NEW YORK -- Camel wrestling?
Sure, there is Austria's world-famous Salzburg Festival and
Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival, but Europe is full of
lesser-known tributes to local traditions -- from camel wrestling
in Turkey and sheep sheering in Greece to wild horses in France and
a mock medieval wedding in Germany.
Here's a look a some of the colorful,
not-so-internationally-known celebrations that agents and intrepid
clients might want to note:
* Austria. Graz is transformed into a child's fantasyland from
May 13 to 19 when storytellers from around the world present their
* Belgium. On Sept. 14 the Great Pumpkin just might make an
appearance at the annual Pumpkin Festival in Tourinnes, Saint
Highlights of the day are folkloric presentations, regional food
specialties and, of course, pumpkin contests for the biggest and
best decorated of the bunch.
* Bulgaria. The Festival of Roses, in the Valley of Roses from
June 5 to 9, has become so publicized in recent years that it no
longer attracts only those who venture off the beaten path.
The festival takes place along the 75 miles that comprise the
Balkan Range and consists of rose-picking rituals, folkloric
performances and a Rose Parade.
There's also the international music festival in Varna on the
Black Sea, with classical music performances, jazz and folkloric
events from June 14 through Aug. 7.
* Cyprus. At all seaside towns and resorts, Kataklysmos (flood
festival) takes place form June 13 to 16. The festival recalls
Noah's Ark and the Greek myth of Deuklaion with folk dancing,
swimming competitions and boat races.
The most popular activity during Kataklysmos is for people to
throw water at one another, symbolizing the purification of body
* Denmark. Viking festivals are Denmark's specialty: The Viking
Play of Lindholm Hoje in North Jutland runs from June 19 to 29 and
features the portrayal of Viking life near the country's largest
Viking burial ground.
At Frederikssund in North Sealand, the 46th annual Viking
Festival is put on by 200 want-to-be Vikings, who share their
traditional post-show banquet with visitors.
* Finland. A unique combination of organ recitals and opera
arias will be performed during Organ Night and Aria from June 5 to
Aug. 28 in Espoo.
* France. This country's biggest and most colorful holiday,
Bastille Day (July 14), is celebrated in especially high style at
the medieval citadel of Carcassone.
A nighttime fireworks spectacular called The Setting on Fire of
the Old City does just that, conjuring up visions of boiling oil,
flaming arrows and besieging Crusaders; it illuminates the city's
50 towers, and there is really dancing in the streets.
Bastille Day is the centerpiece of Carcassone's Festival de la
Cite, a two-week event of ballet, music and theater.
One of France's liveliest celebrations is Festival Interceltique
in L'Orient, Brittany. At this annual salute to Celtic culture,
held during the first two weeks of August, participants from all
over Europe gather at L'Orient's fishing port for theater and dance
performances, sea chanteys told by professional storytellers, food
* Germany. Bad Durkheim Wine and Sausage Market, Germany's
biggest wine festival, takes place from Sept. 12 to 16.
Sausages sold from old-fashioned wheelbarrows and amusement park
rides make this an ideal festival for families. Another
family-oriented event is the open air performances of the Pied
Piper folktale on Sundays from May 18 to Sept. 14 in the quaint
town of Hamelin.
* Greece. At the May 2 Feast of St. George, Byzantine traditions
are commemorated on the island of Lemnos at the village of Kaliopi
with horse processions. At Arahova (near Delphi) there is is a
three-day St. George feast as well as at Assi Gonia near Hania on
Crete, followed by a sheep-shearing competition.
In the north, a traditional fire-walking ritual dating to pagan
times is known as Anastenaria. From May 21 to 23, barefoot
villagers of Aghia Eleni near Aghia Serries, and at Langada near
Thessaloniki, clasp icons of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen and
dance on live charcoal embers without sustaining even a slight sign
* Holland. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Amsterdam's
Holland Festival, which showcases music, dance and theater from
June 1 to 30.
This summer's highlight will be a performance of Mendelssohn's
"Midsummer Night's Dream" accompanied by actors who will recite the
* Hungary. A spectacular baroque ball and mock wedding are
staged for tourists at the Gyor Summer Festival in Gyor from June
20 to July 20. The event includes puppetry, an international
handicrafts fair and folkloric performances.
* Ireland. Travelers won't go hungry at the Limerick Food
Festival, which celebrates the best food and most talented chefs of
The weeklong event held from Aug. 18 to 24 includes cooking
competitions and theme nights.
* Italy. Those lucky enough to visit Acireale, Sicily, during
Carnival, which takes place in February or March each year, are in
for a treat.
The festivities feature uniquely decorated, colorful floats that
depict everything from well-known children's characters to
satirical depictions of local politicians.
Townsfolk throng the streets in costumes that range from
traditional garb to Batman as they douse passersby with confetti
and shaving cream.
Most children are armed with brightly colored plastic hammers
with which they tap strangers and each other on the heads.
* Luxembourg. Visitors can help crown the Wine Queen at the Wine
and Grape Festival in Grevenmacher, from Sept. 12 to 14. Fireworks,
concerts and a folkloric procession, plus plenty of wine tasting,
* Malta. June is fiesta Season. Every town and village parish
church in the Maltese Islands has a patron saint, and this is the
month he or she is honored with church services, band marches and
fireworks. A religious procession carries an homage to the saint
through village streets, church bells ring and bands march and
* Monaco. As part of its 700th anniversary festivities, Monaco
will hold a marine exhibition from Sept. 14 to 21, with tall ships
and vintage hydroplanes at the port of Monaco.
* Norway. Grandmothers from around the world are honored at The
Grandmother Festival, June 27 to 29, in Bodo, just above the Arctic
Grandmothers and their families participate in soccer
competitions, parachuting, boat trips, art exhibitions and hiking
tours. The festival has quite an international following and has
been attended in the past by the U.S. ambassador to Norway and
Norway's prime minister.
* Portugal. Some of Europe's most inspiring religious festivals
take place here: Celebrations in honor of St. John from June 19 to
24 transport the tranquil town of Angra do Heroismo, A UNESCO World
Heritage site in the Azores, with bullfights, folkloric exhibitions
and handicraft shows.
Medieval jousts and cavalcades take place in the streets of
Ribeira Grande on the Island of Sao Miguel during the Feast of St.
Peter on June 29. The Feast of Our Lady of Agonia takes place on
the third Sunday in August in the 15th century town of Viana do
Castelo, Costa Verde, with fireworks, marching bands and colorful
* Slovenia. For those who happen to be in Llubljana on July 4,
Luciano Pavoratti will perform at a charity concert as part of
European Cultural Month.
* Spain. The Feria de Abril, April 15 to 20, combines all of the
ingredients for which Andalusia is famous: flamenco dancing, food
The annual festival kicks off with a parade of men and women in
traditional costumes on horseback.
Flamenco dancing demonstrations are also prevalent during the
festivities, along with plenty of food stalls selling tapas --
traditional finger food -- and wine.
For those who like bullfights, the fiesta also offers the real
thing, complete with pageantry at the city's Maestranza
* Sweden. Music on Lake Siljan from June 29 to July 7 offers
more than 100 jazz and classical concerts in churches, parks and
huts. Visby in Gotland becomes a medieval fortress once again
during Medieval Week, from Aug. 3 to 10.
The serving of medieval meals and the locking of a maiden in the
14th century Virgin Tower are highlights.
* Turkey. The Folklore & Music Festival in Bursa from July 7
to 12 is one of Turkey's best annual folk-dancing events.
Turkey-bound travelers in search of animal athletics should go
to the annual camel wrestling festival in Selcuk, near Ephesus, in
* Wales. What better place to hold a Festival of Literature than
the largest second-hand book center in the world, Hay-on-Wye.
The 10th annual Hay Festival of Literature takes place May 23
through June 1 and will feature world-renown guests, including Maya
Angelou, Ralph Fiennes, Shimon Peres, Jackie Collins, David Putnam,
Desmond Tutu and Van Morrison.