You should check the local calendar for special events before you plan a holiday in a foreign or unfamiliar place.
There are two reasons for this:
- You could miss out on something fun, and
- You might ruin your holiday by mis-timing
Most times it is something that is good that you will kick yourself for when you arrive back home and your friends ask you about it: “So how was Oktoberfest?” they may ask. “We did not go anywhere near Bavaria when we were in Germany,” you may sadly reply.
Similarly, May Day celebrations in Moscow can be quite interesting because of the massed display of military might. If you visit some other attraction on the day, you could be disappointed.
Other experiences may not be so much fun. China’s New Year celebrations can be very impressive and festive indeed – these are the clever people that invented gunpowder after all, and they use an awful lot of it at displays during that time. However, if you are planning a long-distance railway journey across China at the wrong time, it may be very unpleasant indeed.
Many thousands of Chinese citizens cram into the trains at the start to the Chinese New Year, in order to return to their villages of origin. Congestion on public transport is bad. Furthermore, it is not unheard of for them to wear adult incontinence nappies because the pressure on the lavatories is severe and it can take 30 hours to get home. Think of being stuck in public transport at close range with used incontinence nappies, with perhaps 80% more people in the train than usual and the mind forms an unpleasant picture.
There may be other disruptions. Some arise at short notice, so you may need to be adaptable (because it may be too late to defer your holiday). In Paris, for instance, it has become almost customary to strike in spring or autumn. You may need to scan local newspapers even if you cannot read the language! The word to look for is grève. Depending on whose turn it is you may expect certain forms of transport not to be functioning, or farmers may decide to turn the Champs-Elysees into a farm, as they did in 2010. Very clever, even pretty and a charming way to protest, but even if you have your own transport that will make it really difficult to get around!