Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 20, 2022
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Europe in focus

Our list of the top 10 celebrations and latest happenings in the Old World

Europe loves to throw a party. The calendar is full of events that bring out millions to sip, celebrate and share in the fun of festivals, sporting events and concerts.

On top of the annual attractions that help define a destination - think of Holland's tulips, Edinburgh's Fringe Festival and Prague's busy music season - special events also come along when destinations go all out and ramp up the excitement.

If you're heading to Europe this year but can't decide where to go, we've compiled a list of one-of-a-kind events that are going to be big draws, as well as updated improvements to getting around that will be worth checking out in their own right.

British culture burg
The European Cultural Capital program shines the spotlight on a particular city (or two) and provides an opportunity for the locals to show us what they've got going on. Some years are duds and quickly forgotten while others elevate a burg to newfound respect, as was the case with Glasgow some years ago. For 2008, another once-grim UK city takes its star turn: Liverpool (

The city will showcase international talent from Turner Prize-winning artists to blockbuster exhibits, and it will also explore its rich musical heritage, including, of course, the Beatles.

The Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield Stadium on June 1 with Paul McCartney will be a highlight. The World Museum hosts The Beat Goes On (July 12 to November 1), paying tribute to bands right up to today's the Coral and the Zutons, which have played a major part in creating the Merseyside sound.

The Tate Liverpool, Britain's largest modern art gallery outside London, exhibits the flamboyant work of Niki de Saint Phalle through May and a retrospective of Gustav Klimt from May 31 to August 31. Festivals, Tall Ships, street performers and fireworks will round out a calendar chock full of events.

Footie Fest
Alpine neighbours Switzerland and Austria join forces in June to host the biggest sporting event on the continent. The month-long mayhem that is UEFA 2008 European Cup Soccer ( kicks off in Basel June 7, and the tension builds through 31 matches to the championship in Vienna on June 29. Tickets are scarce but host cities are well prepared to welcome the overflow.

Sixteen Swiss towns and cities will have a giant video wall, covered seating and freestanding places. Austria will also have video feeds to main city squares.

And it's not all soccer in June. There are festivals to coincide with the footie. Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace will host concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic from June 27 to 28. The Greenfield Festival takes over the Interlaken airfield (June 13 to 15) with rock, hip-hop and alt music acts as well as free camping under the Alpine sky.

Hoist sails for Rouen
Every five years, the inland city of Rouen, France (a little over an hour outside of Paris) bristles with the masts of Tall Ships from around the world. They sail up the River Seine with thousands of onlookers lining the banks. This year the boats will pass under the huge arch of the stunning new Pont Gustave Flaubert, Europe's tallest vertical lifting bridge, before docking along seven kilometres of quays.

The Rouen Armada ( takes place from July 5 to 14 and is a free event. There are concerts, nightly fireworks, parades and the crowning of Miss Armada. The Grand Mess is a whimsical river parade of UFOs (unidentified floating objects).

On Bastille Day, the Tall Ships depart for the 120-kilometre procession to rejoin the sea where the pageantry turns competitive and the big ships set sail in a race for Liverpool. The last edition of the Armada attracted upwards of seven million people.


Culture of the fjords
Little-known Stavanger, Norway ( shares the Capital of Culture title this year. The line-up of 200 events may not compare in star power to Liverpool but instead celebrates all that is local with some inventive and curious attractions, many of which will take place in the dramatic setting of Norway's famous fjords.

One performance piece on a submersed platform will give the impression that actors are walking on water. The aerial gymnastic team Project Bandaloop, known for dancing down the sides of skyscrapers, will perform July 4 by bounding off the boulders and sheer cliffs of nearby Gloppedalsura. Sounds From The Cathedral features 75 concerts of new and old music written to be performed in a church.

Norwegian Wood will feature exhibits of sustainable design and architecture, and Scandinavian fairytales will be acted out to music and dance in an outdoor venue all summer long. Article Biennale in November presents interactive works dedicated to electronically based art.

A world fair that's all wet
Feeling thirsty? Spain will quench that desire, provided it's water you're after. Water and Sustainable Development is the theme of the 2008 World Expo in Zaragoza ( from June 14 to September 14. The Spanish are proving adept at hosting world fairs: building on the success of Expo '92 in Seville, this northern city will be transformed with 140 pavilions dedicated to different waterscapes, including rainforests, an aquarium, cities of water, aquatic inspirations and extreme water.

The Bridge Pavilion across the River Ebro, by starchitect Zaha Hadid, will serve as an undulating transition from the city to the expo site and will double as the main entrance as well as a pavilion in its own right. The Aragón Pavilion, resembling a giant basket to symbolize the local craft of basket weaving, will become the regional parliament after the show packs up. Besides eye-catching architecture, Zaragoza has a busy cultural program with 3400 acts, including the nightly Iceberg: a sound and light show projected on an artificial berg floating in the river.

Divas on demand
Cranking up the opera music while driving through the Italian countryside always seems like the right thing to do, and this year there'll be more opportunity to see opera live when Italy breaks out in song to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini (

The maestro behind Madama Butterfly, La Bohème and Tosca gets a new 3200-seat amphitheatre and sculpture garden where he spent most of his life and found inspiration -- by a lake in Torre del Lago, near the attractive Tuscan city of Lucca. The Puccini Festival runs from June 15 to August 17.

Opera houses throughout the country will also feature Puccini this year, including Milan's Teatro alla Scala and La Fenice in Venice. Another terrific place to catch al fresco opera is the Arena di Verona. This Roman coliseum hosts large-scale productions from June 20 to August 31.


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