Alps craft fair, Jan. 30-31

Aosta, an Italian city nestled in the Alps close to the French and Swiss borders, hosts its traditional crafts market on the same date each year: Jan. 30 and 31.

The traditional Sant’Orso fair, named after a benevolent sixth century saint, dates back more than a millennium. More than 1,000 artists and craftsmen from the surrounding valley come to town to display their handiworks, which include sculpture and carvings, wrought iron wares, leather goods, lace, weavings and more. L’Atelier, open through Sunday, is an exhibition space where visitors can observe craftsmen at work.

Dublin hosts Tradfest Jan. 28-Feb. 1

Dublin’s Temple Bar district, the buzzing city quarter known for its culture and night life, makes a fitting backdrop for Ireland’s largest festival of traditional music.

The TradFest Temple Bar, opening Wednesday, Jan. 28, offers five days of live performances from traditional and folk artists, nu-folk and rock bands.

Motorcycle expo in Verona, Jan. 23-25

 Many of the lovers flocking to Verona, Italy, this weekend (Jan. 23-25) will be those with a passion for the open road as the city hosts its annual Motor Bike Expo.

This massive exposition is particularly geared to motorcyclists looking to customize their bikes.

Snow sculptures in the Dolomites

In a pair of off-the-beaten track villages in the Dolomites, masters of their trade are taking out spades and pick-axes and getting to work. Their canvases are the nearly 10-by-10-foot blocks of ice and snow that they will shape into imaginative figures.

The 25th edition of the International Snow-Sculpture Festival opened Wednesday, Jan. 7, in Inninchen, a village in Italy’s South Tyrol, or Alto Aldige in Italian. Ten international teams of three artists were given three days to complete their sculptures, working without benefit of any power tools.

Act fast to enter the Man Versus Horse Marathon

Fleet of foot and faster that the wind? How would you fare against a four-legged opponent? In the Man Versus Horse Marathon, the results haven’t always been what you’d expect.

This non-traditional long-distance run has been held annually since 1986 in the former spa tour of Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales. Its inaugural edition attracted about 15 horses and riders and about the same number of runners, but nowadays it’s a hot ticket, with 50 horses, 420 runners and 110 relay teams having started in the 2014 event. Registration to the 2015 edition of the race opened Jan. 1 and over 160 runners have already signed up. The race typically reaches capacity within weeks, so those considering participation will need to act fast. The entry fee is 20 pounds, or about $30.

Epiphany doings in Europe

Children in many European countries will keep that holiday sparkle in their eyes right up through Jan. 6, Three Kings’ Day. Also known as Epiphany, the date marks the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. In many cultures, the younger generation receives presents on this day. Celebrations marking the Three Kings’ Day may also be enjoyed by the public at large.

Barcelona’s festivities kick off on the eve of the holiday, Jan. 5, with the arrival of the Three Kings by sea at the Moll de la Fusta at about 4:30 p.m. From there, the kings and their entourage make their way to the Parc de la Ciutadella. The kings and company then set off in a parade from 6 p.m., passing through many of the city’s main squares before arriving at the intersection of Av. Reina Maria Cristina and Av. de Rius i Taulet at about 8:45 p.m. A map tracing the route is available at bcn.cat/recorregut/desktop.html.

Ice skating in Paris

Those who love to ice skate might plan a trip to Paris, as the City of Light offers some lovely settings to indulge in this favorite winter pastime.

It’s possible through Sunday to take a turn on what’s billed as the world’s largest indoor ice rink, as the Grand Palais des Glaces in Paris offers its last skating sessions of the winter season.

New Year's Day torchlight swim in Füssen, Germany

Füssen, a town in Germany’s Allgäu region, is home to the major tourist attraction of Neuschwanstein castle. Visitors to the town on New Year’s Day have an additional treat in store: the sight of dozens of swimmers holding torches aloft while paddling in the icy waters of the Lech River.

As evening falls at about 4 p.m., some 50 wetsuit-clad swimmers will plunge into the river and float downstream past the town’s historical center. Viewers cluster along the bridge named Theresienbrücke to wonder at this feat, offering encouragement in the form of shots from small handguns. Bratwursts and mulled wine help keep fingers warm and spirits high. 

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.



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