Seeing Red: Capturing Malta in Cardinal & Crimson

When we moved to the Mediterranean island of Malta last autumn, we imagined that our leisure time would be devoted to exploring the country’s heritage sites, soaking up the sunshine, and strolling by the inviting blue water that encircles the tiny nation.

Back then, we couldn’t imagine all the red tape that we’d have to ‘cut through’ in order to settle into another new country.

At times, we were feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Once we overcome bureaucratic tasks like securing a visa and finding an apartment, it was time to get acquainted with our new home, which boasts 7,000 years of history and a fervor for festivals.

Not long after we arrived, Malta ‘rolled out the red carpet’ for world leaders who attended a high-profile summit and a meeting of Commonwealth nations. And shortly thereafter, Malta’s communities began ‘painting their towns red’ with traditional saint’s day festivals (festas), and lively celebrations of the Carnival, Christmas, and New Year’s sort.

When we finally had time to appreciate these details, we went from feeling daunted to being delighted by our new surroundings.

As I reminisced upon the past six months on this colorful island, I noticed that red hues are especially plentiful. From the country’s flag, to its crimson-colored phone booths and enclosed balconies, Malta abounds in red.

What follows is a photo essay of some of these vibrant splashes of color. Continue reading “Seeing Red: Capturing Malta in Cardinal & Crimson”

Feeling Festive in Malta: Celebrating a Festa in the City of Bormla

When I first visited Malta nine years ago, my new Maltese friends told me about the islands’s beloved festas — days on which church parishes honor a patron saint in the most celebratory of fashions.

These feast days are replete with fireworks, food, parades, and elaborate decorations. Most festas are crammed into the summer months, and my maiden Maltese visit in November unfortunately didn’t coincide with any. My intense curiosity about festas was finally satisfied on December 8th of last year, when the city of Cospicua (known locally as Bormla) celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Continue reading “Feeling Festive in Malta: Celebrating a Festa in the City of Bormla”

A Valley Ablaze: The König-Ludwig-Feuer in Oberammergau, Germany

For more than 125 years, residents in the tiny German town of Oberammergau have commemorated the eve of the birth of the fairy-tale Bavarian King Ludwig II with a dramatic and fiery bonfire display, called the König-Ludwig-Feuer.

Continue reading “A Valley Ablaze: The König-Ludwig-Feuer in Oberammergau, Germany”

Slap Happy: Dancing the Schuhplattler in Bavaria

One of the joys of exploring Germany’s Bavaria region is witnessing the people’s penchant for preserving tradition. In the village of Oberammergau, where we’ve spent much time visiting my parents, it’s not uncommon to spot an older gentleman wearing a loden green, woolen hat, with feather, during a grocery-shopping trip. On holidays, ladies often don vibrant Dirndls (dresses with poofy sleeves and aprons finished off with a pretty bow). And, during festivals, dancers of all ages take to the stage to show off their dancing skills, looked on by revelers with mugs of beer, a lively brass band, and an occasional yodeler.

Continue reading “Slap Happy: Dancing the Schuhplattler in Bavaria”

A Bavarian Horse-Blessing Ceremony

As we sauntered closer to the steeple-skylined village of Unterammergau, Germany, horses trotted past us, their highly decorated manes and tails blowing in the late autumn breeze. Not to be outdone by the animals’ distinguished appearances, the horse owners also sported fine Bavarian attire: the men wore grey woolen jackets finished with deer-horn buttons, and dark green or brown Lederhosen, while the ladies sported Dirndls with colorful flowing skirts, and button-down sweaters to protect them from the chilly air. As someone who adored coiffing her My Little Pony figurines’ hair as a child, I was instantly in shutterbug heaven.

Continue reading “A Bavarian Horse-Blessing Ceremony”

Tails from a German Horse-Blessing Ceremony

Leonhardiritt Unterammergau Horse TailsDuring the last weekend of every October, the village of Unterammergau, Germany honors St. Leonhard, the patron saint of agricultural animals. The event begins with a horse procession through the village of 1,500 people, and culminates in an open-air church service, during which more than one hundred horses are blessed. (Unterammergau is the neighboring village to Oberammergau, where we’ve been spending the past summer and autumn. Together with O-gau, the village’s name is an essential ingredient in a well-known, and especially challenging German tongue twister about the two villages.)

Continue reading “Tails from a German Horse-Blessing Ceremony”

Perusing the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Farm California 20

After ten years of life abroad sans an authentic jack o’lantern, I was delighted to awaken my Halloween spirit by visiting a veritable American pumpkin patch last autumn, following a splendid long weekend in the Napa Valley.

The California farm’s scruffy scarecrows, colorful gourds, and pumpkins transformed into storybook characters brought to mind some of my favorite Halloween childhood memories: everything from dressing up as The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy (sporting Mom’s wedding shoes, which she’d adorned with thick squares of red glitter; dog Jenny even trick-or-treated with me in a basket) to entering a chicken pox-stricken pumpkin donning a glass thermometer into my elementary school’s pumpkin contest.

Continue reading “Perusing the Pumpkin Patch”