Travel With a Purpose, 3 Festivals to Include in your travel Itinerary.
Most people today seem to travel without purpose, and on short notice to boot. Once getting to their destination they fly by the seat of their pants fumbling through guide books visiting everything touristy and totally missing the heart and soul of the countries they visit. Proper travel planning requires months of preparation and careful consideration of your travel dates. With a bit of flexibility, and advance planning a vacation can become an experience. Find an event or festival and build your trip around it, embracing the adventure of different cultures, foods, and languages.
I’ve listed 3 of my favorites, as well as a few activities to go with them.
Notting Hill Carnival, Aug 25th -27th, 2018. London , England
West London’s Notting Hill Carnival, is an annual street carnival originating in 1966 celebrating the areas Caribbean culture through parades and calypso music. The carnival has grown to be the largest street carnival in Europe with over 1 million people attending over the carnival weekend. You’ll see brightly colored costumes with 50,000 performers dancing in the street to steel drum & reggae music. Indulge in the food stalls serving a multitude of Caribbean delicacies including jerk chicken and curried goat and lest we not forget the Red Stripe beer! Be sure to bring cash because they don’t take plastic and all the ATM’s will be empty. Use the Underground to get to Notting Hill and give yourself additional travel time because many roads will be closed and everyone in London will have the same plan.
London’s Hyde Park area has several hotel options and is a good mid point between Notting Hill and the Westminster Abbey/Big Ben area. The Underground, affectionately know as “The Tube” will be your main transportation around the city. Museums are everywhere, WWII buffs will enjoy Churchill War Rooms and the Royal Air Force Museum. Take the tube to Piccadilly Circus, walk through the spirited streets of Soho for dinner and a theatrical show… after the show its back to Soho and its popular clubs and bars. For me, it’s food that drives my London Experience. Borough Market, in the London Bridge area, now open everyday but Sunday is filled with trendy food stalls and is London’s most celebrated food market. To the North is Camden Market, in the eclectic Camden Lock area. You’ll love the decorated store fronts as you walk from the underground to the market. More food stalls than you could ever imagine. Visit fashion boutiques aimed squarely at the youth of the area, featuring Gothic clothing attire. To the South, Brixton Market. To borrow a line from Eddy Grant, “We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue”. Just a block south of Brixton Station is Electric Avenue which leads to Brixton Market and Brixton Village and Market Row jammed with food stalls featuring African, Caribbean and Asian delights, earthy and very traditional.
London is a vibrant multicultural city, easily a stand alone travel destination with so much to offer. Eurostar, with departures from St Pancras International offers high speed rail service to Paris and Brussels in less than 2 1/2 hours. Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports offer low cost flights to most everywhere in Europe making London a perfect gateway city.
Der Meistertrunk, May 18th – 21st 2018, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The festival celebrates the saving of the walled city from eminent destruction during the Thirty Years War in 1631. Count Tilley, after taking control, gives the order to plunder and destroy the city. He orders 4 of the cities councilors to be rounded up and executed.
Before the execution he offers the councilors an opportunity for one of them to save themselves and spare the town by drinking a 3.25 liter tankard of Franconian wine. Former Mayor and councilor, Burgermeister Nusch downs the tankard and saves the city! This story is based on legend and has been celebrated annually since 1881 with a total commitment by this small community.
Upon your arrival to Rothenburg you will immediately feel as though you’ve been transported to the 17th century. Everyone is wearing medieval garb. You’ll see horse drawn carts, villagers cooking over open fires, minstrels in the street, and vendors selling various types of food including beer and sausages. On the other side of the city wall you’ll find campgrounds filled with medieval travelers playing music to entertain the crowds! To truly enjoy this experience you should book a hotel inside the walled section of the city. The Romantik Hotel Markusturm is my favorite with it’s spacious rooms and delicious breakfasts. The hotel restaurant is highly rated and a great option if you are staying a few nights within the town walls. On one memorable experience we heard singing on the street, when we open the hotel window we were surprised to see 7 men on horseback serenading the hotel guests as they looked up to our room!
Once a major trading hub the city was forgotten for hundreds of years as the trade routes changed leaving Rothenburg stuck in the Middle Ages. There is little argument that this is Germany’s most medieval and preserved walled city. You can feel it as you walk the cobblestone streets at night after the day tripping tourists have returned to their far away hotels. Be at the Altes Rathaus at 7pm for the The Night Watchman’s Tour. Your guide being part medieval night watchman, part tour guide and part comedian, is a must do on your first night. Learn the history of the city as you walk down the dimly lit cobbled streets through his entertaining storytelling. Learn the places to eat and drink, and have a few chuckles along the way.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is 3 hours North of Munich by train, and about 2 hours West of Nurnberg. You could easily include Rothenburg with Munich and Nurnberg (as well as Prague with enough time) in your travel itinerary.
Munchener Fruhlingsfest, April 20th – May 6th, 2018 (Munich Spring Festival )
No sooner do I suggest Fruhlingsfest than I receive a 100 questions asking why not Oktoberfest. The answer is pretty simple… Theresienwiese is home to both festivals with the same trappings, albeit smaller scale . Beer tents, rides, food, music with the same festive carnival atmosphere but half the people. Oktoberfest does have the historical edge, but if its about the beer, that shouldn’t matter. Advantage Fruhlingsfest as Spring weather energizes the city with its beautiful parks fill with people and budding flowers. You’ll find many hotels are available and reasonably priced compared to inflated Oktoberfest pricing.
Munich is the perfect vacation hub city. It’s a great place to park yourself for several nights and explore the city and surrounding areas. The German rail system is the best in Europe, very efficient and always on time. Self guided daytrips are easy with travel time under 2 hours to Salzburg Austria (1 1/2 hours), Nurnberg (1 1/4 hours), Fussen (2 hours) to see both Hohenschwangau & Neuschwanstein Castles, Garmisch-Partenkirchen (1 1/4 hours) to climb the highest peak in Germany, Zugspitze and Dachau Concentration Camp just 15 minutes from Munich HBF (Munich’s main train station). Across the street from HBF is the Hotel NH Munchen Deutscher, a reasonably priced 4 star hotel that would make the perfect base of exploration.
Munich’s old town or city center is very walkable, filled with museums, and many historical attractions. MVV, Munich’s city transit offers over ground transit via trams and buses and by underground via U-Bahn and S-Bahn their suburban train network. MVV Day passes are available as well as a helpful smart phone app. Visit Englischer Garten, a huge city park on the northeast side of the city. Eisbach, meaning “ice brook” is a man made river that flows through the park and is frequented by surfers. Munich has 100 beer gardens scattered all over the city with Augustiner- Keller at the top of my list. Augustiner-Keller, located just a 10 minute walk northwest of HBF, opened in 1812 and is the third largest beer garden in Munich seating 5,000. The Lagerkeller, deep underground below A-K is a cellar once used to store beer is now a gastronomic experience that shouldn’t be missed.
For a complete list of recommendations please email, with “Festivals” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too!
The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Festivals” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.