The Spring Festivals of Central Europe

Thank goodness for Central Europe’s long hard winters. Without them and May would just be another month. With them and the coming of Spring it is the most joyous occasion on the Central European calender. From the ethnic diversity of the Carnival of Cultures in Berlin, to the month long celebrations in Prague, the following Spring festivals in Berlin, Leipzip, Dresden, Prague and Plzen are your chance to see experience German and Czech culture at its most open and carefree.

17 – 19 May – Carnival of Cultures, Berlin

564px-Karneval_der_Kulturen2_-_Mutter_Erde_fecEvery year at Pentecost Turks, Kurds, Palestinians, Chinese, Indians, and a variety of western and eastern Europeans don their best traditional dress, dust off their musical instruments and march down the streets of Kreuzberg in Berlin in a cacophony of color and sound.   At the end of the route, they don’t just pack up, but party to Ethnic and European beats with the rest of Berlin at Blucherplatz. There are over 450,000 expats living in Berlin, and the Carnival of Cultures is their celebration.

Main Events

Most of the events are a couple of stops away from Hermannplatz.

The main event is the street parade on the 19th of May. Starting at 12.30pm from Hermannplatz, dancers, musician, acrobats and others, all representing a myriad of cultures, will march the 2 or 3 kilometers to Yorckstrasse.

With 4 different music stages – including Latin music, African music, Caribbean music and Eurasia music -the street festival on Blucherstrasse (near Meringdamm U-Bahn) lasts deep into the night. If you you get hungry, or want to find a gift, you can buy something from one of hundreds of market stalls set up for the carnival.

Where to Stay

Though you may struggle to find a hostel or hotel in Kreuzberg or Neukoln, you needn’t worry. Not only are these neighborhoods easily accessible from most of Berlin’s central districts (Mitte, Prenzlauerberg, Schoenenberg), but the Berlin transport system at the weekend runs 24 hours.

How to Get There

From Tegel airport you can take the X9, 109, 128, or TXL bus to Alexander Platz located in Mitte, the center of the city. From Alexanderplatz you can take the U8 (the U-bahn) to Hermannplatz in Neukoln.

From Schoenenberg Airport you can take the S45 (the S-Bahn) to Alexanderplatz and then the U8 to Hermannplatz.

Price:  Free

Website: Click Here

20th last day of Leipzig Gothic Festival

800px-CyberGothsBetween the 17th to the 20th of May 20,000 people with hair and clothes as black as the night and skin as pale as the moon, descend upon the city of Liepzig. You will see them strolling through pagan and renaissance style fairs in the city’s parks, nodding their appreciation to macabre performances at the city’s theaters and cinemas, and going wild to such bands as Birthday Massacre and Bloody, Dead and Sexy at the city’s clubs and cafes. They are called Goths, and they are here to party like its 666.

Events

The program has yet to be confirmed at this time, but the band line up will include Xano and Outlander from the USA and Passion Play from the UK. Other events will include Renaissance Fairs,Viking and Pagan Markets and film premieres.

Where to Stay

Though you can camp at a field space provided by the festival, they charge from 25 Euros per tent – probably no cheaper than booking a bed in a hostel. Remember it is only a medium sized festival, and many people will take tents, so you should easily find a room if you book in advance.

How to Get There

From Berlin take a train from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It takes around 2.5 hours to get to Liepzig Hauptbahnhof.

For a journey planner visit the following link.

The festival has venues all over the city center. Check their website to find details of which tram or bus you need to take to get to each one.

Price: 85 Euros

Website: Click Here

21st onwards Dresden Music Festival

The Dresden Music Festival gives you the chance to recharge your batteries. At concert halls such as the Schauspielhaus there will be no dancing, no shouting and very little drinking; you will have nothing more to do except than to sit back, close your eyes and let the compositions from such composers as Wagner, Valdi and Britten send you deep into space.  If you don’t like classical music, however, you can spend your time admiring the baroque and renaissance architecture that makes this city one of the most beautiful in Germany.

Events

You will be arriving on the day many classical music lovers would see as the big event:  Wagner’s 200th birthday. Inside the art nouveau building of Schauspielhaus on Theaterstrasse (two minutes walk from Postplatz) – the most technically advanced theater in the world before it was partly destroyed during the war – the French Canadian pianist Louis Lortie will play the prelude to Tristan and Isolde and the overture to Tannhäuser. The evening ends with Thomas Quastoff’s bass-baritone reading from Wagner’s essays and letters.

There is an event every evening. For more information check the website listed below.

Where to Stay

Dresden is a major German city, and there should be plenty of places to stay. For such a prestigious  event as the Dresden music festival most festival goers will probably stay at a hotel. You are more likely to find space – and peace and quiet – at a hostel.

How to Get There

By train from Liepzig to Dresden Hauptbahnhof it takes two hours.

To get from the Hauptbahnhof to the center of the city, you can either walk or take the number 9 tram. It takes about 5-10 minutes.

Website: Click Here

Price: for Wagner’s 200 birthday 10-50 Euros. For prices of other events see website.

23rd of May onwards Prague Spring, Khamoro, Czech Beer Festival and Prague Food Festival

Czech Beer Festival

Czech Beer Festival

Maybe it’s because of their long hard winters. Maybe it’s because they associate it with freedom – Czech liberation day is on the 8th of May – but for whatever the reason there is no doubt that the Czechs celebrate the coming of Spring with a fervor few countries can match.  They pay tribute to their musical heritage at Prague Spring Festival. Dance to gypsy music at the Khamoro festival. At the Czech Beer festival and the Prague Food Festival – the two newest festivals in the  city – they finally get the chance to say a big nasdravi (Czech for cheers), to one of the most underrated cuisines in Europe.

 

Events

The Prague Spring Festival is the biggest, the oldest and the most famous festival in the city. Everyday for a month, in venues such as the Rudlofinum, the oldest concert hall in Europe, the crème de la crème of the world’s classical musicians perform operas and compositions by such legends as Mozart, Haydyn, Verdi and Wagner. This year performers include John Malkovich (yes, the actor), Ning Fenk and Magdalena Kozema.

Price: 100 – 5000 czk

Between the 28th and 29 of May, Prague’s large Roma population celebrate its traditions and culture, at the Khamaro festival. Events include jazz music, traditionally gypsy music, and the reenactment of a traditional Roma wedding.

Price: 150- 1340 czk

The Prague Food Festival

Like the royal food tasters from the past, the Prague food festival gives you the chance to try bits and pieces of the best Czech cuisine at venues such as the Prague Castle. A highlight is the pairing beer with food event at the Ball Game Pavilion – a true Czech specialty.

Price: From 400 czk (includes 150 entrance fee and 250 tasting fee)

The Czech Beer Festival

Over the last three years for one month in May the Czech Beer Festival at the exhibition ground in Holesvice has been uncovering one of the country’s best kept secrets: their beer.  It is undoubtedly up their with the best Belgium and German beer, it’s also half the price!

Price: Free

Where to Stay

While Prague can not compare in size to most major European capitals, it can certainly compete in terms of tourists. From Spring to the end of summer it is one of the most visited cities in Europe, and you will need to book accommodation early.  Don’t be too fussy about finding something in the center. There is just as much to do and and see in the nearby arty neighborhoods of Zizkov and Vinohrady. Like Berlin all areas are serviced by an excellent transport system.

How to Get There:

Trains leave Dresden Hauptbahnhof for Prague Hlavni Nadrazi every hour. The journey is just over two hours.

Hlavni Nadrazi is on the red metro line, only minutes away from more central stops such as the Muzeum and Mustek.

Websites

The Food Festival – Click Here

The Prague Spring – Click Here

The Czech Beer Festival – Click Here

The Khamoro- Click Here

Metal Fest in Plzen

Dreamlore_at_Metal_Fest_XVIIIDuring the last few days you’ve spent in Prague you would’ve caught a glimpse of the kind of scary looking, yet perfectly amicable people you will meet at Plzen’s Lochotin Park inside the city’s darkly lit bars. Mullet haired, middle aged men and women dressed in leather jackets emblazoned with skulls and skeletons, and thin, long haired teenagers and twenty somethings dressed in torn clothes, dog collars and big black boots. They all are part of a burgeoning metal scene that sits comfortably with the nation’s big yet rebellious heart. Headliners for the 2013 Plzen Metal Fest include the Czech bands Sebastien and Citron.

Events

For Czechs at least the main event is a Czech band called Sebastien playing on Saturday night. For other bands, including American and British bands, check their website below.

Where to Stay

At the moment the festival organizers have yet to provide any information about camping, but there are over 100 hotels and hostels in the city of varying quality. Check out the reviews before settling on something.

How to Get There

It is easiest to take the one hour bus ride from Florenc bus station in Prague (on the red metro line) to Plzen bus station.

From the station take the 1 or 4 tram to the Lekarska Faculta.

Website: Click Here

Price

44 Euros for three days and 34 Euros for one day

2nd June – Prague Spring

Before you fly home you will just have enough time to catch the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s closing concert at the Prague Spring at the Smetana Hall on Namesti Republiky (yellow metro line).

Price: 500 – 3100 czk

To get to the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague you need to take 119 bus from Dejvicka (the last stop on the green live)

 

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