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Lantern festival in Florence

Florence celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary this Sunday, Aug. 31, with the Festa della Rificolona, or festival of paper lanterns. While the religious component of the fest is no longer celebrated as fervently as it once was, the annual pilgrimage into the city once made by the region's peasants and farmers left a distinct mark on the celebrations.

As the country dwellers, traveling from afar, often set off from their homes before the dawn, they would carry paper lanterns lit with candles to guide their way. Showing up in town in their modest best dress, the city dwellers would often mock and laugh at them, and the children would attempt to hit their lanterns with pea shooters and spitballs. As the country folk didn't make the long journey into town empty-handed, the tradition of holding a market followed upon their heels. Today this takes the form of an organic produce fair which will take place both Saturday and Sunday.

Mons, Belgium, welcomes tanks

To this day, the city of Mons, Belgium celebrates its 1944 liberation by the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion of the 3rd U.S. Armored Division with a peaceful gathering of armored vehicles. This weekend, an exceptional edition of Tanks in Town will commemorate the 70th anniversary of this date in history.

The event opens Saturday, Aug. 30, at 8 a.m. with the opening of a period military camp and an international flea market for militaria along the route de Wallonie. Find also an expo of armored vehicles and tank rides offered in the Bois Brûlé (15 euros, or about $19.80; space is limited). At 3 p.m., the nearby Grand Large will serve as a launch pad for amphibious vehicles.

Street performers to gather in Ferrara, Italy

 
Both this weekend and the next, the streets of Ferrara, Italy, will bustle as the UNESCO-listed city known for its Renaissance palaces welcomes performing artists from around the world. 
 
The Ferrara Buskers Festival was launched in 1988 to raise the profile of street musicians and attract tourists to this medieval walled city by the Po River. This year’s edition will welcome some 1,000 artists from more than 30 countries: aerialists, clowns, dancers, jugglers, tightrope walkers and a host of other original acts will take to the streets in what’s billed as the biggest event dedicated to street artists in the world. 
 
Every year sees one designated country welcomed as special guest; this year, Mongolia’s artists are honored. Other acts hail from Algeria, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Japan, Senegal and other far-flung corners of the world. 
 
The festival opens Friday, Aug. 22, in Comacchio and moves to Ferrara for the weekend; on Monday the artists perform in Lugo. They then return to Ferrara and remain there through Aug. 31. 
 
Festival opening hours are 6 p.m. to midnight except on Sundays, when the action runs from 5-8 p.m. Admission is free. Learn more at www.ferrarabuskers.com.

Hip-hop fans head to the Czech Republic

The Czech town of Hradec Kralove, located about 70 miles east of Prague, is sure to attract hip-hop fans in droves through Saturday with its annual lineup of artists from Europe, Britain, the United States and other parts of the world. One of the largest festivals for this genre of music in all Europe, this music-and-dance event traditionally attracts a young crowd some 20,000 strong. 
 
Hip Hop Kemp sprawls across six venues, including a live stage and several platforms for those who want to dance; alternatively, watch battles of dancing crews, catch the open-mic shows or take in a workshop. Performers hailing from the U.S. include Black Milk, Dilated Peoples, KRS One, Bizarre Ride 2, the Pharcyde and Dillon Cooper. 
 
Revelers can grab some sleep in a camping area that has showers and safe-deposit facilities available at additional cost. The camping fee is 250 crowns (about $12) per person, and the area remains open until noon on Sunday. On-site parking costs an additional 200 crowns. 
 
At press time, adult tickets were selling for 64 euros (about $85.50) via a website linked to the event’s home page, www.4tix.de.
 
The event is open to all ages. Those under age 10 and 130 centimeters get in for free in the company of a parent.  Visit the festival’s website at www.Hiphopkemp.cz.

'Giants' set to storm Ath, Belgium

For an outing steeped in folkloric tradition, Ath, Belgium, would make a fine destination as its annual fair known as the Ducasse d’Ath plays out. The event rates a place on UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The fair, which dates to the 15th century, features seven “giants,” oversize allegorical figures who move through the streets. On Saturday, the one known as Gouyasse, or Goliath, will wed his beloved in the town’s St. Julien’s church at 3 p.m., then battle it out with another giant, David, at 4:45 p.m. On Sunday, a procession featuring the giants, floats and folklore groups marches through the town beginning at 9:45 a.m. and winds up about 3 p.m. On Monday, the figures once again parade through the streets to solicit donations. It’s also possible to take carriage rides through Ath’s old town or watch hot air balloons ascend. Learn more about the event at http://tinyurl.com/momflq8.

Stuttgart fireworks festival

If a sky lit up in flames makes your night, consider attending the Blazing Star International Fireworks Festival, running through Sunday, Aug. 16, in Ostfildern, Germany, a town about eight miles southeast of Stuttgart.

Some of the world’s top pyrotechnicians show up for this annual event in a contest to convince both jury and the audience that their fireworks top them all. This year will see Dubai, Costa Rica and Germany battle it out in a blaze of glory from Friday through Sunday.

Brussels' flower carpet

Brussels’ Grand Place is a stunning sight year-round, but imagine the UNESCO-listed square decked out in a colorful carpet.

Through Sunday, August, 17, this is exactly the vision that awaits guests as the ground is blanketed by a huge floral tapestry.

Stuttgart’s summer fest

Looking for a place to wear your fancy summer dress? The Stuttgart Summer Festival might just offer that atmosphere of elegance and sophistication you crave.

The venue itself is rather posh – the Palace Square and Palace Gardens around the lake in front of the State Theater, graced by giant white tents that are romantically illuminated at night. Some thirty stands offer culinary treats from game specialties to giant shrimp, and a wide choice of beverages, from wines to proseccos to non-alcoholic selections, to wash things down. Over 30 acts provide 120 hours of live music across five stages, including the sounds of contemporary hits with a swing, soul or jazz interpretation.

Shakespeare in Munich's English Garden

Add a little culture to your stay in Munich by attending William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” through Sunday at the amphitheater at the English Garden.

The performance celebrates the 450th anniversary year of William Shakespeare’s birth and the 225th anniversary of the English Garden, one of the largest urban parks in the world. An abridged adaptation of the original lasting about 70 minutes will be performed in English by the Munich-based anglophone theater group ENTITY. The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. Note this open-air performance will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather. To find out if the show will go on, call +49-(0)152 3614 7906 after 5 p.m. that same evening. To learn more about the performances, see www.entitytheatre.com.

Luxembourg's E-lake fest begins Aug. 8

Looking for a place to wear your fancy summer dress? The Stuttgart Summer Festival might just offer that atmosphere of elegance and sophistication you crave. 

 The venue itself is rather posh – the Palace Square and Palace Gardens around the lake in front of the State Theater, graced by giant white tents that are romantically illuminated at night. Some thirty stands offer culinary treats from game specialties to giant shrimp, and a wide choice of beverages, from wines to proseccos to non-alcoholic selections, to wash things down. Over 30 acts provide 120 hours of live music across five stages, including the sounds of contemporary hits with a swing, soul or jazz interpretation. Acts play Friday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. The fest itself opens to visitors from 11 a.m. all days. To learn more, see www.stuttgarter-sommerfest.de

 
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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