It's Alpine Volksfest time in Villach, Austria

Europe’s answer to the American county fair, the Volksfests, are always lively affairs: adrenaline-inducing rides, fist-size portions of hearty fare and games galore. The town of Villach, Austria, holds its annual Volksfest this Sunday, July 27, through Aug. 3. While it has all the elements you’ve come to expect, Austria’s biggest event of its kind promises more than 100 acts and events served up with authenticity and true Alpine flair.

One highlight of the event comes Aug. 2 at 5 p.m., when some 4,000 marchers clad in traditional costumes, song and dance groups and musical ensembles will sway and stride through the old town’s festively decorated streets. To get into the proper mood for the parade, it’s possible to travel to Villach as a passenger on an 87-year-old steam train departing from Fertach at 12:45 p.m. and picking up additional passengers at several points en route, including Klagenfurt, at 2:25 p.m. Tickets for a round-trip journey cost 18 euros (about $24.50) for adults and 9 euros for ages 4-15; children younger than age 4 ride free. To reserve tickets, call (+43) (0) 664 13 33 297 or write to sonderzug@nostalgiebahn.at. For information on the Volksfest and the train, visit www.villacherkirchtag.at.

The giants are coming to Liverpool through July 27

It’s hardly a traditional way to commemorate the start of World War I, yet Memories of August 1914, a commemorative event in Liverpool, England, is one that’s bound to make an impact.

Through Sunday, July 27, the massive wooden marionettes known as Grandmother, Little Girl Giant and Xolo the dog will bring more than just a touch of the surreal to the city streets. They won’t just stomp through town; they will perform a story created to bring alive the events of World War I for the audiences of today.

Beautiful street theater in Italy, July 18-20

Street entertainers appear in many guises: acrobats, dancers, fire-eaters, magicians, musicians and stilt-walkers, to name a few. A good place to spot a huge variety of performing artists showcasing their unique talents this weekend is the community of Certaldo, a Tuscan town some 20 miles southwest of Florence.

This year’s Mercantia International Street Theater Festival works around the theme of miracles, including the fact that it has seldom, if ever, has rained during the festivities, which began in 1988.

Taste beer from around the world in Germany

Cold beer on a hot day is a good thing; throw in some live music and a pretty backdrop such as the Rhine River and you’ve got yourself a party.

The Mainzer Bierbörse, opening Friday, July 18, and running through Sunday, July 20, offers much more than the standard paltry choices of pils or wheat beer. About 50 stands will offer a wide selection of beers, ales and other delights, not to mention non-alcoholic drinks and hearty eats, such as meats from the grill. While there’s plenty of beer on tap, bottles also will be available for sale.

Alsatian wedding festival begins July 18-20

Looking for a French experience that doesn’t involve hours on end of driving? Make your way to Seebach, a community near Wissembourg, just south of the German border and the German Wine Road. Through Sunday, July 20, the town will be awash in folk revelry for the celebration of the Stresselhochzeit, or Bouquet Wedding, an old-fashioned wedding celebration, Alsatian-style.

The fest, based on diligent research of the costumes and traditions of old, shows how country folk would have celebrated a marriage in the days before World War II.

Stuttgart to glow in Festival of Lights

Stuttgart’s light festival

The trees are purple and the grass is red, but that doesn’t mean someone’s slipped something funny into your drink. Rather, you’re in Höhenpark Killesberg, one of Stuttgart’s urban parks, July 12 for the city’s annual Lichterfest, or Festival of Lights.

Hear folk and jazz in Brussels

Brosella Folk and Jazz Festival

Green spaces near urban environments are often used for wonderful things, and this rule holds true more than ever through the weekend, when the Brosella Folk and Jazz Festival takes over the green open-air theater of Osseghem park, not far from Brussels’ Atonium. Brossella, the offshoot of a folk festival dating to 1977, honors tradition but also offers open-minded listeners contemporary interpretations of the two genres of music.

Days and knights in Bavaria

Kaltenberg Knights Tournament 

Watching brave knights battle in a medieval atmosphere is an outing with appeal to both young and old. Catch the Kaltenberger Ritterturnier (Kaltenberg Knights Tournament), billed as the world’s largest show of its kind, on various dates over the next three weekends. The event’s backdrop is the Kaltenberg Castle, built in 1290 in Upper Bavaria, about 25 miles west of Munich.

Much more than knights games takes place there. More than 1,000 official costumed re-enactors play craftsmen, damsels, market people, jesters and other entertainers. Many visitors also get into the act by dressing up. Entertainment will include medieval-style rock concerts, acts by wandering performers and the chance to get tipsy on mead or nosh on meat roasted on a spit.

Fotomarathon debuts in Wiesbaden

Photographers of all ability levels are invited to explore Wiesbaden, Germany, from behind the lens May 31 as Hessen's elegant capital hosts its first Fotomarathon.

According to the event website, Fotomarathons were first organized in Berlin in 1998, and the concept has since spread to other cities throughout Germany. In all host cities, the ideas and basic principles of a Fotomarathon remain the same: The event should combine fun, challenge and socializing; is open to all photo enthusiasts; various types of photo equipment – with the exception of mobile phones, smartphones and tablets – can be used; both digital and analogue photography are allowed; and each host city's individuality and charm must be respected. The event has a distinct artistic and nonprofit character and is organized mainly by volunteers.

Restaurant Day lets you open an eatery for a day

Do people sing the praises of your homemade cakes or savory soups? If so, you might have toyed with the idea of someday opening your own cafe or restaurant. All dreams have to start somewhere, so why not embrace the concept of Restaurant Day and open up your own little establishment, if only for the day?

Described on its website as a food carnival created by thousands of people organizing and visiting one-day restaurants worldwide, the idea behind the event is to have fun, share new food experiences and enjoy common spaces. The venture is facilitated by a team of volunteers.

Participation could prove not only fun but also a great introduction to the skills needed to launch a small business. Would-be restauranteurs are advised to come up with a concept, secure an attractive location, choose a name, plan a menu, figure out how to meet hot or cold storage needs, line up helpers, register the restaurant on the official event website, and use their own channels of social media to get the word out. Organizers note that restaurants with a political, religious or commercial aim are not within the spirit of the event, and such listings will be removed from their website.

Restaurant Day was launched in 2011, so it’s a rather new venture, but one that’s caught on quickly. To date, over 9,600 pop-up restaurants have catered to an estimated 1,060,000 customers in 56 countries. A small sampling of European cities in which these fleeting restaurants can be found includes Prague; Helsinki; Vilnius, Lithuania; Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Nuremberg, Germany; Gdansk, Poland and many more.

This celebration of food and community ties happens four times annually, with the next date — May 17 — approaching fast. If that’s too soon but the idea’s provided food for thought, make note of the other two Restaurant Days in 2014: Aug. 17 and Nov. 15.

To learn more, or to see where restaurants will be popping up near you, visit www.restaurantday.org.



About the Author

Karen Bradbury has lived and worked in Europe for more than fifteen years. She has called Moscow, Copenhagen, Rome and now a small wine-producing village along the Rhine in Germany home. When she's not working, whatever the season, she's probably traveling.

Email: bradburyk@estripes.osd.mil