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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.

Fly for cheap: New destinations with budget airlines

Are you constantly on the lookout for a new European city to explore? Low cost airlines are constantly tweaking their schedules to offer new routes while jettisoning those that fail to bring profits. Here’s a sampling of some new and off-the-beaten-track destinations to be found on the summer flight schedules from airports near U.S. bases in Germany.

 

-- Frankfurt-Hahn Airport: Wizz Air now flies to Gdansk, Poland, and Ryanair will soon begin routes to Vilnius, Lithuania and Gran Canaria, Spain.

April 27: King's Day in Holland

A party vibe will prevail throughout the Netherlands on Monday, April 27, as the country celebrates King’s Day. In cities and towns alike, the crowds flock to public spaces, with many clad in orange in a show of pride for the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Amsterdam takes on the air of a giant flea market, as all are free to peddle their second hand wares at the numerous “vrijmarkt,” or free market sites throughout the streets and parks of the capital. Even children get into the act, selling off the toys they’ve outgrown in the past year. Impromptu food stalls also pop up to fuel the hungry bargain hunters. The markets open at 6 a.m. and remain open until 8 p.m. Street entertainers, live music and decorated boats all add to the festive atmosphere.

Now through Sunday: Art Cologne

Art Cologne, which bills itself as the oldest fair for modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st century, runs through Sunday, April 19. Visitors include both serious buyers and those who just enjoy top-quality works of art. 

Some 200 international galleries will display items from their collections, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, performance art and more. One section of the fair is devoted to well-established galleries, while another is dedicated to those that have opened in the past decade. “New Positions” presents the solo exhibitions of 21 outstanding young artists. The fair’s newest sector, “Collaborations,” focuses on projects planned jointly with the New York New Art Dealers Alliance. 

Get in on the fun of Volksfest season

Buy a licorice whip, win a stuffed toy, devour a roast chicken, turn upside down on a scary ride, or down a mug of beer: such are the pleasures of Germany’s many Volksfests. 

There’s plenty of history behind the entertainment. Some fests date back centuries and are based on historical events such as the celebration of a harvest or a fair for trading wares. Frankfurt’s Dippemess, for example, dates to the 14th century and originally was a market for domestic articles, particularly ceramic pots and bowls.

Swiss rail savings

Contemplating a vacation in Switzerland? As prices in this alpine nation can hit hard, it makes sense to save wherever possible. Those who plan to tour the country on its extensive pub­lic transportation network will find they can take a bite out of their travel costs by purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass.

In addition to unlimited travel by rail, pass holders can enjoy many journeys by bus or boat, free use of public transporta­tion in 75 cities, free admission to more than 480 museums, and a 50-percent discount off most mountain railways. A parent holding a Swiss Family Card can take along his or her children up to age 16 for free. The card itself, which can be ordered online ahead of time, is free, but mail­ing fees apply.

Holy Week doings in Spain

Santa Semana, or Holy Week, represents an important period of celebration throughout Spain. Holy Week is the time between Palm Sunday and Easter, March 29 through April 5 this year.

The festivities unite the devout with the curious and play out in the streets and squares of cities and small towns alike. Religious brotherhoods are responsible for coordinating the many proces­sions. Costaleros carry floats bearing sculptures of Biblical scenes, the oldest of which date as far back as the 16th century. Nazarenos, or penitents, are the followers, both men and women dressed in tunics, masks and long, pointed hoods.

Take a tulip road trip in Holland

A great way to enjoy Holland’s trademark flower is by planning a road trip. The sight of bold strips of color running through the flat fields can be enjoyed from the end of March through May, with mid-April the time to see the blossoms at their peak. 

According to the national tourism board, Holland’s longest tulip route is found in the Noordoostpolder in Flevoland, stretching more than 60 miles through nearly 2,500 acres. An easy-to-follow, sign-posted way features stops for picking tulips or buying regional products. 

Sign of spring: Keukenhof opens!

One need not be particularly enamored of flowers to appreciate the color and creativity of Keukenhof, a sprawling Dutch park where more than 7 million bulbs are planted every year. 

While hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other blooms play supporting roles, the star of the show is undoubtedly the tulip, of which some 800 varieties are displayed. 

 
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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