Fall brings chilling Halloween events

Halloween celebrations in Europe, once largely unheard of, are no longer few and far between, and nowadays celebrations featuring ghosts and ghouls and pumpkins are easy to come by. Amusement park operators have eagerly latched onto the day’s ever-increasing popularity and offer all types of spooky fun. Here’s a look at what the witching season will bring to some of our favorite theme parks:


Europa-Park in Rust celebrates Halloween through Nov. 8 with autumnal décor, ghostly illuminations, and dinosaur figures made of pumpkins, plus a Halloween show and parade geared to young visitors. From 5 p.m. Oct. 31 through Nov. 8, admission costs from 5 p.m. are reduced to 18.50 euros per adult and 15.50 euros per child age 4-11; ages 3 and under, as always, enter free. Learn more at www.europapark.de/en/park/events/eerily-beautiful-halloween-europa-park

Drink up! Pilsner Fest on Oct. 3

Pilsen, one of two European Capitals of Culture 2015, invites fans of the type of beer named after its fair city to sample it at the source during its annual Pilsner Fest on Oct. 3. The Czech city is home to the famous Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus breweries, as well as four microbreweries.

The date of the celebration closely coincides with the brewing of the very first batch of pilsen beer by Bavarian brewer Josef Groll on Oct. 5, 1842. While this festival might not pull in the numbers of Oktoberfest, last year’s edition attracted over 45,000 fans of these light and tasty brews.

Street entertainers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s Ludwigstrasse will be a hive of activity on Sept. 18 and 19 as the second edition of strassen.kunst.festival unfolds. Musicians, acrobats, jugglers, comedians, dancers and many more entertainers will amuse and amaze an all-ages audience.

This year’s acts include a drumming and juggling duo; a blues and soul band; didgeridoo players; an illusionist; and a prankster who pokes fun at unwitting members of the public. Acrobatics, pantomime and fire shows also figure into the program.

The festival runs from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 18 and noon to 10 p.m. Sept. 19. If it rains, indoor venues stand ready to accommodate. Notices posted on Ludwigstrasse will indicate the new locations.

Entry is free, but artists depend heavily on the money they busk from the audience. If you like an act, reward accordingly. Learn more at www.strassenkunstfestival.de.

Italian museum deal

Love art? On Sundays in Italy, state-owned monuments, galleries, parks, gardens, museums and other spaces offer free entry to visitors.

The initiative — known as Domenicalmuseo, or Sunday at the Museum — was launched in 2014. Participating spaces include such tourist hot spots as Rome’s Colosseum, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and Venice’s Accademia Galleries. Anticipate long waits at these places, or explore instead lesser-known attractions. A list of participating institutions can be found at http://tinyurl.com/koot575.

Open-air opera in Pompeii

When nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., the Roman city of Pompeii was engulfed in volcanic ash that left its buildings and artifacts nearly intact. Excavations begun in 1748 left the vast site exposed to the elements. This, along with the footfall of millions of tourists and a lack of comprehensive conservation plans, has left the site in a precarious position. The ambitious, 105 million euro Great Pompeii Project, launched in 2013, aims to preserve this UNESCO site on the Bay of Naples.

The Teatro Grande de la Scavi, an amphitheater located directly on the site, has benefited from recent renovations. For the second year running, the Pompei Festival  brings ballet and opera to this extraordinary setting. Three well-known operas will close the 2015 season: “Tosca,” on Sept. 13 and 17; “Nabucco,” on Sept. 15; and “La Traviata” on Sept. 16 and 19. Tickets to these shows were available at the time of this writing. Prices start at 33 euros (about $37).

There’s always the risk of postponement or cancellation because of inclement weather. Under threatening skies, shows can be delayed for up to two hours. If 30 minutes or more of a production has been performed, ticket prices are not reimbursed. You can claim a ticket for a future show if a performance is canceled. To learn more or to order tickets, go to www.pompeifestival.it.

Go by rail and save in Europe

Multi-country rail passes

If you’ve called Europe your home for  6 months, you are eligible to buy an InterRail pass, which allows you unlimited travel in one or all 30 participating European countries, with the exception of your country of residence. Costs will vary according to the pass’ length of validity and class of travel, and special services such as seat reservations and sleeping berths must be paid for separately. You may also have to pay a supplement to use the top-of-the-line trains. For more, see www.interrailnet.com.Those who live outside of Europe may purchase a  Eurail pass.

A word on savings

Showcase of superlative Chianti

Not all Chianti wine is created equal. There’s Chianti, a type of wine made in Tuscany, Chianti wine from the territory of Chianti as delimited in 1716, and Chianti Classico, the name of the wine made in the geographical area of Chianti, which is bottled and sold under a distinctive black rooster trademark. Wine aficionados will be staying close to Greve in Chianti to sample the latter at the town’s Chianti Classico Expo running through Sept.13.

The 45th edition of this event will see close to a hundred wineries present their wines in Piazza Matteotti and a special tasting pavilion. Sipping takes place from 11 a.m. daily, with the stands closing at 8 p.m. Sept. 12 and an hour later on Sept. 13. On Sept. 12, artisans hard at work can be seen on Via Giuliotti, and on Sept. 13, a historical flag waving parade takes place from 4:30 p.m. On both days, olive oils, salami and cheese may be sampled at the Garden of Taste, and live music enjoyed in the evenings. Plan a day out at www.expochianticlassico.com.

Cheap or free museums in Italy

A reminder that as of July 2014, the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Environment launched a wonderful initiative titled Domenicalmuseo, or Sunday at the Museum, in which state-owned monuments, galleries, parks, gardens, museums and other spaces offer free entry to visitors. Participating spaces include such tourist hotspots as Rome’s Colosseum, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery or Venice’s Accademia Galleries. Anticipate quite a wait at such places, or use the day to explore lesser known but no less sumptuous or special surroundings. Call up the list of participating institutions at http://tinyurl.com/koot575.

Another recently launched initiative is Un Sabado Notte al Museo, or A Saturday Night at the Museum, which, through Dec. 19, 2015, offers visitors the chance to explore museums from 8 p.m. to midnight at a cost of just one euro. Participating institutions include the Pompeii and Herculaneum archaeological sites, Naples’ Capodimonte and Archaeology museums, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery or Galleria dell’Accademia, among many more. To see which venues are open for the upcoming Saturday night, see http://tinyurl.com/puwfe76.

Culture for all during European Heritage Days

Whether upcoming weekend plans are taking you to new destinations across Europe or keeping you close to home, you might just discover the doors to a unique cultural monument have been thrown open for you.

European Heritage Days, first launched in 1985, see about 50 countries holding special events from guided tours to open-air performances over a single day or weekend in September. Sites usually off limits to the public are open to visitors, often at a reduced price or free of charge, while those that are open year round offer special one-off activities. One of the goals of the initiative is to help citizens of the continent learn about their shared cultural heritage and become involved in efforts to safeguard it for future generations.



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