Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the 16 German states. Its capital is Kiel; other larger cities include Lübeck and Flensburg. Historically, the name can also refer to a larger region, containing both present-day Schleswig-Holstein and the former South Jutland County in Denmark. Lübeck was the center of the Hanse, and its city center is a World Heritage Site today. Thomas Mann was born here. The Duchy of Schleswig/Southern Jutland was originally an integral part of Denmark, but was in medieval times established as a fief under the Kingdom of Denmark, with the same relation to the Danish Crown as, for example, Brandenburg or Bavaria vis-à-vis the Holy Roman Empire. 

In the western parts, there are lowlands with virtually no hills. The North Frisian Islands, as well as most of the North Sea coast, form the Nationalpark Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea Nationa Park), which is the largest national park in Central Europe. Germany’s only high-sea island, Helgoland, is situated in the North Sea. The Baltic Sea coast to the east is marked by bays, fjords, and cliffs, with rolling hills and lakes. Fehmarn is the only island off the eastern coast. The longest river is the Elbe; the most important waterway is the Kiel Canal which connects the North and Baltic Seas. The region has been strongly Protestant since the time of Reformation. Nowadays, members of the Lutheran / Evangelical Church make up 53% of the population, Catholics only 6%, and 41% of the population is non-religious or other. 

Schleswig-Holstein combines German and Danish aspects of culture. The castles and manors in the countryside are the best example for this tradition; some dishes like Rote Grütze (Danish: Rødgrød) are also shared, as well as surnames such as Hansen, DIederichsen, etc. The most important festivals are the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, an annual classic music festival, and the Lübeck Nordic Film Days for movies from Scandinavian countries. The annual Wacken Open Air festival is considered to be the largest heavy metal festival in the world.

"Once a year in Jindo in Jeollanam-do Province, the seas mysteriously part and visitors can walk through the sea from the mainland to a nearby island. This phenomenon is caused due to the difference in high tides and low tides, which creates a 2.8-kilometer-long road measuring 40 to 60 meters in width. The spectacular sight of the waves parting is widely known and many people travel to Korea from all over the world just to witness this amazing event."

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Every December 8th the French city of Lyon celebrates the Fête des Lumières (“Festival of Lights”), one of the oldest and most famous light festivals in the world. Over 4 million people travel to Lyon each year for this spectacular 4-night-long event, making it one of the largest festive gatherings in the world and earning the city the title “Capital of Lights.”

Fête des Lumières was born out of a tradition started over 160 years ago, when the city installed a golden statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Fourvière Hill for miraculously protecting them from a potentially dooming plague in the 17th century. Due to stormy weather, however, the ceremony and celebrations were abandoned—but the residents made the best of it by spontaneously placing lit candles in their windows. Every year since, it’s become a unique Lyonnais tradition to place candles in the windows the weekend closest to the 8 December as a way of honoring and thanking Mary.

These days, in addition to the traditional candles burning in the windows of every home, the city itself becomes a nighttime gallery of performances and installations created by a wide variety of artists who light up the city’s buildings, streets and public squares with their dazzling creations. This year the festival featured 75 different light installations.

Click here to check out each of the projects that were part of the 2014 Fête des Lumières.

[via Cool Hunting]