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July 4: Rhine in Flames in Bingen, Germany

So it's no Fourth without fireworks? Pyrotechnics can be enjoyed off base too, as the event known as Rhine in Flames takes place in and around Bingen and Rüdesheim on July 4.

From May through September, five Rhine in Flames events attract tens of thousands of spectators to various stretches of the Rhine River between Bingen and Bonn. While it’s traditional to enjoy the illuminations and fireworks from aboard the brightly illuminated passenger ships plying the river on these evenings, it’s possible to take in a more limited but still impressive view of the spectacle from land too.

Outdoor performing arts in London

The streets, parks and other open spaces of Greenwich and East London will double as venues for dance, circus, theater and other open-air performances at The Greenwich + Docklands International Festival June 26 through July 5.

National and international troupes and companies take the spotlight, with many performances marking their London or U.K. debuts. Highlights include Kori Kori, in which a French theater company leads the audience on a musical walk through Greenwich (departing at 8 p.m.  June 26 from Cutty Sark Gardens); 451, a performance based on the Ray Bradbury novel in which books are set alight (10 p.m., June 27, Bethnal Green Gardens, Tower Hamlets); and The Four Fridas, a spectacular of dance, music, video projections and aerial performances inspired by the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (10 p.m. July 1-4, Royal Artillery Barracks Woolrich, with free standing room along the promenade).

Open Gardens in Amsterdam

The gates are open to hidden oases of green June 19-21 as Amsterdam’s Open Garden Days sees some 25 properties scattered throughout the city allow access to what are normally private spaces. Some of the venues are participating in this initiative for the first time. The theme for 2015 is “Art in the Canal House Garden.”

Visitors can stroll through and admire the flowering plants and greenery of both classical and contemporary gardens, along with works of art spanning three centuries.

June 19-21: Paris Air Show

The International Paris Air Show, with roots tracing back to 1909, is considered the longest running aerospace trade show in the world. With over 2,200 exhibitors on site, it’s the largest one too. Following a four-day period in which the event was open to trade visitors only, the doors are now open to the general public from June 19-21.

The 51st edition of this biennial event attracts exhibitors from the civil, defense and security industries and introduces products from satellite telecoms equipment to weapons systems to aircraft engines. Major aircraft and parts manufacturers exhibit across 26 national pavilions. More than 350 companies will represent the U.S. aerospace industry, most of them in the American Pavilion located in Hall 3.

Balloons coming to Bonn

Giant orbs of color will brighten the skies above Bonn June 12-14 as the city hosts its annual hot air balloon festival. Side activities at the Rheinaue, a sprawling green space alongside the Rhine River, make the area an oasis for families in the afternoons.

About 25 ballooning teams are slated to participate in the festival. They will begin their ascents from 6:30 p.m. June 12 and 13 and from 7 p.m. June 14. One of the festival’s most appealing sights comes at 11 p.m. on June 13, when the balloons, having returned to the Rheinaue following their evening flights, are illuminated to create a glowing effect against the backdrop of a night sky.

June 12-13: Wiesbaden's Wilhelm Street Festival

While its official name is Theatrium, one of Wiesbaden’s best-loved annual events is often simply called the Wilhelm Street Festival. For two days, the wide avenue in front of the city’s Kurhaus becomes a huge zone for fun and entertainment. Visitors turn out en masse to enjoy street erformances by jesters, stilt walkers and marching bands, live dance shows and concerts across five stages, and a vast choice of culinary treats. Around 140 exhibitors at the artisans market on the Bowling Green offer the chance to shop for unique and high-quality wares.

Street acts younger audiences might find appealing include the elaborately costumed Yussara Dance Company or the colorful and clownish stilt act Ringelschlingel. By night, the stages are rocked by acts pumping out music to all tastes from rock to Calypso groove to club sounds.

June 3-10: Street fest in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb will buzz with energy and a party vibe through June 3-10, as the international street festival known as Cest is d’Best brings its particular brand of good humor to the Croatian capital.

In addition to international street artists performing music, drama, dance, creative arts and more across six stages, the program is designed to bring smiles to viewers’ faces: a race of the city’s street sweepers pushing their wheeled bins; traditional Croatian choral groups singing ganga-style, a competition in which the slowest bicycle rider comes out the winner, and the Dukatino Baby Marathon, in which tots aged 12 to 24 months race along a 22-meter track. The top acts perform on the stage at Cvjetni Plac, or Flower Square, while the Zrinjevac Park is set up as an oasis for families.

Enjoy Cantini Aperti, or Open Cellars, in Italy

For more than 20 years, an initiative known as Cantini Aperti, or Open Cellars, has been held throughout Italy. On the last Sunday in May, vintners throughout the country’s wine-producing regions open their premises to an enthusiastic public. Visitors can learn about the wine production process, taste and purchase their favorite wines. Some cellars lay on entertainment and culinary specialties.

Many visitors choose to visit several cellars over the course of the day, hiking or cycling from one to the next. Several wineries will host events and tastings on Saturday, May 30, as well.

To see what’s on near you, visit: tinyurl.com/pmhhg94.

Germany's auto-free cycling days

Castle ruins above the barren hills. Wide rivers bustling with boats and barges. Vineyards so steep you wonder how they’re harvested. Such is the scenery found along German highways. And for just one day of the year, some of the country’s most picturesque stretches of road can be enjoyed at a much slower pace.

Auto-free days are locally organized initiatives in which all motorized vehicles are banned from certain sections of highways. Cyclists, in-line skaters, hikers and other nature lovers come out in force to savor the surroundings they’re more used to passing by in a blur of speed. Road closures last from mid-morning to early evening and can stretch from 15 to 50 miles or more. They are generally organized on Sundays or public holidays from spring on into the autumn months. No costs are associated with taking part in these events.

 
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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