in Krakow when Poland and other countries officially became part of the EU. I didn't see the actual celebration, but saw (and heard) the rehearsal of the choir. It was an absolutely gorgeous clear day with the Cloth Hall gleaming in the background and beautiful, angelic voices singing "Ode to Joy". I thought they were amazing, but apparently the choir master didn't agree because they kept singing all the trickiest bits (the best bits) over and over again. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

Lucking upon loal festivals in small villages or towns is always interesting. Local kids all dressed up and marching bands- Seefeld in Austria, Chapel-Le-Frith and Eyam in Derby (plague festival) , donkey races in London, and to top it all the Tour De France at Carcassonne. All unplanned and unexpected Planned- London Harness horse parade at Easter, lord mayor's parade

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

I have been so lucky. We came out of the tube in London in December years ago at Big Ben and there was no traffic, just soldiers ( not Bobbies) and barricades. We asked what was going on and one of them said the Queen had just opened Parliament. We stood there a while and sure enough the Queen and the Prince drove by and waved. Then several years later we were in Paris again in December and came up from the underground tunnel by the Arch and there was NO TRAFFIC. I had driven around it so I knew something was wrong. Found out they were laying a wreath at their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (I think that is what it is called). Anyway, it was either the Premier or the President who came up shortly in an escort and it was magnificent to be there and hear the French National anthem and see all the old soldiers. It was s sight I will never forget. If you are ever in Paris early in December, try to find out when this ceremony is and try to attend.

Posted by Penny
Tulsa, OK
276 posts

The World Cup and the Tour de France definitely count. So make that European celebrations, festivals, and major sporting events:)

Posted by Mona
Santa Barbara
231 posts

Walking out of the Sound of Music wedding church in Mondsee at dusk one evening in the fall to find a parade of small children holding a 4' pole with a paper lanterns with a lit candle inside suspended by a string to the pole. They were marching in a procession to the church for a blessing for St. Martin's Day (I believe). It was so beautiful but I couldn't help thinking that there was no way you'd give a 5 year old a paper lantern,a lit candle and a stick in the US and have them bob along with it through the streets unaccompanied by an adult.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

I have always found that leaving on thanksgiving day is a day of celebration for me as I leave TPA (Tampa, Fl) , because there is no other day that has been cheaper for me to leave for Europe. . And when I arrive, no matter where, there is always an awesome Christmas market going on, where I can get some good grub and some good drink (glu-vine). I have been to good x-mas markets in Germany (multi cities), Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Bruges, Paris. I celebrate when ever I can leave. I am hoping to celebrate a return back to Belgium this year. I am waiting for tickets to be cheaper than $900. I just do not think, at this time, they will be.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

My favorite festival of the year is the Museums Ufer Fest in Frankfurt. Both river banks are covered with over 600 stands selling everything from fine art to sausages, to hand-crafts to ethnic food from around the world and 20 music stages offering a massive variety of music. Dragon boat races, fireworks, plus organ concerts in all the downtown churches on Sat. night and all the museums are open. All it costs is a button for 4 euro. This fest draws about 3 million people for the weekend, making it one of the premier events in Germany. It isn't the tourist draw like the Oktoberfest, as it attracts mainly Germans that live in the Rhine Main area. I love to stand on one of the bridges and watch 1000's of people dancing and having a fantastic time.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

I was in Germany during Fasching when I was a student and it was fun, from the gasthof's to the parade in Tübingen. More recently, I was in Amsterdam during last summer's World Cup. It was amazing watching everyone prepare to watch the game. And, the parade to celebrate "second place" was amazing. It was through the canals and everyone had a party on the bridges for hours before the team came by on a boat. People were swimming in the canals, there was an electric boat on the canal. Even the police boats had happy policemen and women who were smiling and dancing. Then all the official boats were followed by a flotilla of people celebrating and singing and dancing on every type of boat you can think of! Pam

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
471 posts

I was in London the day Prince Andrew married Fergie. We saw the whole procession which was amazing, then as we cut thru the back streets toward the Tate, realized all the horse drawn carriages had been pulled around and were lined up down the side streets. Now THAT was interesting. You could just meander down and look at all the coaches, horses and liveried drivers (and no doubt security!). I also went to the Royal Show, which was the national agricultural fair. Looks on the website like they dont hold it any more, but that was really interesting. I don't believe I heard another American voice that day. Also, on another trip to London at Christmas, went to the Blessing of the Christmas Crib at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve and just happened to be standing where we were some of the few that were able to go in to the choir for Evensong. Oh MY!

Posted by Tony
Nashville, TN
207 posts

Was on a R/S tour in 09 and just lucky enough to be in Munich opening weekend of Oktoberfest. Even if you don't go to the fest, the best parade you will ever see is the parade through downtown Munich on Sunday of opening weekend. You will see so many wonderful costumes from all the little towns and areas of Germany. Nothing motorized but so many animals, floats, bands etc. Will be worth every minute you spend there and this was the opinion of everyone on the tour.

Posted by Jeff
Taunusstein, Germany
234 posts

Airshows in Germany are often relatively small and very intimate affairs. Rides in old airplanes are not unheard of and you can get up close and personal with the aircraft in most cases. My daughter received an early birthday present several years ago when she flew in a World War Two era trainer, doing acrobatics over the Rhine on a Sunday morning. The FLOHMARKT (Flea Market) is an incredible institution over here. If you can't go to the store on Sunday in Germany there is always a flea market to go to. In our area there is a monthly antique flea market in Wiesbaden.

Posted by Maureen
Atlanta
1357 posts

We've been lucky to stumble across a couple of Freiwillige Feuerwehr fests in Germany and Austria. Nobody can party like a bunch of volunteer firemen. One town where we stayed was only 2 blocks wide and 4 blocks long, but still had a tent big enough to cover a quarter of the town and keep it packed the whole weekend. The first was especially memorable for the fake fire rescue in the school. They burnt tires behind for a nice "smoke effect", and brought in the ladder truck to "rescue" kids from the 2nd floor. The kids were a hoot, laughing and yelling "Hilfe!" We just found out that there's a Freiwillige Feuerwehr fest in a town near where we're staying this summer. Guess where we'll be?

Posted by Penny
Tulsa, OK
276 posts

I love reading your experiences! You've given me things to look out for if (when- hope, hope!) I ever have the chance to travel again. You've also reminded me of some other special events that I had forgotten; I'll have to write them down before I forget again:)

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

We were in St. Remy for the Tranhumnace Fete in May, 2010. It's the day when they move sheep from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle, typically to lowlands in winter and highlands in summer. It's a festival day in town with a large market. Starting at 10am, more than 3000 sheep, goats and donkeys, accompanied by their shepherds and sheep dogs, parade twice around the old town center. People line the streets to watch. It's a unique event and all very festive!

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

August 1st in any small Swiss village usually features a small parade for their national holiday.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

It scared the piss out of my dog, but if you ever wanted to see the entire population of a country simultaneously launch their own personal arsenal of fireworks at 12 am, visit Germany on St. Silvester's Day, AKA New Year's Day.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1470 posts

I like folklife festivals in southeastern corner of the Czech Republic. Very traditional region with many festivals and it's also a wine country which makes festivals even more lively. Hornacke slavnosti (festival) will be in July 22nd to 24th in Velka nad Velickou. Very authentic folk music. After midnight everybody participates. Slovacky rok in Kyjov will be in August 11th to 14th. http://www.kyjovsko.cz/cil/360/popis . And in September 10th and 11th there will be festival of wine in Uherske Hradiste. That's a big one. http://www.slavnostivinauh.cz . Unfortunately the website is not in English but at least you can look at their photogallery. Some other big festivals are already over for this year. I found two more websites in English which are somewhat informative. http://www.moraviasilesia.cz/slovacko_vylety.php?lang=en . http://www.moraviasilesia.cz/slovacko_akce.php . So for you who will be somewhere in the vicinity and are fans of folk music, dances, wine and good time this is something to think about.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Penny, I also have to say that World Cup is my favourite celebration so far. I was there last year and encountered huge parties in both Switzerland and Germany (many of which inlcuded copious quantities of Beer). It was a very memorable trip!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

Well, I just got back from the Medieval Fest in Büdingen and can report that this was an absolute wonderful fest. They had about 200 stands spread out all through the town, and then had their tents all along the dry moat that surrounds the city walls. Wonderful food, fun music and a cool parade. The hand crafts were high quality and it was interesting watching the black smiths and the stone carvers as well as the weavers. Dancers entertained us as well as jugglers and a fire show down in the moat. There were a lot of animals there, including birds of prey and I even got to pet an owl. I don't know about you, but this is something I have always wanted to do. Really made my day. All the residents were dressed in period clothes too, from old to small. Even the babies! Wish I could be there in the evening when they light all the torches and lanterns. Ah well, maybe next time. This is only held every 2 years and I think it might be the largest Medieval fest of its kind around here. Certainly the largest I have ever seen. Good crowd of mainly Germans, no tour buses in sight, and I think I only heard a few foreign languages here and there. So, if you haven't been to Büdingen, you might put it on your list of interesting towns to visit in the state of Hessen.