While in almost every holiday the destination is the attraction in itself, there is nothing that truly gives as much of an insight into the culture and people of that destination than experiencing a special event.
From festivals to performances, parades to operas, and carnivals to concerts, special events reveal the hidden nuances and quirks of those people who celebrate them. As well as this, they cast a spell across cities and towns, transforming their streets into bustling, spellbinding hives of celebration and activity.
Attracting huge crowds of locals and visitors alike, the best festivals have something for everyone, and whatever the occasion, festivals are not to be missed for the sheer spectacle they provide. Musical performances, theatrical displays and splendid art installations see cities and towns explode into life.
A classic example of a truly great festival is the Edinburgh International Festival. Enticing acts from across the world, from all manner of backgrounds, plying all kinds of entertainment, the Edinburgh International Festival cements Edinburgh's status as a cultural powerhouse. Running across an entire month, this celebration of Scotland's capital city sees operas performed on street corners, comedy shows on dazzling stages and music performances held in every possible venue. Core to the driving concept of the Scottish Capital's festivities is a desire to bring out the multicultural nature of Edinburgh whilst championing that which makes Edinburgh and indeed Scotland great.
Another festival which offers a very much a different feel is the Keukenhof Tulip Festival in Keukenhof, the Netherlands. Bringing forth the Netherlands' impressive floral heritage, this event is a laid-back affair, inviting visitors to stroll through glorious displays of Dutch tulips, made up of all shapes and sizes which bloom around springtime. Like Edinburgh, the Keukenhof Tulip Festival celebrates a unique aspect of Dutch culture, and as such, invites people from across the globe to experience the serene beauty of the tulip.
Erupting into a fantastic display of colours and sights, carnivals celebrate aspects of a destination's culture and history with a dazzling array of resplendent floats which parade through the busy streets. These floats can take any number of guises, including satirical models, religious images and historical memorials. Alongside the parades themselves, the squares become lined with decorations and street vendors, selling culinary delights and ornate souvenirs.
The Nice Carnival is one of the finest carnivals in Europe, boasting some of the best and most intricate floats in the world. With many satirising current celebrities and politicians, the Nice Carnival is a delight for audiences of all ages, and the route which the carnival takes is lined with eager attendees of all nationalities. Held in summer, the warm weather often contributes to the holiday feel, bringing more and more people out into the streets to celebrate. The floats are the real highlight here, with some stretching high into the sky with enchanting, enthralling, bizarre and surreal constructions gazing over crowds numbering in the thousands.
Venice, in Italy, also has its own carnival which stretches back through history. Famously the reason behind the ornate masks which appear in souvenir shops and museums across the city, this carnival brings citizens from all different backgrounds and nationalities into a celebration of Venice and its outlying towns. Ending at the start of Lent, those participating in these festivities don fantastic outfits of brilliant whites and a myriad of colours, collecting in the squares and on the street corners.
Often, a city or town will host play host to a performance which brings out the townsfolk to produce a show of splendour and brilliance. These shows can take the form of operatic concerts, theatrical productions, or any other form of performance art such as dances or recitals. The concert halls of Vienna for example might host a series of Mozart concerts, or Edinburgh holds its annual military Tattoo.
One exceptional example is the magnificent Oberammergau Passion Play. While passion plays (plays detailing the last days and crucifixion of Jesus Christ) are not uncommon around the world, the Oberammergau play is regarded as one of the best and most famous thanks to a range of reasons. The most important one is that this is the oldest passion play in the world, with its first performance around 376 years ago, as a religious offering to protect the town from the plague. As well as this, the production is only shown once every 10 years, making each viewing a once in a decade experience. The cast and crew are entirely made up of Oberammergau villagers, a collection of over 2,000 residents who work together to make this one of the most striking, spectacular, and grandiose theatrical performances in the world.