Pleasant travel surprises (Part 6)

This item appears on page 18 of the September 2021 issue.

Ron Carlson of Lakeland, Minnesota, asked ITN subscribers to write in about serendipitous experiences that they had while traveling outside of the US. We’ve been printing a few stories each month since the April issue, and this time they’re about arriving someplace just in time for a festival.

On a private tour in India in January 2011, my husband, Richard, and I stopped for a roadside lunch. A woman at another table said she was headed to Jodhpur for the literary festival. We had just come from Jodhpur and were headed for Jaipur, so we were disappointed that we would miss the event.

When we got to Jaipur, we discovered that we were at the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the largest in the world. And it was free! It was held on the extensive grounds of the Diggi Palace, with huge saffron tents protecting everyone from the sun.

J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk (both Nobel Prize winners), Junot Díaz and Kiran Desai were among the luminaries attending — all authors I had read and admired. There were close to 200 presenters and two or three thousand visitors.

We heard some excellent speakers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stock up on books, as we still had much traveling to do, but I managed to get a coffee cup to prove I was there.

The woman going to Jodhpur must have been disappointed.

Kitty Chen Dean
New York City, NY



My husband and I were visiting Prague, Czech Republic, as part of an Overseas Adventure Travel tour in 2008. On a free afternoon, we were leisurely strolling the streets of the city when a group of young people dressed in what looked like choir robes and carrying music folios came toward us.

I am a trained musician and have spent many years singing with choruses, so I said to my hubby, “Let’s follow them and see what’s going on.”

We reversed course and followed the singers to a large church. Upon entering, we asked the people at the check-in desk if we could buy tickets to the concert. We were told that the music festival — featuring performing groups from all over Eastern Europe — was not open to the public.

I explained that I was a musician and a choir member and was well versed in performance manners, then asked if we could, please, go in. They agreed.

So there we were, sitting smack-dab in the middle of the church, two very happy senior citizens surrounded by hundreds of choral groups, divine choral singing and warm and welcoming young people.

The “cherry on the ice cream sundae” was hearing one of the groups superbly performing a piece that my own group had struggled to learn.

I’ll never, ever forget those hours of serendipity.

Diana Butler
El Sobrante, CA



On a trip years ago to Bad Gastein, Austria, my late husband, Bill, and I were lucky enough to be in town when the annual Baurenherbst festival occurred.

With their horns all decorated with flowers, cows were paraded through town accompanied by floats of local residents plying their trades. One float had woodsmen sawing and chipping wood. Another had ladies sewing and doing handwork. The most popular float depicted brewers making cider or beer.

The floats were interspersed with local bands and with men and very young boys on horseback cracking whips. All the parade participants, as well as most of the local residents, were dressed in colorful lederhosen and dirndls.

It was a very festive occasion. Everyone was in a jolly mood, and much beer was consumed with jovial, welcoming locals at outdoor picnic tables, where we learned the words to many German drinking tunes.

We returned to the area for many years to attend festivals in various towns in Austria.

Phyllis Harlan
Oklahoma City, OK



Part of the fife-and-drum procession in Naters, Switzerland. Photos by Jon Lafleur

In Zermatt one summer morning in 1990, I was having breakfast in a hotel when the local fife and drum corps paraded down the street. They were heading to a festival in Naters, 40 kilometers away. I spontaneously decided to go.

In Naters, I heard enthusiastic music and saw people wearing elegant costumes from throughout Switzerland. Each group was headed by women with armloads of flowers flanking a banner identifying the ensemble. I experienced the sights and sounds of national pride.

• Three years later, on my only visit to the Engadin, I rode the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz. This trip happened to coincide with an alpenhorn festival, and I kept bumping into ensembles in unexpected places.

One group was on a terrace high above St. Moritz. People loved the music. So did the cows, which left the pasture, congregated around the players and joined in! The musicians were out-moooooed and had to give up.

Jon C. Lafleur
Kent, CT

Alpenhorn players in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
A fife-and-drum procession in Naters, Switzerland.
Drummers in a fife-and-drum procession — Naters, Switzerland.