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Festivals in Central Europe

Central Europe has to hold myriad festivals in order to celebrate its long list of musical heroes, beloved folk traditions, pop culture, and the pleasures of the table. See what’s going on in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Between spring and autumn there are lots of fairs and festivals throughout the whole of Germany.
A Kirchweih (known also by many regional variations on the name) originally intended to celebrate the consecration of a church, the town fairs now involve carnival rides, special foods, and games. Best of all the local young men erect a maypole-like Kirchweihbaum. Among many other tuneful celebrations, the Rheingau Music Festival leads the pack, including not only fabulous concerts but comedy evenings in traditional wineries – what a great combination! Enjoy carnivals in southern Germany from early November to late winter, wine festivals all summer along the Rhine, Moselle and Main, and of course Oktoberfest, for parades, rides, beer, pretzels, sausages and unfettered merriment.

No surprise that in Austria the preponderance of festivals celebrate one of its illustrious composers or a genre of classical music. The list of artists who’ve performed at the Schubertiade, held in the small town of Hohenems, reads like a "Who's Who" of the lieder and chamber music scene. The Styriarte Festival in Graz focuses on Early Music and music between the Middle Ages and Romanticism. At the other end of the spectrum, Sound Frame focuses on the visualization of electronic music. The Bregenz International Dance Festival brings together the most innovative dance companies from around the world. For something a bit earthier, join the fun at the Poolbar Festival, a six-week pop culture festival located at the old indoor swimming pool of Feldkirch, making for an über-cool setting.

The capital city of Hungary stages almost 100 performances and events during the Budapest Spring Festival. Besides classical music, operas and jazz concerts, there are theatre performances, folk music and dance, exhibitions and other festivities. Budapest is itself a kind of year-round festival. Even if you don’t intend to, you’re bound to bump into a gastronomic or sports event, open-air concert or festival. The Sziget open-air music festival is hugely popular for the biggest names rock, pop, metal and world music; over 90,000 people like this festival’s Facebook page, if that gives you any indication.

Slovakia hosts some monster festivals. Can any other country male that claim? The Festival of Ghosts and Monsters happens in the beautiful Bojnice Castle, filled with attractions and temptations, eerie atmosphere and good spirit. Various monsters take part in the festival, not only from Slovakia but also from all over Europe: meet witches and see tragic love stories, vampires´ tricks, an invasion of aliens and others unusual events. Renowned Radvanský jarmok fair in Banská Bystrica is also called the fair of all fairs. The fair, where folk crafts dominate, is famous also because the best-known highwayman, Juraj Jánošík, used to visit it in the past. There are also folklore ensembles, music groups, historical fencing, the traditional burčiak (the stage between must and wine) and merry-go-rounds. Best to go on the merry-go-round first.

Beer, wine, classical guitar, cinema, and salt all have their own festivals in the Czech Republic. The Prague Czech Beer Festival is the country’s largest culinary event, where you can sample from a wide selection of the best of Czech breweries, of Czech butchers, delicatessens, and confectioners. Travel to Žatec to pay your respects to the hops that make Czech beer so tasty at the Hops Festival Dočesná. A three-day festival of concerts, lectures readings, dance performances and other events recalls the culture and lifestyle of the original Jewish population of Třebíč. The Gold Salt Route Traditional Renaissance festival commemorates the medieval trade route through the town of Prachatice. The town centre becomes a historic marketplace alive with costumed parades, Renaissance music, theatre, sword fighting, jesters, and performances.

Poland attracts musicians from all genres to events such as the Jazz on the Odra Festival in Wrocław
and the Chopin Festival, which is about European culture as much as it is about Frederic’s tunes. You’ll also find festivals focused on brass bands, choral works, and cabaret. Polish pottery addicts, come to Bolesławiec Holiday of Ceramics, where you can see the evolution of this distinctive tableware and of course, add to your collection. Festivals throughout the year highlight street theatre, cinema, gardening, wine, of course.

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