A Colourful December 2010 in Maribor

This December Maribor in Slovenia will start to glow in festive atmosphere with the switching on of the Fairy’s Ball Festive Lights throughout the old town.  The Colourful December festival offers a rich event programme including numerous art productions and concerts in a number of cultural institutions and churches, street performances and open air music concerts of popular artists, a lively children’s programme, festive fairs and the biggest live nativity scenes in Slovenia. The Festival’s highlight is the popular New Year’s Eve Celebration in the Maribor’s old town core with the top Slovenian ensembles and soloists and a large midnight fireworks show. Check out the programme in full below…

Colourful December 2010 Programme:
3rd December: the festive switching on of the holiday lights
3rd – 5th December: St Nicholas Fair
11th – 25th December: a Christmas – New Year Fair
10th – 30th December: a Colourful December program for children
20th – 30th December: street performances
25th December: a Christmas concert
28th – 30th December: concerts by Slovenian music stars
31st December: a big open-air New Year’s Eve celebration with the best Slovenian ensembles and soloists, as well as a firework display at midnight

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Czech Cities Come to Life with Easter Markets

Znojmo City
Znojmo City

The Czech Republic is one of the most popular places visited by European and American Westerners alike.  If you are taking a trip this Easter check out some of the beautiful Easter Markets – they are simply not to be missed!  An Easter Market is held every year in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in Prague. Stalls with souvenirs and Easter products lure locals and visitors alike from 20 March to 11 April. In addition to shopping, an interesting cultural programme awaits. Spectators will enjoy folklore, folk music and dance in Old Town Square. There will also be a workshop for children, providing the youngest ones the possibility to braid switches into so-called “pomlázky” (birch rods) and to dye eggs.

Market places will of course sprout up in a variety of places in the Czech Republic. The South Moravian city of Znojmo, for instance, will celebrate the spring holidays from 29 March to 4 April. Easter markets filled with artisans, culture and attractions for children are being prepared. Children also can look forward to tours of Znojmo underground designed specially for them. www.znojmocity.cz

In Ceský Krumlov, Easter markets are held from 1 to 5 April and the attractive programme will be complemented this year by passion plays in the monastery garden. www.ckrumlov.info

People can also celebrate Easter at castles and chateaus. From 3 to 5 April, the event titled Princely Easter at Krivoklát will take place. You can expect to see an Easter market and concerts as well as masses and theatre performances. www.krivoklat.cz

Read more…

Beethoven Easter Festival, Warsaw, Poland

Beethoven Festival Warsaw PolandThe Polish capital of Warsaw will host the 14th Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival later this month.  The ever-popular two-week event gets underway on Sunday 21st March, running until Saturday 3rd April.  Fourteen days will be dedicated to Beethoven and the wealth of classical music in the two centuries since his heyday, as Warsaw welcomes performers and artists from around the world.  Every year the festival is built around a central theme, and this year organisers are celebrating the phenomenon of the piano alongside the genius of Poland’s favourite son, Fryderyk Chopin, and his contemporary Robert Schumann.  The Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival has been a part of Warsaw’s cultural calendar since 2004 after starting life in Krakow in 1997.

Tickets for performances are available now and you can find out more at www.beethoven.org.pl/en

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Enjoy Georgian Wine this Christmas

Georgian Wine SocietyThis week I came across a very exciting website, The Georgian Wine Society, which helps supply British consumers with the best Georgian wines.

It is widely believed that it was Georgia in which wine production first began, over 7000 years ago, with archaeological remains suggesting that grape juice was placed underground in clay jars to ferment during winter as early as 4000 BC.

Georgia is a land famed for its natural bounty. These days there are over 500 species of grape in Georgia, a greater diversity than anywhere else in the world, with around 40 of these grape varieties being used in commercial wine production. Conditions are well suited for viticulture: summers are rarely excessively hot, winters are mild and frost-free. In addition, the mountains around the vineyards are full of natural springs, and rivers drain mineral-rich waters into the valleys. All this means that Georgian wines have a reputation for being exceptionally pure.

Around 150 million litres of wine are produced each year in Georgia, with around 45 000 hectares of vineyards under cultivation. There are 18 Specific Viticulture Areas (a local analogy of the Controlled Appellations of Origin) where the grape variety, planting density and yield per hectare is controlled by Ministry of Agriculture, and where the grape yield per hectare is limited to 8 tons.

Read more…

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Celebrate a Very Russian Christmas

barbicanEvery year the Barbican holds a series of Christmas concerts and each year, in January, the highlight is a showcase of Russian dance and traditional folk songs.  This year’s line-up includes:

Glazunov Winter from the Seasons 
Rimsky-Korsakov Polonaise from Christmas Eve 
Glinka Russlan and Ludmila Overture 
Tchaikovsky Suite from The Nutcracker 
Mussorgsky Great Gate of Kiev 
Prokofiev Troika from Lietenant Kije Suite 
Khatchaturian Sabre Dance

With stirring folk favourites from the heart of Russia including:
Moscow Nights 
Ochi Tchernyie 
Those were the days 
Tsyganochka (Gypsy Girl) 
Fight of the Dwarves 

Concert Orchestra is…
Alexander Walker conductor 
Alexandra Tolstoy presenter 
Volga Russian Dancers
Serguei Pachnine vocal/accordion 
Hugh Rathbone dancer
Bibs Ekkel balalaika 

Alexandra Tolstoy will introduce this wonderful celebration in true Russian style with traditional music, seasonal songs and colourful dance.

And most importantly there will be a complimentary Russian Standard Vodka for every member of the audience!

Read more…

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Winter Festivities in Slovenia

Ljubljana in December
Ljubljana in December

Slovenia’s towns will come to life with festive cheer, markets, decorations and lights during the run up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  The festivities in Ljubljana kick off today with the symbolic switching-on of the Christmas lights and events will continue until the country’s biggest New Year’s Eve party, accompanied by a fireworks display from Ljubljana Castle.

From 3rd – 6th December, the St. Nicholas Fair (Christmas market) will be taking place in Prešernov trg – Ljubljana’s main square – with festively decorated stalls offering a variety of Christmas gifts, including traditional Slovenian products.  Other events taking place during the month-long Festive Fair include the St Nicholas procession, where the saint will be accompanied by devils and angels distributing biscuits, fruit and sweets to children; and a range of outdoor musical and street theatre performances.

Other events will take place across the rest of Slovenia, such as the Colourful December festival in Maribor from 5th December 2009, which includes street theatre, music and puppet shows; and the St Nicholas Eve celebrations on 4th December in Kranjska Gora, which includes the arrival of devils from three countries – Slovenia, Italy and Austria. Biblical scenes will be portrayed in the underground caverns of Postojna Cave from 19th December to 3rd January by local school children.

On Christmas Day in Bled, the legend of the Wishing Bell will be re-enacted. The illuminated bell, which according to legend is sunk in the famous Lake Bled, will be raised from the depths of the lake to the accompaniment of music and narration of the legend.

For more information about Slovenia’s festive events visit www.slovenia.info

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Christmas Markets make Poland a Festive Wonderland

Poland Christmas Festivities
Poland Christmas Festivities

Poland’s top city destinations are getting ready for this year’s winter festivities.  Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk will enter into the spirit of the season this December as all three cities hold their famous Christmas markets.  Visitors will get the chance to experience a traditional Polish Christmas, sample our festive food, enjoy Polish carols and warm themselves with hot mulled wine. And of course a white Christmas is always on the cards in Poland.

Perhaps the country’s best-known Christmas market is the one held every year on Krakow’s Rynek, featuring handicrafts from across the Małopolska region, wonderful foodstuffs including bigos, pierogi and delicious oscypek cheese, and plenty of hot wine to help keep the cold at bay. The market gets underway on 7 December and lasts until after Christmas Day.

Read more…

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Tallinn Christmas Market – The Youngest, The Best?

This year Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, hosts its 8th Christmas market since the tradition was revived in post-Soviet times. The 64 wooden stalls that throng the picturesque wide open space of Tallinn’s Town Hall Square around a massive central Christmas tree will set up daily from 9am – 7pm, from 29th November until 7th January 2010. During the 40 day period the city expects to welcome up to 200,000 visitors to the traditional heart of this picturesque, snowy city that nestles on the Gulf of Finland in the north of the country.


Appropriately enough the Town Hall square was the site of the world’s first Christmas tree, which was central to a ritual begun in 1441, when unmarried merchants sang and danced with local girls around a tree, which they then burned!

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Christmas Markets by Boat

AMAWATERWAYS, the fastest growing river cruise line in Europe, is offering a series of European river cruises in November and December to take in the famous Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, Hungary and The Netherlands, with prices from £1,085 for a 7 day cruise, including breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner with wine complimentary on-board bicycles and organised tours.


Each town’s market has its own style, some with a medieval theme, some specialising in handicrafts but all of them brimming with atmosphere as shoppers browse the wooden stalls piled high with handmade gifts and decorations, and the scent of mulled wine and baking gingerbread wafts through the air.

The seven-night Christmas Time Cruise operates on two AMAWATERWAYS vessels, Amalyra and Amadolce, between Nuremberg and Budapest, with ample time in the markets at Regensburg, Linz, Vienna and, for Advent with a Hungarian flavour, Budapest. There’s also an optional excursion to romantic Salzburg, a tour of the abbey at Melk and complimentary guided walks and tours in every port.

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Budapest Christmas Market

Take a festive break in Budapest and be dazzled by one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals in winter time. The annual Budapest Christmas Market takes place this year from 20 November until 29 December 2009 and is the biggest outdoor event of the winter season. Visitors to the capital during this month long festival will be treated to an array of Christmas themed stalls; all lit up in the attractive Vörösmarty Square, selling unique artisan gifts and adornments, as well as delicious food and mulled wine.  The square will be decorated with a huge Christmas tree, packed with lights and decorations, an advent calendar and there are regular visits by Santa Claus that will delight both children and adults alike.


Budapest in the winter is as charming as during the summer months with lots to do, from ice skating under the stars next to the fairy tale castle of Vajdahunyad, to taking a dip in one of the many outdoor steaming hot spas. Keeping with the magical atmosphere include a stay at the 4* Danubius Hotel Astoria, an Austro-Hungarian, period small boutique hotel that has been the setting for many films. It is popular because of its traditional ambience and its central location, close to the main shopping street, Váci Utca, and the Christmas market. The hotel is offering ‘three nights for the price of two’ during the winter and a three night stay, including breakfast is from €110 per person, based on two people sharing a room in December. Guests also get the added bonus of a 15% discount off the special seasonal a la cart Xmas menus in the Empire Restaurant.

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