The Cultured Traveller, December 2019-February 2020 Issue 28 – Newsflash




26 December 2019

Austria’s majestic, refined and beautiful capital is a city of grand palaces, world-class art museums and elegant coffee houses. Formerly the epicentre of the Austro Hungarian empire, the Austrian capital exudes stateliness, importance and respectability, yet, from mid-November onwards, Vienna’s prettiest squares are transformed into magical Christmas markets and an aroma of bakery items and hot punch creates a festive atmosphere throughout the city. There are truly few places in Europe where the essence of the festive season is more alive than here. For Vienna Christmas World, the Rathausplatz becomes a twinkling fairytale land with a 150+ booths selling Christmas gifts, tree decorations, sweets and warm drinks. Visitors can also skate a 3,000m² ice rink and numerous paths through the park. Close by at the Christmas Village on MariaTheresien-Platz, visitors can buy traditional handicrafts and cutesy gifts. The Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung, in the heart of the city, dates back to 1772.


United Kingdom

12 January 2020

Celebrating two decades of stylish skating at Somerset House this year, don your finest winter togs to trip the ice fantastic at Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, which must surely be one of Europe’s most stunning locations to skate. No matter how advanced or amateur your skills, a visit to this 900-metre square outdoor rink will look the very picture of glamour in your Instagram posts! Skating by day is a veritable family affair with kids and parents of all ages on the ice. After sunset, “Skate Lates” feature a specially curated programme of music throughout the festive season, including takeovers by the likes of Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, hip hop turntablist DJ Yodaand and London collective Krankbrother. Après skate, recharge at Fortnum & Mason’s Lodge, in the west wing of Somerset House, where you can munch on British classics like Welsh Rarebit and mince pies with clotted cream.



7–17 December 2019

Few people haven’t heard of Turkey’s famous whirling dervishes. The stuff of legends and famous the world over, Mevlâna attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually to the Anatolian city of Konya (an hour by plane from Istanbul) to commemorate the death of 13th-century Sufi poet, Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi, one of the world’s great mystic philosophers. His work in poetry and religious writings are amongst the most cherished in Islam and beyond. Also known as Mevlâna, he is a best-selling poet in the USA with legions of loyal fans. Throughout this festival, mevlevi (also known as whirling dervishes) dressed in white robes with voluminous skirts, dance as if they are in a trance, under the observance of a seyh (master). Their performances can best be described as mesmerising and mystifying – the ecstatic spinning accompanied by orchestral music and chanting making for a truly spellbinding spectacle. The festival’s highlight is the last night, when the entranced dervishes spin to commemorate Mevlâna’s wedding night



8 December 2019


Derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and described in Bavarian folklore as a horned, anthropomorphic half-goat half-demon which haunts the central European mountainous region that supposedly birthed the creature, Krampus comes alive during an annual festival which spreads some not-so-merry pre-Christmas terror! Nowhere does this devil rampage more frighteningly than the town of Klagenfurt, the capital of the southern Austrian province of Carinthia, on the eastern shore of Lake Wörthersee. Here, the biggest and most rowdy Krampusnacht unfolds every year, brimming with ghastly demons quite literally everywhere. The highlight of Krampusnacht is essentially an alcohol-fuelled Krampuslauf race which winds through the pedestrian-friendly city centre, with a thousand alpine-jogging contestants dressed as scary, child-kidnapping, horned and furry devils. So terrifyingly demonic are Krampus costumes that a constant debate rages throughout the country involving a number of eminent psychologists, who want the creature banned from society because it is so scary for kids!


United States of America

8–20 December 2019

The Billabong Pipe Masters is the last stop on the 2019 Men’s Championship Tour, designed to foster world-class performances around the globe, from Europe to the South Pacific. One of the ten most deadly waves in the world, Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline is famous for its heavy swells that can reach up to 10 metres, breaking over shallow, rocky coral reefs at high speeds to form barrelling curls of water. Not only is it the perfect wave for those willing to charge, but also for onlookers on the beach watching the incredible spectacle and often death-defying boarding. Part of the allure of the Pipe Masters is that with surfing perfection occasionally come devastating consequences. The Banzai Pipeline is arguably one of the most dangerous waves on the planet and has claimed more lives than any other wave in the world, on average one fatality a year, not to mention numerous injuries and broken boards.


United Kingdom

21 December 2019

A Brighton tradition for more than two decades, Burning the Clocks is a unique community event that brings together the entire south coast seaside city to mark the Winter Solstice. Created in 1994 by the award-winning community arts charity Same Sky as a way to celebrate the holiday spirit regardless of people’s religious beliefs, more than 20,000 spectators now routinely turn out to watch the 2,000-strong parade and take part in this unique event, which is essentially a peaceful yet dramatic rebellion against the modern-day excesses of Christmastime commercialism. Brighton locals make beautiful paper and willow star lanterns and after the procession that slowly snakes through the city, they put them into a blazing bonfire on Brighton beach to mark the end of the year. While the main event is free to attend, GBP 100 buys a pair of VIP wrist bands providing the very best view of the fire show and fireworks, right on the beachfront.



24 December 2019–25 February 2020

Renowned for one of the most bitterly cold winters in China, Harbin is also known as the “Ice City” for its huge influx of winter tourists and extensive winter recreations, not to mention its world-famous ice and snow festival – the largest of its kind on the planet. It takes 15,000 ice sculptors and artisans, working painstakingly for weeks cutting 120,000 cubic metres of ice blocks from Songhua River’s frozen surface, to create the breathtaking illuminated iced sculptures and statues, plus full-size buildings and figures, all dotted around the city. While the sculpture festival doesn’t open until the first week of January, two huge exhibition areas – Sun Island and Ice & Snow World – open just before Christmas, offering eager visitors everything from ice slides and Yabuli alpine skiing to snowmobile driving and winter swimming in the Songhua River. An abundance of more conservative winter attractions are also found in abundance throughout the city, including a traditional ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden



26 December 2019, 1 January 2020

The high point of the season for all Bahamians is when Nassau’s main artery, Bay Street, is transformed into a sea of sight and sound that delights and entertains all who experience Junkanoo. Tracing its roots to the music and dance spectacles of West Africa, Junkanoo is one of the oldest surviving street festivals in the Caribbean, dating back to the late 18th century. Legend has it that slaves of old decorated themselves using whatever scrap materials were available, the easiest to lay their hands on being paper and feathers, which were sewn onto their clothes. Meanwhile flour paste was used to paint their faces. Nowadays, Junkanoo is a wonderful celebration of life and freedom and the major cultural festival of the Bahamas. But you’ll need stamina to be part of Junkanoo, because each year it is celebrated in the early hours of the morning on Boxing Day, followed by the main event on New Year’s Day.


United Kingdom

30 December 2019–1 January 2020

Repeatedly name-checked as one of the top one hundred things to do before you die, three days of spectacular events, big bands and electrified crowds from every corner of the globe come together in Edinburgh every year for one of the world’s biggest and best New Year’s Eve celebrations. See Shetland Vikings bearing fire lit torches, hear beautiful choral singing in St Giles’ Cathedral, enjoy birling to traditional Scottish music in the Old Town, and watch incredible fireworks from Princes Street Gardens. In years gone by, 150,000 revellers from over 70 countries have even been known to join hands for the world’s biggest rendition of Auld Lang Syne! This year’s jam-packed programme includes a street party hosted by Jonnie Walker with music by Love Island’s Aftersun DJs, The Mac Twins; Ronnie Scott’s Big Band performing in the magnificent surroundings of historic McEwan Hall, and Grammy and Oscar award-winner Mark Ronson bringing-in 2020 in the gardens.

For ten days every January, the historic Colombian walled city of Cartagena opens to the public some of its most charming, colonial indoor and outdoor spaces for its annual Festival Internacional de Music. Performances by classical musicians from around the world quite literally fill Cartagena with music, including Teatro Heredia, Plaza San Pedro Claver and the beautiful chapels of hotels Santa Clara, Santa Teresa and Iglesia de Santo Toribio. The festival program is divided into three, with the audience hearing music composed in Europe, New World music from different eras and European works with influences from unpublished New World languages. In 2020, the festival seeks to highlight the transition from classicism to early romanticism in Vienna – a period during which the figure of Franz Schubert had a particular role. So, five of the Viennese composer’s nine symphonies will be presented at the festival, along with works that reflect the emergence of a romantic sensibility.



10-19 January 2020

For lovers of all things mardi gras, Ati-Atihan is the Philippines’ most spectacular festival and its historical roots can be traced back to early settlers in Borneo. Whilst Filipinos are known worldwide for their gracious hospitality and friendly nature, this particular feast festival, held annually in January in honour of the Santo Niño (the Infant Jesus), allows visitors a glimpse of their wild, colourful and playful side, a facet of these devout and thoughtful people rarely seen in public. Ati-Atihan is a festival of constant movement, drumming and feasting – basically a non-stop riot of exhibitionism, costume, music and dance. Soot black-painted faces, feather headdresses and animal bones create a show-stopping visual treat throughout the proceedings. After days of relentless drumming and festivities, it’s nigh on impossible for even the most reluctant and restrained traveller not to get covered in soot and join in the raucous and romping all-night closing masquerade ball.



25 January 2020

A former volcano rising 342 meters above sea level, Mount Wakakusayama, in the Japanese city of Nara, is the location for this annual event held on the fourth Saturday of January, which sees the entire hill fired-up in a controlled burn. Following a parade that includes a giant rice cracker tossing competition, a torch is lit with sacred fire at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Buddhist monks then carry the sacred fire down to a small shrine at the foot of the hill. First, interfaith members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha ignite the hill. Then hundreds of fireworks are launched, followed by the ritual burning of the hill, for roughly an hour, with the grasses on the slopes blazing as if a red hell is draped over the mountainside. When all of Mount Wakakusayama is eventually alight, like a gigantic flickering torch, unsurprisingly the fire can be seen from miles around.



6-29 February 2020

Spanning the gamut from electronic to experimental, funk to free and mainstream to modern, Denmark’s world-renowned winter jazz festival has been thawing the Scandinavian chill with smoking tunes for more than fifteen years, gradually growing into one of the biggest European gatherings of the musical genre. Taking place over three weeks, there are more than 500 concerts to experience at 100+ different venues across Denmark. International stars on tour, new award-winning productions and different concert themes drop anchor in numerous of the country’s cities and suburbs. Hence, Vinterjazz very much kick-starts the season for the country’s clubs and helps keep the music playing throughout the year. Headlining the 20th anniversary edition of Vinterjazz is the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by the internationally acclaimed multiple Grammy- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Wynton Marsalis (pictured), who is one of the world’s most outstanding jazz musicians and trumpeters of his generation.


United States of America

2 February 2020

The most important day of the professional American football season, when millions of fans who can’t make it to the stadium are glued to the couch for the duration of what is often the most watched US television program of the year, Super Bowl LIV will be the 54th Super Bowl and the 50th modern-era National Football League championship game. It will decide the league champions for the 2019 NFL season, be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida and be broadcast live by CBS. Super Bowl’s halftime show has always attracted major talent: Janet Jackson had her infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars have also featured. Lady Gaga wowed in 2017 and last year Maroon 5’s Adam Levine brought his Jagger-like moves to the biggest televised musical event of the year. This year, for the first time ever, two pop mega stars will co-headline the halftime show: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira



31 January–11 February 2020

Now one of Japan’s most popular winter events, the first Sapporo Snow Festival was held in 1950, featuring just six snow statues built in Odori Park by local high school students. Since then, the event has snowballed into a winter wonderland which attracts more than two million people from around the world to the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, a popular ski spot also known for its beer. The annual festival, known as Yuki Matsuri locally, is centred on Odori Park in downtown Sapporo, where giant sculptures of snow and ice are erected alongside a 1.5km trail that is illuminated at night. There are two other sites: Tsudome, a community dome with large snow slides and a tobogganing zone – where the festival starts a few days earlier on 31st January – and Susukino Ice World which provides an opportunity to touch and ride some of the sculptures.



20 February–1 March 2020

Founded in West Berlin in 1951 and celebrated annually since 1978, the seventieth anniversary of Europe’s best respected film festival will kick off at the Berlinale Palast on Thursday 20th February showing around 400 films of varying genres, lengths and formats in a variety of sections and special presentations, including a number of international or European premieres and new discoveries, plus promising talents from the German film scene. Straddling a broad spectrum – from feature films to documentaries and artistic experiments – the audience is invited to experience highly contrasting milieus, ways of life and attitudes, to test their own standpoints and prejudices and reinvigorate their experience of seeing and perceiving in the realm between classic narrative forms and extraordinary aesthetics. In addition, since the Berlinale programme positively thrives on discussion and contact with its audiences, a rich array of spoken-word events, audience discussions and expert panels facilitate an active dialogue throughout the festival



21–25 February 2020

Attracting more than two million people per day onto the streets of the famous Brazilian city, from different parts of the globe, Rio is considered the world’s biggest and most glittering carnival and the party of a lifetime for many, with those who attend prepared to samba the day and night away for five days straight. Beginning with the crowning of King Momo (the Fat King), who is presented with an over-sized silver and gold key by Rio’s mayor, street bands, dancers and party folk take over the squares and the streets as the festivities get underway, led by traditional samba schools hailing from the city’s favelas. While the main parade at the Sambodromo might be the most iconic in the world, the real festivities happen in and around the streets, with more than 500 parties taking place across the city before and after carnival weekend, bringing the huge metropolis to a colourful and loud standstill. Be sure to catch a Bloco, sometimes called bandas, which are free street parties that take place throughout the city, plus at least one outrageous costume party

The start of a new year is not just about fresh goals and aspirations for the people of Colombia, it also marks the beginning of carnival season. This vibrant, four-day extravaganza (the biggest in the world after Rio) may kick in late February, but the party atmosphere starts weeks earlier, when enthusiastic participants adding finishing touches to elaborate floats, and rehearsing dancers can be seen on Barranquilla’s streets. Pre-carnival events include the crowning of King Momo (the leader of carnivals) and the Carnival Queen, and the reading of the Lectura del Bando, which serves as a call for citizens to begin celebrating. The Queen leads the first day’s festivities with the main event – the Batalla de Flores – with spectators in fancy dress filling the streets, cheering the passing floats. The Grand Parade on day two features a multi-coloured mass of flamboyant characters bedecked in lavish costumes, all vying for a place in next year’s main event.