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TOURISM

Eight corona-safe events not to miss in Germany in October 2020

Despite the coronavirus and restrictions which followed, there are still several socially distanced events taking place around the country. Here are our top picks.

Eight corona-safe events not to miss in Germany in October 2020
One of the displays at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival in 2019. Photo: DPA

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted Germany’s events calendar this year, with staple celebrations such as Oktoberfest being cancelled due to safety concerns.

But despite restrictions, organisers have adapted to the circumstances and put together corona-safe events that can be enjoyed by all (albeit at a safe distance).

Here are some of the most exciting events to look out for in October:

German Unity Day Exhibition: September 5th – October 4th

The commemorative exhibition is running over thirty days to allow social distancing to be maintained. Photo: DPA

The Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day) is one of the nine nationwide public holidays in Germany and takes place on October 3rd every year. 

It commemorates the formal completion of the reunification process between the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) after decades of division. 

It is normally celebrated with open air concerts and attractions in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but due to coronavirus things will look slightly different this year. 

READ ALSO: 10 things you never knew about German Reunification

A special anniversary celebration on October 3rd at Potsdam’s Metropolis will be attended by only 240 guests, six times fewer than originally planned. 

The event, which includes performances from musicians and interviews, will be broadcast for people to watch on television. 

There’s also no need to miss out on celebrating entirely – a special open air exhibition is running in Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg, until October 4th. 

The exhibition has been extended to last thirty days to ensure that a safe distance can be maintained amongst visitors. 

Berlin Leuchtet Illuminations: September 25th – October 4th

The light show at the Brandenburg Gate this year celebrates 30 years of German unity. Photo: DPA

It’s not too late to catch the tail end of Berlin’s spectacular illumination festival. As the darker evenings draw in, many of the city’s landmarks are being lit up with colourful projections, videos and laser shows.

The illuminated buildings are scattered all over the city, with some highlights including Gendarmenmarkt, the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column in Tiergarten. 

It is asked that visitors maintain 1.5 metres distance and the wearing of face masks is recommended. 

Halloween Horror Festival at Movie Park Germany: October 1st – November 8th

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

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Be warned: this event is most definitely not for the faint hearted! Head to Bottrop on North-Rhine Westphalia to test your wits in the horror mazes at Germany’s most popular Halloween Festival.

Various spooky attractions including gut-churning rides, live entertainment and haunted houses await those brave enough to visit, although most are only suited for those above the age of 16.

The park is open every Thursday to Sunday in October, as well as on November 1st and November 6th – 8th. 

Advance booking is essential due to strict capacity limits, and no costumes are allowed – the only masks permitted this year are the mouth-nose coverings that prevent the spread of the virus!

European Month of Photography: October 1st – October 31st

The European Month of Photography has something to offer for everyone. Photo: DPA

This October sees Germany’s largest photography festival return to Berlin. The event has taken place every other year since 2004, and offers a wide range of exhibitions for photography enthusiasts to enjoy. 

For the whole month of October, 100 galleries, photography schools, museums and other cultural institutions will offer the public a chance to see incredible work from 500 artists across Europe.

Exhibitions can be found all across the capital and also in the nearby city of Potsdam.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival: August 28th – December 6th 

The festival boasts impressive pumpkin displays and fun-filled activities. Photo: DPA

A trip to Ludwigsburg is an essential for all those in awe of autumn, and makes for a fun day out for the whole family.

This year’s theme is music, with various impressive pumpkin displays paying tribute to famous artists ranging from Elvis to the Rolling Stones.

The programme also boasts an array of other activities: try your hand at pumpkin carving, sample pumpkin flavoured specialties or visit the pumpkin Santa Claus tent to get in the festive mood!

German Mozart Festival Augsburg: October 9th – October 31st

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

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Classical music fans won’t want to miss this celebration of the two of the greatest composers of all time, Beethoven and Mozart.

The German town of Augsburg, birthplace of Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father), is hosting various concerts to celebrate the life and work of these two classical titans. 

Events range from lower-key chamber music recitals to large-scale renditions of their most impressive symphonies, and includes performances from renowned soloists and orchestras. 

READ ALSO: The show must go on: How German orchestras are continuing concerts amid the pandemic

Games Week Berlin: October 28th – October 30th 

The gaming conference may be online this year, but there is still lots on offer. Photo: DPA

This year’s Games Week won’t be held in Berlin’s Kulturbrauerei as normal, but game lovers need not fear – an extensive online programme is available for everyone to enjoy. 

The festival’s three strands – “Play Experience”, “Pro Experience” and “Art Experience” – offer something for everyone, from gaming enthusiasts to industry creatives. 

Live ‘let’s plays’, multiplayer tournaments, interviews with gaming influencers and game development conferences are just some of the events available to those who purchase an online ticket.  

Wine tasting along the Deutsche Weinstraße – Various dates in October

Despite cancellations, there are still plenty of chances to try some German wine. Photo: DPA

September and October marks grape harvesting season in Germany, meaning it is the perfect time to taste some of the best wines the country has to offer. 

Sadly, many of the wine festivals that usually take place along the German Wine Route have been cancelled this year, but there are still ample opportunities that are too good to miss.

Take a weekend trip to the Bacchus Wine Festival in the town of Bad Dürkheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, where you’ll find live music, delicious food and plenty of wine.

Similar delights await visitors in the nearby Weisenheim am Sand, albeit at reduced capacity. The company BottleStops also offers group and private tours to visitors who want to get a taste of local wineries, a majority which are currently open.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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