See New Year's fireworks near bases from on high

Those without plans to conquer far-flung horizons on New Year’s Eve probably won’t be making any elaborate travel arrangements at this late date. But that doesn’t have to translate into a night on the sofa. While cities near the places we presently call home offer bars, clubs and restaurants attracting revellers in droves, much of the population is content to count down to midnight in public spaces such as city squares or atop bridges.

In Germany and throughout much of Europe, fireworks make up a large part of the festivities. Much of what goes up in smoke is no organized showcase of pyrotechnics but rather a collection of rockets and firecrackers purchased at supermarkets and discount stores in the run-up to the holiday. Such firepower in the hands of the exuberant, inexperienced and tipsy often goes astray, however, so it’s essential to keep alert when venturing into the thick of things.

Dickens Fest in Holland

The Dutch city of Deventer takes on the air of the England of centuries past this Saturday and Sunday, , Dec. 20-21, as its picturesque Bergkwartier plays host to its annual Dickens Festival.

Around 950 characters from Dickens’ works, from the famous Ebenezer Scrooge or Oliver Twist, to the elegant upper classes, and even the orphans and ruffians, perambulate the city streets. The festive season is evidenced by the presence of Christmas trees, fairy lights and carolers. Those in pursuit of last-minute Christmas gifts have over 200 stalls to peruse, as well as shops and galleries, which will be open on both Saturday and Sunday. A Christmas concert takes place on Sunday afternoon at the Broederenkerk.

The scary Krampus hit Munich on Dec. 21

Had quite enough of Jolly Old Saint Nick? Meet his evil other half, the Krampus. A demon with pagan roots, his name derives from the world for claw, and he’s recognizable by his sharp fangs, shaggy black hair, and horns. The beast carries a bell and chains, along with birch branches perfect for beating naughty children. Stemming from east Alpine tradition, he’s often spotted in Bavaria and Austria.

Krampus, who usually travel in groups, will be descending upon Munich’s Christmas market on Dec. 21 from 3 p.m. From the Christkindlmarkt on the Marienplatz, the demonic group will makes its way through the pedestrian zone, along the Rosenstraße, across Sternenplatzl and to Rindermarkt, winding up back at its starting point some one and a half hours later. The Krampus’ mission on this day is to show off their costumes and traditions, and not to torture any children. More info is available at http://tinyurl.com/mnscuyz.

Christmas Valley in Thuringia

The German state of Thuringia is associated with nature, forests and winter sports, making it ideally suited to hosting an outdoorsy Christmas event. This weekend only (Dec. 13-14), its Holzland region will welcome visitors to an event known as Christmas Valley, when the regional beauty spot will be transformed into a magical, fairy-tale world populated by witches, robbers, knights, rascals and other costumed characters.

The eight old mills scattered through the five mile valley create an atmospheric backdrop along which visitors are invited to make their way by foot. Things to check out en route include glass-blowers, candle-makers and other craftsmen, a sled dog camp, tepee, pony riding corral, petting zoo, fairy-tale world, and live musical entertainment. Those who get chilly can warm up next to a campfire.

Auto show in Essen,through Dec. 7

Sports car lovers might want to motor on over to the Essen Motor Show, under way now and running through Dec. 7. Essen, Germany, a former industrial city now better known for its cultural offerings, is about an hour’s drive north of Cologne.

One of Europe’s leading fairs for sports vehicles, the show offers more than 500 exhibitors of autos and related products. It attracts up to 360,000 visitors during its 10-day run. The show includes classic cars and motorcycles as well as new models.

It's Christmas market time!

The coming of the Advent season means that many of Germany’s Christmas markets are up and running, bringing much needed cheer when daylight hours are short and the skies too often cloudy and gray.

While most Christmas markets in Germany’s larger cities remain open every day until about Dec. 23, smaller communities often host events that last no more than a day or weekend. The stalls at such markets are often manned by members of clubs or churches from the town, and profits go toward their activities or charitable causes. These can be great opportunities to pick up something handmade and local, as well as enjoy a warm Glühwein and to share a few words with the neighbors you’ve often seen but have yet to meet.  

Indie music in Utrecht, Nov. 20-23

Utrecht, Netherlands makes a good bet for lovers of indie music Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 20-23, as the festival known as Le Guess Who? sees both established bands and up-and-coming acts perform across 15 venues, from clubs to churches to art galleries.

Utrecht, a hip student city just a half hour train ride away from Amsterdam, welcomes over eighty groups and solo acts over the course of the festival’s four day run. Headliners in 2014 include Autechre, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Dr. John & the Nite Trippers, and St. Vincent, among others.

Time to hit the slopes!

Ski season is here, and throughout Austria, they’re pulling out all the stops to welcome winter sports fans back to the slopes. Parties, competitions, testing of the latest gear, and concerts make up just some of the fun being laid on by ski resorts throughout the country over the next several weekends. Here’s a run-down of some of the festivities on tap:


Nov. 14-16: Schladming

GLOW Light Art Festival, Nov. 14-15

Eindhoven shines more than just a little light through Saturday, as the light art festival known as GLOW brings installations, sculptures, projections and performances to the city’s streets. The theme of the 2014 edition of GLOW is “City in Motion,” exploring how one’s perspective is changed by movement.

The works of around fifty artists feature into the displays, which are linked by a trail. Strijp-S, a new urban space for creativity and culture housed in buildings once occupied by the Dutch company Philips, serves as the venue for GLOW NEXT. The installations here show off the latest in experimental light art and applications which display elements of social engagement.



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