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Christmas market cruises

Although the Christmas season is still a few months away, it’s time to start planning. This year, you might want to splurge and take a Christmas market cruise with Atlas Cruises and Tours.

For example, the eight-day "Christmas Market Danube River Cruise — Nuremberg to Vienna" leaves Dec. 7 and 13. In Germany, it stops in Nuremberg and includes a city tour; Regensburg, also with a city tour; and Passau. In Austria, stops include Melk, with a tour of the abbey; and finally, Vienna. During the stops, you can visit the colorful Christmas markets.

Prices are $1,279 for the Dec. 7 tour and $1,069 per person for the Dec. 13 tour and include six nights’ deluxe river cruise accommodations in an outside cabin, 17 meals, champagne with breakfast, unlimited wine and beer with dinners, shore excursions, evening entertainment, services of the cruise director and entrance fees as noted in the itinerary.

Find more at www.christmasmarkettours.com

Stallion parades

According to Werner Schockemöhle, who was one of Germany’s top horse breeders, the Hanoverian line of horses has the highest standard for dressage in the world. About 140 of this bloodline of stallions are found at the State Stud of Celle, a breeding establishment founded in the 1700s by King Georg II of Hanover (who was also king of Great Britain). In addition to maintaining the stallions, the farm gives performance tests to assess character, temperament, and performance abilities.

If you’re interested in seeing these beautiful trained horses perform, the farm will hold its annual Stallion Parades this year on Sept. 27 and 28 and Oct. 4 and 5. The three-hour program includes the presentation of the horses in hand, under saddle or in harness. A highlight is the historical dressage quadrille.

Adult seated tickets cost 27 to 35 euros; standing tickets cost 6 euros. Children ages 3 to 16 get in for half price; kids under 3 get in free. See http://landgestuetcelle.de. Celle is about 40 miles north of Hanover.

Best betsAUSTRIA: Salzburg celebrates its founding father, the missionary St.Rupert, from Friday through Wednesday with a traditional fair in its old town. In the late fifth and early sixth centuries, St. Rupert converted the local citizens and built up the former Roman town of Juvavum. He renamed it Salzburg (salt fortress) because of its nearby salt mines.

The fair, once held as a fall market, officially was designated to honor St. Rupert in 1331. Today, the celebration includes a beer garden, traditional music and dancing, puppet theater, rides and a crafts market. It’s open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entry is free.

Salzburg’s Web site is www2.salzburg.info.

BELGIUM: During the Middle Ages, the town of Poperinge turned to raising hops when it couldn’t compete with its larger neighbor, Ieper, in the cloth business. It was a venture that proved to be quite profitable. Each year its immigrant hops pickers would harvest the crop and then celebrate the end of the season with a festival.

Although machines have replaced these pickers, the city has continued the celebratory tradition with its Hop and Beer Festival. It runs Friday through the weekend, with Sunday’s Hop Pageant at 3 p.m. as the highlight. The parade includes hunting-horn blowers, musicians, stilt walkers, flag throwers and horsemen and depicts the history of hops.

Also on the program are musical entertainment, visits to the Hop Museum and, of course, beer. Find details at www.hoppefeesten.be.

ENGLAND: Ever had the urge to step back in time? If so, head to Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, running through Sept. 24. The famous author’s book "Northanger Abbey" takes place in this Georgian spa town and follows the story of Catherine Morland and family friends during their visit, commenting on the social relationships of the 18th century. On Saturday, Europe’s largest Regency costume parade, along the city’s grand Georgian terraces, starts at 11:20. Organizers invite everyone to join in costume, which you can buy in the town. Also on the program are walking tours; costume photography sessions; 18th-century music, food and dance lessons; a production of "Northanger Abbey"; and a Grand Regency Ball.

Find details at www.janeausten.co.uk/festival.

Go behind the scenes of London’s most interesting architecture during the city’s Open House Weekend. Seven hundred activities are planned for this weekend, including behind-the-scenes openings of government buildings, contemporary offices, historical houses, arts spaces and institutions, city banks and medical centers and schools.

Architectural walks and specialty lectures also are planned. Themes include "Design Matters," "How Green is My City?" and "Spotlight," a selection of special events. Entry is free, with some sites requiring reservations.

For a schedule, go to www.openhouse.org.uk/public/london/index.html.

FRANCE: The biggest mobile dance floor in the world makes its way through the Paris streets Saturday as booming electronic music heralds the arrival of this year’s techno parade.

"No Famine" is the theme, and the parade aims to honor the great variety of electronic music from all over Europe with 200 disc jockeys on 20 floats. The parade begins at noon from the Opera Metro station and ends up at the Bastille, where a grand finale runs from 6 p.m. to midnight. After that, the parties continue in Parisian clubs.

Details at www.technoparade.fr.


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