The weather’s still pleasant but tourist season has pretty much come and gone. What does September have on offer?
Most kids are back at school and prices have subsequently dropped, so September is as good a time as any to treat yourself to a slightly belated break somewhere. We’ve got a few ideas to inspire you to extend your own summer a little more.
As European city break destinations go, Sofia isn’t a name that jumps out to many people, but it’s a city that combines Central European elegance, a whiff of old-world sophistication, a long and storied history, and a Balkan passion into something truly special. September is a great time to go.
This unusual combination isn’t demonstrated as readily as when you see Sveta Nedelya square in the city centre. St. Nedelya Church can be seen here, originally a medieval structure, but one that’s been destroyed and reconstructed so many times through the ages that the history of its early years is now basically unknown.
Also here you can find a statue of St. Sophia that looks fairly traditional but was in fact erected in the year 2000 in a spot that once sported a statue of Lenin. In fact, another piece of Communist history took place here in 1925 when a bomb was placed in the church by the Bulgarian Communist Party, in a plot to decimate the country’s military and political elite.
Check out the Zhenski Pazar, the oldest market in the city. Selling everything from fruit and vegetables to meats and cheeses, spices and souvenirs, it’s located in what’s known as the Area of Tolerance. It’s so called because of the close proximity of three large places of worship of the three main religions in Sofia, namely the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Banya Bashi Mosque, and the Central Synagogue; another example of the city’s place at a crossroads of culture and religion.
As you’re walking around, be sure to keep your eyes open for a much more modern expression of freedom: street art. Sofia is famous for its constantly changing street art, and there are now walking tours (both guided and self-guided) that show you around some of the best areas to find it. Over the last decade, the Urban Creatures Street Art Festival has invited international artists to contribute, adding a 21st-century chapter to Sofia’s multicultural story.
Moselsteig footpath, Germany
If you fancy a bit of a walk, there might be no better route in Europe than this at the moment. The Moselsteig is a long-distance footpath / cycle route that winds its way for 365 glorious kilometres along the banks of the Moselle River.
If you don’t feel like doing the whole thing — and frankly we wouldn’t blame you, it’s quite a distance — it has been conveniently divided into more manageable sections, each between 11 and 24 kilometres, and each offering various levels of difficulty. Also, because you’re not exactly in the wilderness while doing the trail, there’s an app available to help you plan your route and discover things to look out for on your way.
At the end of each day, you can stay in one of the many picturesque little towns that teeter on the river’s edge, or find somewhere to camp in the woods or fields. Plus, of course, you can treat yourself to a drop of the wine that the region is famous for. It’s the perfect reward for a (slightly) hard day’s work.
Longyearbyen literature festival, Svalbard, Norway
2019 will only be this festival’s third year, but it’s already claimed a place in the hearts of many a book lover for the high quality of its talks and presentations, as well as for the stunning surroundings that would inspire even the most block-affected writer.
Svalbard is one of the most northerly inhabited areas on Earth, a small archipelago lying in the brutally cold ocean halfway between Norway (of which it’s a part) and the North Pole. The town of Longyearbyen itself is small, but is surrounded by mountains and glacial waters, and is a prime spot for viewing the Northern Lights (although probably not during the festival).
The festival itself attracts a mostly Scandinavian crowd, but there are English-language authors present, as well as things that might not need a knowledge of Norwegian such as concerts and a slam poetry evening. It runs during the first week of September (2–6), and even if you don’t attend the paid-for events, you can anticipate a warm welcome in the pubs, cafes and, naturally, the library.
Mid-Autumn festival, China
“Tian gao qi shuang” is what the locals will tell you about September in China: “the sky is high and the air is fresh”. It’s much nicer to tour places like Beijing in September rather than at the stifling height of summer, as the breezes are very welcome and everything looks stunning against the early autumn colours of the trees.
Plus, if you come in September, you get to visit a festival that’s almost as important as New Year. China celebrates the moon being at its fullest with a cavalcade of events that vary from region to region, but have one common thread: that it’s a time to meet with family and friends to celebrate the joy of simply being together.
This year the festival falls on Friday, 13 September, and carries with it a number of traditions related to the moon. Lanterns are made and either carried or floated away, some of them with riddles written on them for other people to guess the answers.
Moon cakes (a pastry filled with lotus-seed paste) are eaten in abundance, and the fact that the moon is at its fullest is supposed to represent pregnancy and a time for courtship. Indeed, many places throw parties and dances for young people to find partners, another example of the festival’s idea of togetherness.
So, it’s a European beach holiday you’re after, while the weather’s still good, somewhere that won’t be too busy. Greece? Still full of tourists. Croatia? Sure, but that’s becoming crowded as well. Spain? Convenient but obvious. Albania? Well… sure, why not?
Although by far from the most obvious place for a holiday, it has all the hallmarks of a classic Mediterranean destination. It’s southern, it has a long coastline, and the beaches are, for the most part, stunning. On what’s becoming known as the Albanian Riviera, you can find the beaches of Jala and Gjipe, located around 13 km from each other, and both hidden in stunning rocky coves in the south of the country.
There are scores of other options as well. Dhërmi beach, located near the village of the same name, is the place to be if that interminable sand vs. pebbles argument rears its head. Unusually, it has both. The Cape of Rodon is a dramatic headland surrounded by beaches and with a castle perched high on top; conveniently, it can be reached from the capital, Tirana, as a day trip. Alternatively, if you’d like a bit of history with your lazing about, Butrint National Park contains Roman ruins on top of wonderful scenery.
So, Albania then? Why not?
Ah, Oktoberfest. A bucket list item to some, a hellish combination of expensive, gassy lager, overcrowded tents, and large groups of loud men vomiting in doorways to others. Well, if the second is your image of it, we’re here to help you out.
Don’t miss the Oktoberfest in Breckenridge this weekend. Call Colorado Concierge to book your lodging and activities! pic.twitter.com/rEdf8DLnMd
— Colorado Concierge (@bookcolorado) September 8, 2017
Famously, Oktoberfest actually begins in September, and this year the Bavarian knees-up runs from Saturday, 21 September to Sunday, 6 October, but that’s not what we’re interested in. We’re going to be looking at a few of the hundreds of places whose Germanic roots mean they put on their own annual Oktoberfest.
We begin in Breckenridge, Colorado on 6–8 September. This picturesque little town can be found at the base of the Rockies, and although best known as a ski resort, every autumn it reverberates to the sounds of the oompah band as locals dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits have a bit of a polka in between the mounds of schnitzel.
Ohio has a history of Germanic influence, and so Cincinnati joins the party on 20–22 September with the largest Oktoberfest in the United States. The most authentic, however, is probably the festival in the town of Frankenmuth, Michigan (19–22 September), with its half-timbered houses and German restaurants. In fact, it’s the only Oktoberfest in the US officially sanctioned by the mayor of Munich. Oh, and they have a band called The Bratwurst Boys, so you can’t say fairer than that.