Celebrating Mariä Himmelfahrt Day in Oberammergau, Germany

As the time drew closer to nine thirty in the morning, the stream of villagers dressed in traditional German folk costume passing by our window in Oberammergau, Germany grew. Ladies in elaborate Dirndls and men in Lederhosen pedaled by on their bikes. Some navigated their bikes’ handlebars with one hand, with elaborate wildflower bouquets in the other.

Curious as to why the locals were dressed in Trachten, I headed to the nearby St. Peter & Paul Church and Cemetery, from which the sounds of a choir and small orchestra streamed out. Some villagers placed bouquets on the graves of family members buried in the church cemetery. They had come to the church to celebrate Mariä Himmelfahrt Day, or the Feast of the Assumption, a Catholic holiday that is also celebrated publicly in some German states every August the 15th. Many government offices and businesses are closed.

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Easter Greetings from Croatia


A choir of church bells tolled just before midnight to usher in Easter’s arrival here in Trogir, Croatia. The fervor with which the bells rang was reminiscent of what we heard the night that the Catholic church chose a new pope.

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Germany’s Sommertagszug Tradition: Greeting Spring & Bidding Farewell to Winter

Sommertagsfest in Heidelberg18

In parts of Germany three weeks before Easter, it’s customary to celebrate spring’s return with a Sommertagszug or summer procession. Though this year’s round of such fests was held last Sunday, for me, the 14th of March will forever be synonymous with Sommertagszugs since ‘Pi Day‘ 2010 is the date my husband and I first met and then enjoyed the Sommertagszug celebration together in Heidelberg, Germany. The fest has been celebrated in Heidelberg for more than 500 years.

Heidelberg Sommertagszug

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Believed to have pagan origins, the fest celebrates spring’s return and winter’s banishing. Children take to the streets with sticks adorned with colorful, ruffled ribbons, topped with pretzels and eggs. In Heidelberg, they walk along the city’s long pedestrian street, the Hauptstrasse, until they reach the Market Square (Marktplatz), where dancers (dressed as winter and spring) theatrically battle it out on stage. Finally, a paper effigy of winter is torched. The best part of the celebration is, of course, the pretzels that are handed out to onlookers, and the realization that spring has returned.

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Paris and Heidelberg with Shawn008

Paris and Heidelberg with Shawn009

Paris and Heidelberg with Shawn010

woman and children on balcony in Heidelberg Germany
A woman depicting Liselotte (a German princess who promoted traditions such as the Sommertagsfest) watches the procession. Liselotte was the sister-in-law of Louis XIV.

Paris and Heidelberg with Shawn012

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Sommertagsfest in Heidelberg06

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Sommertagsfest in Heidelberg30

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A Vietnamese New Year’s Reminiscence

When I unpacked a red and gold Vietnamese ox ornament last week, it reminded me why I love travel: serendipitous events, cultural immersion, and the opportunity to mingle with unassuming citizen diplomats.

With today being the Vietnamese New Year, or Tết, it seems fitting to reminisce on a Hanoi happening from my travel memory bank that epitomizes all three characteristics.

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A Nibbling Donkey in Oberammergau, Germany

The sign declared, Bitte Esel nicht füttern, and in Germany, the land so famously-known for its rules, I obliged. 

Even though visitors to the Christmas Market in Oberammergau, Germany were asked not to feed the photogenic donkeys (to keep the live Christmas props from developing upset stomachs), rubbing of the animals’ cotton ball-like ears seemed to be encouraged. Before I approached the stable, I had even noticed that Saint Nicholas was giving the cuddly beasts a head massage.

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Happy Canada Day Greetings, From Ottawa!

Canadian Flag on Toronto Building

Greetings from Toronto. ‘Tis a grand day to be in Canada, and what a wonderful road trip we’ve had through Ontario and Québec this past week!

Parliament with Canadian Flag - Ottawa

Two days ago, we explored lovely Ottawa on foot. In preparation for Canada’s birthday celebrations, which are taking place today, the capital city was getting dressed in an abundance of red, white and magnificent maple leaves. Dancers paraded to pounding tunes on stage in front of the Parliament building, rehearsing for the big day’s performances. On the other side of Wellington Street, an honor guard remembered an unknown soldier.

Canadian Flags on Toronto Building

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Honor Guard Marching in Toronto

Father and Daughter Watching Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Honor Guard Marching in Toronto

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Honor Guard Marching in Ottawa

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Honor Guard in Ottawa

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Honor Guard in Ottawa

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa

Parliament Building in Ottawa with Canada Day Stage

Red Flowers in Ottawa

Canada Maple Leaf Cookies for Sale in Toronto

We’re on the lookout for some sparkling fireworks here in Toronto tonight.

To my Canadian friends and family, I wish you a special day!

Canada's Parliament Building in Ottawa

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