Oberammergau Passion Play, Germany
It happens only once every 10 years and has been going on since 1634. The people of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, fearing that bubonic plague would sweep the village, promised they would reenact the Passion every decade if God spared them.
About 2,000 people participate in the production, which runs from May 15 to Oct. 3. They are musicians and costume makers and scenery painters and, of course, the actors who depict the last days of Christ. About a half-million people attend the play, which lasts five hours with a three-hour dinner break.
Tour companies regularly sell excursion packages to the play; you can find a list under "how to book" as well as more about the event at www.oberammergau-passion.com.
-- Catharine Hamm
Inaugural sail of the Queen Elizabeth
We saw the introduction in 2009 of the world's largest cruise ship -- Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas -- and in 2010, we'll see the introduction of what arguably will be the world's most loved: Cunard's Queen Elizabeth.
Like royalty itself, Cunard liners sometimes require a scorecard to keep track of who is who and what is what, so to recap briefly:
The original Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938 but became a troop ship during World War II, transporting 750,000 troops and sailing a half-million miles. The ship returned to civilian use after the war and was in service as the decline in passenger transport began. It made its final transatlantic crossing as a Cunard liner in the fall of 1968.
By spring of the next year, the Queen Elizabeth 2 had taken over. In 1982, it was called into wartime service again, this time carrying troops to South Georgia Island to fight in the Falkland Islands war. It was refitted and refurbished again (and again and again), and after almost four decades was retired from the fleet. It is owned by the financially shaky Dubai World, and its future remains unclear.
By contrast, the future of the next Queen Elizabeth is crystal clear. The 1,046-stateroom ship is to set sail Oct. 12 from Southampton, England. Cabins may be booked beginning April 2. The inaugural voyage, to Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands, will begin at $2,995 per person. For information: www.cunard.com.
-- Catharine Hamm
Watching the elk rut in Northern California
Call it sex outside the city. If watching animal courting rituals strikes you as a bit voyeuristic, you've not seen the show Roosevelt elk put on. Think of their antler-locking antics as a sort of fraternity hazing without the beer.
And if that's not enough to lure you, there's the great outdoors to enjoy at Elk Meadow, three miles north of Orick and 45 minutes from Eureka.
Roosevelt elk, the largest of the North American elk, inhabit the Pacific coastal rain forests and mountains. They're kin to deer but larger, graze on grasses rather than legumes and leaves, and communicate more distinctively than deer. The prime time to watch them rutting is early September to the end of October.
Besides elk watching, you can mountain bike, hike or go horseback riding through the redwoods. In nearby Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the redwoods are old-growth and virgin trees because the forest has never been logged.
To see the full story, go to latimes.com/elk.