Features // Festivals & events

Listening to Mozart in Salzburg, Austria
Listening to Mozart in Salzburg, Austria

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the original musical prodigy, an eighteenth-century pop idol whose fame took him to Vienna, Prague and the capitals of Europe, and in the years since his death he has become an industry. No Mozart connection, however slight, is ignored. There are Mozart views to savour, Mozart chocolates to devour and any…

La Tomatina: the greatest tomato fight on Earth
La Tomatina: the greatest tomato fight on Earth

“You are the smartest person I know.” The girl seemed serious in her praise, but I couldn’t help but doubt her accuracy – after all, I was wedged in the middle of a crowd of 45,000 other people, waiting to throw tomatoes around for an hour, and she was talking about the fact that I’d…

Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games
Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of 10,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of al fresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you…

St Petersburg’s White Nights
St Petersburg’s White Nights

Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval…

Swinging sticks at the Argentine Polo Open
Swinging sticks at the Argentine Polo Open

It’s the most prestigious polo club tournament in the world. But unlike similar sporting events elsewhere, there’s no snobbery involved in the invitations. Turn up at the ground in Buenos Aires’ leafy Palermo district, hand over less cash than you’d spend on a beer in an upmarket London pub, and you’ll find a seat in…

Joining the truffle train in Buzet, Croatia
Joining the truffle train in Buzet, Croatia

Even the most committed of culinary explorers often find the truffle an acquired taste. Part nut, part mushroom, part sweaty sock, the subtle but insistent flavour of this subterranean fungus inspires something approaching gastronomic hysteria among its army of admirers. Nowhere is truffle worship more fervent than in the Croatian province of Istria, a beautiful…

Experience Tapati festival on Easter Island, Chile
Experience Tapati festival on Easter Island, Chile

Rapa Nui – Easter Island – is shrouded in mystery. How did its people get there? Where did they come from? How did they move those gigantic statues? Some of that enigma comes to life during January’s fortnight-long Tapati, a festival that combines ancient customs, such as carving and canoeing, with modern sports, such as…

Champagne tasting in Epernay, France
Champagne tasting in Epernay, France

Champagne is an exclusive drink, in all senses of the word, what with its upmarket associations and the fact that it can be made only from the grapes grown in the Champagne region of northern France. The centre of champagne production is Épernay, a town that’s made much of its association with the fizzy stuff, and where all…

Seven days in the warm heart of Africa
Seven days in the warm heart of Africa

Of all the sights, sounds and sensations stamped in my mind from my week in Malawi, one stands out above all others: Everlasting’s laugh. Our brilliantly-named driver was guide, companion and entertainer over several hours and countless bumpy miles around this sliver of sub-Saharan Africa, and his protracted guffaws were a law unto themselves. Oscillating…

Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal
Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal

On Lisbon’s Rua do Arsenal, whole window displays are lined with what looks like crinkly grey cardboard. The smell is far from alluring, but from these humble slabs of cod the Portuguese are able to conjure up an alleged 365 different recipes for bacalhau, one for each day of the year. Reassuringly, none of this mummified fish dates back…

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