Juhannus (Midsummer) 2020

Juhannus

What is the biggest holiday in Finland? Christmass, Easter?…Nah.
Juhannus or Midsummer is the most anticipated holiday in Finland. It is very probable that you also celebrate Midsummer in your country or something similar to it. However, in Finland, the celebration goes way different from what you may expect. Officially Juhannus can be called Midsummer, Nightless Night, White Night, unofficially it is known as the Finnish Madness, the Sauna-And-Beer-Day or Cottage Party Day.

FINNISH MIDSUMMER: TRUTH OR FALSE. RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY OR BOOZE-UP?

TRUTH. Juhannus has pagan roots. This holiday goes back to the days when ancient Finns believed in the god Ukko, the god of weather, harvest, and fertility. Before Christianity came to Finland, the holiday was called Ukon juhla, and people lit huge kokko (bonfire) not only to warm up and dance around the fire but to honor Ukko and ask for the bountiful harvest. When the Christian came, the holiday was renamed to Juhannus in order to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist (called Johannes Kastaja in Finish). However, despite the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia, some pagan traditions remained.

FALSE. Nowadays it is mistaken to consider Juhannus a religious holiday. Although it can be considered as a mix of Christianity and ancient pagan traditions, in fact, this is the time when all the families and friends unite to celebrate, to escape from daily routine and simply enjoy the humble nordic summer.

TRUTH. Finns drink a lot on Midsummer. This is the period when beer and vodka flow infinitely. For many people, the synonym to the Juhannus is a combo of endless midsummer drinking and inevitable hangover. If you do not know how to drink, better do not experiment.

RURAL OR URBAN MIDSUMMER?

TO THE COUNTRYSIDE!

On Juhannus most of the locals head to their cottages by a lake. They change the hustle and bustle of the city for nature, barbecue, drinking and chatting with dear people. Locals usually invite their relatives and friends to go to their summer cottage. If you are not that lucky person,  but you still want to celebrate Juhannus the way Finns do it, there is another option. To avoid staying in the ghost town, you may rent the cottage, there are plenty of them. But to be honest, a weekend in the Finnish summer cottage might cost you an arm and a leg. That is definitely not an option for a solo traveler. Obviously, if to rent a cottage, it is better to do it with friends, and way in advance.

Midsummer/Juhannus

If the luck is on your side and you are about to celebrate Juhannus in the countryside, here is a short list of things to do. The first thing you should experience is Finnish sauna. Sauna is a substantial part of Finnish culture and Juhannus festivities. Usually, cottages have traditional saunas where you follow the standard process: warming up the sauna, relaxing and socializing with a couple of drinks or more, whipping yourself with ‘vihta’ (a bundle of fresh birch twigs) and skinny dipping in the nearby waters.

Midsummer/Juhannus

Besides melting in the sauna, you may look around and explore the abundance of nature around you. Picking berries, going boating and fishing are very common midsummer activities in the countryside.

And of course, Juhannus is impossible without making a bonfire. Bonfires served to protect people and domestic animals from evil powers, bad fortune and to enhance the harvest and fertility. The tradition remained, but despite the beliefs of ancestors in the energy of magic of bonfires, nowadays the main reason why people lit the bonfires is simply to sit around the fire, tell stories, sing songs and cook sausages or fish you have just caught.

NON-COUNTRYSIDE WAY OF CELEBRATING MIDSUMMER

Spending Juhannus in the cottage near the lake is definitely a very Finish way of celebrating Juhannus. But if you do not want to splurge on a lovely cottage, you may go to a small island with an open-air museum, called Seurasaari, which is just five kilometers from downtown Helsinki. First of all, it is a cheaper option for both children and adults to enjoy the Nightless Night. Children under the age of 15 can enter the celebration free of charge, as for adults, the ticket will cost about 20-30 (note, that to rent the cottage on the weekend will cost  300+).

Midsummer/Juhannus

In Seurasaari you will experience a traditional midsummer event in the cozy and relaxed atmosphere of rural buildings, farmsteads, and cottages. There as well as in the countryside you will have an opportunity to gain a few kilos with the help of pancakes, hot potatoes, smoked fish, grilled meat, and beer. However, you may easily get rid of that recently gained weight by dancing with locals to the lively folk music. The highlight of the event is the charming Midsummer wedding in the old church of Seurasaari. The wedding waltz of the newlywed couple is probably the most romantic part of the celebration. The apogee of the Juhannus is lighting up a giant bonfire, which makes people start dancing with renewed vigor.

Another way to celebrate the Juhannus for those who are not interested in relaxing in the mosquito-infested area is going to one of the numerous parties and music festivals. Tantalising Music Festivals for every taste and pocket are held during and after Midsummer. Some of the music festivals you would like to visit are the  Gergiev Festival MikkeliMusic in Ruovesi or the Haapavesi Folk Music Festival. The most popular one remains being the midsummer festival Kalajoen Juhannus that gathers thousands of people to welcome summer in a huge party with various genres of music, from techno, pop to classic Finnish rock.

ONLY FOR WOMEN. MIDSUMMER MAGIC TRICKS

Midsummer is considered to be a time for magic tricks and rituals. Even nowadays it is popular among young girls to do some tasks and tricks on Midsummer Eve to meet or at least to find out something about their love. One of the far-reaching traditions is bending naked over the well in order to see the reflection of your future husband.  Also, it is said that if the girl rolls around naked on a dewy field, she will meet her true love very soon.

But you may avoid these nudity rituals and try something more simple and safe.  It is common among young ladies to pick seven or nine different flowers and then put them under that pillow with the hope to see their betrothed and beloved in a dream. Another method to see the future husband in a dream is to eat salty food before sleep. The girl is supposed to get thirsty and the one who brings her water in a dream is her future husband.

There are some other tricks, but they do not guarantee the reliable information, and definitely, no magic in the world will attract somebody you like. We are all people, so naive and vulnerable sometimes, nevertheless, let’s do not rely much on the so-called “midsummer magic”.

WELL PLANED IS HALF DONE

1. Find some time for small, yet necessary preparations for your trip to Finland on Midsummer. First of all, decide which kind of Juhannus celebration you like more, partying at the music festival or relaxing in the cottage with a lakeside sauna.

2. Whether you go to the countryside or stay in Helsinki, make sure to find the accommodation beforehand. That will help you to avoid stress, headache, and fully enjoy Juhannus instead.

3. As far as Juhannus is the national holiday, many shops and some small pharmacies will be closed. Therefore, do not forget to check out the schedule of the local shops and pharmacies, and buy everything you need beforehand as well. Also, in order to get successfully to your midsummer destination, it is important to check the schedule of buses and trains. Agree, that it would be extremely frustrating to stay in Helsinki when your friends are waiting for you with beer and food, but you have missed your bus due to your laziness to check the schedule of public transport in advance.

4. Of course, Juhannus as any holiday will be not a holiday without a plenty of alcohol. However, too much alcohol and calm lakes of Finland may play a bad trick on you. Annually several instances of drowning on Midsummer are reported, which should motivate you to find a balance between fun and drinking yourself to death literally.

5. The weather in Finland is unpredictable. If it is summer, it does not really mean hot and sunny in Finland. Though, Finns do not mind much and continue partying despite all the obstacles, because it is Juhannus, and it is a must to party! So, we wish you a good weather and only positive vibes. Onnea! Good Luck!

In 2020 Juhannus takes place on the 20th of June. It is high time to pack your luggage and off to Finland!

Hyvää Juhannusta! Happy Midsummer!

Las Fallas 2020

Las Fallas

The smell of gunpowder, the earsplitting explosions of firecrackers, enormously huge effigies burning in flickering and dancing inferno flames. What is that? The revolution? The apocalypse?  This is the most quirky, glowing and roaring festival in Valencia, Spain – Las Fallas!

THE ROOTS OF LAS FALLAS

The origin of Las Fallas is a bit vague. Some people say that the origin of Las Fallas ( ‘the fires’ from Valencian) originated from pagan rituals and tradition to burn everything old and bad from the past year in order to celebrate the equinox of spring as the symbol of revival and beginning of a new life. Others suggest that the Fallas started in the Middle Ages when Valencian artisans and carpenters used wooden structures called parots, to hang their candles on, in order to illuminate their talleres (workshops) in winter. But with the advent of the spring, parots were no longer needed, so they were burned.

Under the influences of the Church, the date of the burning of parots merged with the festival of San José, the patron saint of carpenters, and that is how las Fallas de San José appeared.

TRADITIONS OF LAS FALLAS

Since those times, the traditions have developed greatly. The parots began to obtain human forms. Therefore nowadays you can see jaw-dropping huge dummies: large puppets called fallas, and smaller puppets, called ninots, which can be found in every neighborhood of Valencia. You will be amazed by the paper-machè and polystyrene towering figures of up to 30 meters. The best carpenters spend the whole year creating the unique statues, depicting satirical scenes, Spanish celebrities, and caricatures of corrupted politicians. Such constructions remind a bit “carri allegorici”, satirical floats at Carnavale di Viareggio, Italy. Both festivals allow people to convey their emotions through art, to be free in expressing yourself and laughing at problems that you face in nowadays world. But there is a significant difference that lies in the culmination of processions. While in Italy they wrap up the celebration with dazzling fireworks, in Valencia the apogee of the festival is the burning of effigies. Although some people say that it is a waste of money to blaze such fabulous and extravagant puppets, don’t you think that there is something very stress-relieving in this burning to ashes of dolls? Nevertheless, before everything is set on fire, there is much to do and see for every visitor.

THINGS TO DO AND SEE ON LAS FALLAS

In 2020 Las Fallas is held from the 15th to 19th of March. Every day you have no choice but to wake up early in the morning at 8 am, thanks to la Despertà, local wake-up-call. Brass bands start to march down the streets playing exhilarating music. In addition, fallers throw firecrackers near people’s windows in order to wake up every one without exception. Another highlight is Mascletá, which takes place in the Plaza Ayuntamiento at 2 pm. It is a boisterous show of simultaneously exploding fireworks, that will give you a feeling of being in the very heart of earthquake.

Las Fallas
La Despertà

However, besides all the festivities that are going on, clearly that all people are looking forward to the Plantà, which occurs traditionally on the night of the 15th of March. It is a time when carpenters gather to complete to the end of the day all the installations, every single ninot, and falla. So, next day, don’t waste your time, get up with the first firecracker of la Despertà and go to explore marvelous creations of carpenters. To see some of the more intricate ones, we advise you to visit the neighborhoods of El Carmen, Ruzafa and Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Las Fallas

Las Fallas

In addition every night from 15th to 19th of the March you can witness the spectacular, colorful fireworks show.  The night on the 18th of March, which draws most of the attention, is called the Nit de Foc (literally “The Night of Fire”). Come to the Paseo de la Alameda and relish the astonishing display of color and light.

Las Fallas
Nit de Foc

Also, having come to Las Fallas, the beautiful city of Valencia, it is a crime not to sample local paella, which is considered to be a Royal dish of Valencianos. If you are born with a sweet tooth, try popular Spanish goodies, like churros and buñuelos with chocolate. Then, if you are not faint-hearted, visit one of the bullfights, but remember that ticket should be bought in advance. In case you do like animals and see nothing fun in teasing poor bull, instead, we advise you to walk around the ancient city with its far-reaching history, socialize with locals and make some new friends.

Besides, Las Fallas is not only about eating, dancing, burning and destroying. This festival contains a religious element. On the 18th of March, you can contemplate  L’Ofrena de flors, an offering of flowers to the Virgin of the Helpless. It is a grandiose parade of falleros (male) and falleras (female) in the fanciest, elegant silk and lace dresses, bringing you somewhere to the period of Renaissance. They march slowly and solemnly to the huge wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, offering bouquets of flowers, which are then properly attached to the effigy.

Las Fallas
L’Ofrena de flors
Las Fallas
The Virgin of the Helpless

Finally, it is the 19th of March on the calendar, which means that the most anticipated day of Las Fallas has come. The climax of the festival is la Cremá. It is the fieriest event of the festival when the giant sculptures are set ablaze. Approximately at 10 pm, they set on fire smaller statues, and at midnight they mercilessly burn larger statues. You will be simply astonished by the scenery. Crowds are chanting, firemen are trying to protect the buildings, while doll-like ninots are ‘dying’ in the hellish fire. But, one ninot is saved from the destruction. This ninot is called the ninot indultat, which means the pardoned puppet. All the statues that ‘survived’, are now exhibited in Museo Fallero, which is a must-go for every tourist.

Las Fallas
La Cremá

Now different thoughts pop up in your mind. Probably, you think that Las Fallas is just a waste of the thousands of euros, and first of all, it is a waste of precious time and efforts of carpenters who poured their heart and soul in those puppets. But Valencianos take everything positively. No sad faces can be found, as this festival is a chance to burn the bridge with the past, to get rid of everything that bothered you through the year. And the approach of the spring, isn’t it a high time to write a new page in your book?

Immerse in the crazy atmosphere of smoky air, crackling firecrackers and night sky filled with infinite fireworks. Experience the freedom of life at one of the hottest and inspiring festivals! Welcome to Las Fallas!

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake 2020

Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake

There are so many hilarious stereotypes about British people, some of them true, but most of them are false. And when the whole world sees British as reserved, tight-lipped and calm, I can argue about it. I will prove the British are not emotionally dead, they can be upset, excited and even crazy. Don’t believe me? Then check out one of the weirdest events in Great Britain — Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake. When normal people eat cheese, British roll it down from the cliff-like hill, running to catch it as if it is made from gold. The coolest fact about this festival, that this cheese insanity is contagious, as people from all over the world annually come not only to watch but to take a part in this competition.

The origins of this event are not clear. Most of the people believe that it originates from pagan rituals of celebrating the arrival of spring. However, nowadays, people are more focused on the very event, than its roots. In 2020, it will be held on 25th of May, traditionally in Brockworth, United Kingdom.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COOPER’S HILL CHEESE-ROLLING AND WAKE

Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake

The cheese madness starts at 12 pm, but we recommend to come much earlier, in order to get a nice spot where you can contemplate this event. The center of the whole festivity is a 9 pounds of round Double Gloucester cheese.

As soon as the cheese is sent rolling down the hill, contestants start running down Cooper’s Hill in the chase after round Double Gloucester cheese. The aim of participants is to survive and to catch the cheese. We say “to survive” because this round cheese may reach the speed up to 110 kilometers per hour. Trying to get it, people fall, stumble or fall head over heels through the uneven rough ground, with very often numerous injuries in the result. That is why there were attempts to prohibit the event, but locals protected their old-century tradition, and instead of disappearing, this event gained even more popularity. Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake has been held for many years and the only thing that has changed, for the reasons of safety, is the cheese which since 2013 is replaced by a foam replica. At the end of the competition, the lucky man crosses the finish line and wins the cheese, but a real one, not its replica.

As far as you understood from our vivid description above, this race in pursuit of cheese is definitely not for the faint of heart, but only for brave or who is out of his mind. Though, if you want you can easily participate, without any registrations and preparations, all you need to do is to show up and say that you came to get that cheese. And, by the way, not only men can take a part in cheese race. Usually, there are five downhill races( four for men, one for women), and also one uphill race, but the number of races and the timetable varies from year to year. Anyway, before taking part in this insanity, think three times, don’t overestimate yourself and don’t underestimate the tricky steep hill. We will remind you one more time that this traditional British competition never goes alone, but with a host of bruises and scratches, if you are lucky, and if you are not, then with the dislocated shoulders, twisted ankles and a number of broken bones. The whole day during the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake can be perfectly summarised as ” twenty young men chasing a cheese off a cliff and tumbling 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital”. That is how the author of The Sydney Morning Herald described the renowned cheese race in his article “Return to edam”. Nevertheless, we don’t have an intention to keep you away from participating in Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake. We just want to tell, that watching this astonishing event is not less thrilling experience than participating in it.

Instead, we suggest you come and see everything with your own eyes and understand what people risk their lives for. We suppose some people do it for fun, others in order to have what to say to grandchildren or simply to brag, of course in case they won. For locals, it is a legacy from their ancestors, which they cherish and protect for years. And what do you think about Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake? Don’t hesitate and go for your next adventure in the picturesque village of  Brockworth.

Snowbombing Festival 2018

Snowbombing-Festival

Austria is a stunning country with endless possibilities. You can go to the ball in Vienna, or explore the picturesque countryside and enjoy the fascinating mountain landscape. This country is in the top list of best countries for unforgettable vacation. However, if you want to enrich your mundane life with the incredible fusion of top-notch world-known DJs and bands, in the idyllic alpine setting of one of Europe’s finest ski resorts, you are to visit Snowbombing, an incredible one-of-a-kind five-day snowy music festival, which in 2018 takes place from the 9th to 14th April.

The festival is relatively young. It was first held at the Risoul Ski Resort, but in 2005, the festival changed its location and moved to the Tyrolean resort of Mayrhofen in Austria, its current location. Since then the festival has evolved into Europe’s largest snow and music festival that is annually crammed by thousands of party-goers and ski lovers.

THE HUB OF NON-STOP PARTIES

Numerous exquisite parties create the uplifting atmosphere of the Snowbombing Festival. Wherever you go, you will find a party to your liking. The parties are usually held in various venues, therefore you can jam with your friends at real igloo party, mind-bending forest raves and amusing pool parties.

The Racket Club, an underground tennis center transforms into a night-club that hosts the headliners of the festival.

It is already revealed, that in 2018 Liam Gallagher and Pendulum will headline Austrian event. Other artists that are going to charge the people with electrifying music vibes are  Dizzee Rascal, Anna Wall, Jax Jones, Disciples, Bicep, Hak Baker, Peggy Gou and Craig David’s legendary TS5 set and plenty more. It is a sin to miss this musical madness.

Also, you can join other revelers at the Arctic Disco at the top of the mountain. It is literally one of the coolest parties on the globe with stars so close that you can almost touch them. You can dance off in the igloo to the burning beats of famous DJs, sip hot mulled wine and cocktails in the ice bar, or simply chill out in fur rugs near the bonfire.

Next highlight of the Snowbombing is the Waldfestplatz or Forest Party, is an amazing outdoor venue in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall pines and taking place on the old wooden stage on the edge of the hill. There you can enjoy the spirited atmosphere with DJs spinning tunes to make all the people unite in hot dancing. Also there you will find old traditional Austrian snacks turned into food stalls and bars where you can fuel yourself with some delicacies. Speaking of food, you can also go to the Podcast Pyramid, which is an excellent restaurant and superb party venue at 2225 m. It is constructed in the form of a pyramid with a staggering view over Penken ski area. The main specialty of this restaurant is that it serves delectable dishes made only from organic ingredients that are brought from the owners’ own farm down in the valley.  It will be not an exaggeration to say that Mayrhofen is a place where you can feel foodgasm.

Next, must-go for you is the Snowbombing Street Party, which is considered to be the largest fancy dress party in Europe. To blend in with Snowbombers in the anything-goes wild atmosphere you should don your brightest carnival costume and let loose. But before going to the festival, don’t forget to check the lineup again, to find out the theme of the dress party.

Snowbombing-Festival

Snowbombing-Festival

SNOWBOMBING IS NOT ONLY ABOUT PARTIES!

For those who want to relax after rowdy parties, there is no better place than one of the numerous pools, luxurious saunas and Spa, rooftop Jacuzzi offering breathtaking views of the majestic Alps.

Another way to find a piece and harmony is Alpine Yoga. This is a great opportunity to learn to feel your body,  to merge with nature and fill yourself with positive energy.

When you got tired of lying in Spa, you can take part in a host of wacky and extremely amusing games. The truly courageous Snowbombers are welcome to compete in Snowlympics. It is a series of games that require persistence, strength and being ready to fall all the time on your butt in the snow. You may participate in different games from the snowball fight to sumo wrestling. Snowlympics is a really fun, entertaining both for competitors and spectators.

Also during the Snowbombings, traditionally takes place a three-day snowboarding and ski competition known as the Ride & Seek, where pro riders compete, showing their best flips and tricks, to win the Snowbombing title and monetary prize. You have to see it, it is an astonishing competition that will catch your attention from the first second to the last.

Snowbombing-Festival

Although there are a lot of competitions to watch and take part, you can simply go with your friends to ski or ride a snowboard, enjoying show-powdered perfectly groomed pistes. And if you are not scared of heights and search for adrenaline, you can try Paragliding over fabulous views of the Austrian Alps.

In Mayrhofen, there is also an option of Snow Limo, which is an accessible way of exploring mountains for everyone. You don’t need to be a snowboarder or skier all you need to do is to sit back, relax, and rely on your guide.

Snowbombing-Festival

While enjoying the beauties of the Tyrolean resort, don’t miss the opportunity to meet your love at Chairlift Speed Dating. And being at the Snowbombing Festival, it is a must to attend the daily warm-up sessions of fitness guru Mr. Motivator.

Snowbombing-Festival

Now when you know what to expect from the festival, don’t procrastinate, the tickets sell like hotcakes. Book your ticket right now! Prices start from £299, but this ticket is not just your pass for the festival, this is a package which comprises accommodation and a festival ticket. Detailed information about how to get to the Mayrhofen is given on the official website of the Snowbombing Festival, check it to find the best, most suitable transportation mode for you. Think beforehand of what you would like to visit firsthand, to enjoy to the fullest the Snowbombing’s combination of copious parties, games, gourmet restaurants, flawless pistes, and infinite music, which attracts thousands of people each year to escape from daily routine to the fragrant pine forests of the magnificent Austrian Alps.

Valborgsmässoafton (Valborg) 2020

Valborg

“In the meadows our dreams will ring
And the winds will sing our songs.
Let us leap over the fires with the sparks
On Walpurgis Night!”

On the last day of April, when the sun goes down, the door to another world opens. This is a night when spirits walk between people when the air is filled with magic. People are dancing around the mountainous bonfires, which are the embodiment of cleansing power from bad luck; a source of energy, protecting people from evil forces, warding off malevolent spirits and witches. At the same time, this night symbolizes the gate through which the spring and warm days come. People call it Valborgsmässoafton (Walpurgisnacht, Witches’ Night) or simply Valborg.

HISTORY OF VALBORG

The name of the festival originates from the 8th-century missionary Saint Walburga (Saint Valborg), well-known for her fighting against sorcery and witchcraft, establishing the Catholic convent of Heidenheim in Germany and promoting Christianity in Europe and especially in Germany.  However, Saint Walburga has never been commemorated in Sweden. Catholic Mass on her day is probably the only connection of Walburga with Sweden.

In fact, Valborgsmässoafton has pagan roots. It all started in the 8th century when on the advent of the spring Germans let their cattle to go out to graze in woods and fields. But to protect their livestock, to frighten the wolves, they used to dance around the bonfire, singing and making noise.  Naturally, that those times such a feast was considered to be paganish, so the Christian priests wanted to stop it. Nevertheless, it wasn’t prohibited but removed to Saint Walpurgis’ day, which evolved even into greater celebration. In Sweden, the tradition of igniting majbasor (bonfire) emerged in the 19th century, due to the German immigrants that came to the Uppland County. That is the brief story of how Valborgsmässoafton in Sweden appeared. But if you ask any Swede, most likely, he will have no idea who Walburga is and what the origin of the Witches’ Night is. The Swedes celebrate the arrival of spring and the approach of summer. That is the main purpose why they gather annually on the night of the 30th of April to frolic around the fire. Valborgsmässoafton celebration is barely connected to religion.

WHERE TO CELEBRATE VALBORG

Speaking of the modern Valborgsmässoafton celebrations, it should be mentioned, that they are not family occasions, but public events and municipalities usually take charge of construction bonfires creating the elated atmosphere. People all over Sweden gather to sing, dance and listen to numerous choirs. The large celebrations take part in Uppsala and Lund, which are known to be the major university cities. For students, Valborg is associated with freedom, last lectures, and approaching of anticipated summer. Students as well as people all over Sweden, start celebrating since the very morning with delicious breakfast, including strawberries and champagne.  The special event in Upsala that is annually swarmed by thousands of people is students’ boat race. So, don’t miss a chance to have a look at students competing in their homemade elaborately decorated and painted rafts on the Fyris River. When the competition comes to the end, students usually gather in Ekonomikumparken and simply let loose.

Valborg

Valborg

In Lund, the hotspot of the celebration is the town’s main park Stadsparken, where students party not worse than in Uppsala. What is true about celebrations in both cities is that students will guarantee you the merry atmosphere, good mood and a crazy revelry, accompanied by non-stop flow of beer and champagne. In case you want to relish some cultural events you may listen to orchestras, speeches and student choirs singing about the springtime. Choral singing is an inseparable part of the Valborg celebration and favorite pastime for many people in Sweden. On the Eve of Witches’ Night, all the chores in every part of Sweden are busy, singing their tributes to the spring.

Despite the festive vibes of Upsala and Lund, the greatest historical Valborgsmässoafton celebration takes place in the Skansen Open Air Museum,  Stockholm.  Witches’ Night in Stockholm is perfect opportunity to learn about ancient traditions of the Swedes, enjoy the singing of uplifting folk songs by Stockholms Studentsångare (a student choir). But the main charm of celebration in Stockholm lies in its ambiance. At dusk, when the bonfire is lit, people burst into dance, celebrating the end of dark gloomy winter and welcoming the sunny days of spring and summer. Although the fire helps to warm up, we advise wearing some warm clothes, as the spring nights are still rather cold. Another way to ward off freezing cold is traditional nettle soup.  And of course, no festival is complete without crackling fireworks.

Valborg

Valborg

ADDITIONAL INFO ABOUT VALBORG

It looks like everything is said about Valborg, but no. On the 30th of the April, you might also notice a lot of flags, not without reason. It happened though, that the birthday of King Carl XVI Gustaf falls on the same day as Walpurgis Night. Zillions of Swedish flags is the way people congratulate and show respect to the King.

And one more thing, it is mistaken to think that when the bonfire dies, the festivities are finished too. People go to the pubs and restaurants or join the boozy parties of their friends. Those parties proceed the whole night and the whole next day because the 1st of May in Sweden is a “red day” on the calendar. It is an International Worker’s Day, which is declared a national holiday in Sweden, giving people one more excuse to party and enjoy the life.

Finally, you can celebrate the Witches’ Night in other countries, like Germany, Finland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. But if you want to understand what the Valborg means for the Swedes, you have to come and experience it firsthand, blending in with locals in jovial celebration of spring.

Glad Valborg! Happy Witches’ Night!

The Beltane Fire Festival 2020

Beltane Fire Festival

Fire along with water,  earth, and the air is considered to be one of the eternal parts of the world. It appears in various cultures, numerous legends, and myths. At the same time, you can find the fire as an inseparable part of many celebrations dedicated to the changing of the seasons, when the frosty days of winter are replaced by the fragrance of spring and eventually by the sunny days of summer. In India, people celebrate the equinox of spring on the Holi Festival. In Spain people celebrate Las Fallas, greeting Spring, burning everything old, saying ‘goodbye’ to the past year and ‘hello’ to the new life. Meanwhile in Scotland people carouse in a wild dancing around the huge dazzling bonfire, celebrating the anticipated change of the season, the death of winter and the birth of summer. This day is known as the Beltane Fire Festival.

THE HISTORY OF BELTANE FIRE FESTIVAL

The roots of the Beltane Fire Festival can be observed in Celtic Mythology. The name of the festival originates from the Solar God Bel, the god of death and life, the god of light and fertility. Those times the Sun God Bel was one of the most worshipped deities, who had the power to defeat dark forces and bring the light, the warm and sunny days of summer that all the people were looking forward to. To welcome the summer and pay homage to the Solar God Bel, people kindled bonfires, uniting in the singing, jumping across the fire and dancing to the pulsating drumbeats, absorbing the energy of fire, healing, cleansing and purifying themselves from evil and bad luck. However, around the bonfire, you could see not only people but the livestock (pasturing used to be one of the main activities for Celts). People believed that the fire had a power not only to protect people but the farm animals as well. So, this fire ritual was annual tradition before the beginning of pasturing and putting the cattle to the fields.

MAIN RITUALS & TRADITIONS

As far as you can see the bonfire is the main highlight and embodiment of boundless energy. But there are some other allures of the festival. First of all, no Beltane Fire Festival was possible without bannocks, traditional oatcakes. While bonfire served for defending human beings and livestock, bannocks were made to venerate fertility of the earth. It was believed that if you ate one such oatcake on the Beltane morning,  you were blessed to have livestock and crops wealth. Nowadays people also make bannocks, but besides the traditional bannocks, you can find many variations of this pie.

Another interesting Celtic tradition is handfasting. This is the act of tying hands that means the temporary marriage, not bound by the vows, or so-called permanent marriage, which depends on the seriousness of couple’s intentions and the size of the flame of their love. This tradition also leaped through the time, being quite popular among couples on the night of The Beltane Fire Festival.

CONTEMPORARY CELEBRATION

Although some main rituals remained, the celebration you can experience nowadays is not the same as it used to be. The modern version of Beltane Fire Festival was first held in 1988 by the creative musical band Test Dept, brilliant choreographer Lindsay John and the academics from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Their purpose was to promote the sense of oneness of the people with the environment by means of unique modern interpretation of the ancient festival while preserving some old Celtic traditions. With the time the Beltane Fire Festival developed and grew significantly. It attracts more and more people to welcome the summer in rowdy uncontrolled revelry around the large bonfire on the Calton Hill at night before the 1st of May.

 The Night of the Beltane Fire Festival

The festival itself is a spectacular procession that commences at the National Monument of Scotland and moves along the path to the hypnotizing rhythms of drummers. The heads of the parade are the Green Man and the May Queen, accompanied by a number of other mythological characters.The journey of Green Man and May Queen is constantly interfered by various groups who either help or hamper their progress toward the end of the procession.

When the dramatic performance symbolizing the beginning of summer comes to the end, the Green Man and May Queen welcome the summer by igniting the bonfire. This magnificent night ends up in the Bower where the couples are handfasted and all the performers and spectators dance, eat and drink, celebrating the change of season. People simply let loose. They free themselves from clothes and strict rules with moral duties imposed by society. On that night people merge with nature, turning into a whole one.

Beltane Fire Festival

Beltane Fire Festival

Beltane Fire Festival

  TIPS & ADVICE

  • Book your accommodation well in advance, as on the festival city becomes a hive full of tourist.
  • It is not a free event, however, the price is quite affordable: approximately £8.50 for one ticket, if you buy in advance; £10, if you buy on the day of the festival.
  • If you are under 18, you have to be accompanied by an adult. (We don’t recommend bringing kids, as the performances may include nude scenes.)
  • Wear warm clothes. The end of the spring doesn’t mean the warm weather.
  • The Beltane Fire Festival is the best time to visit Edinburgh, but if you have an opportunity – stay a few days more and explore the Old Town of Edinburgh. You should take a stroll through the Royal Mile, visit Edinburgh Castle and other places of interest. Edinburgh is a charming city.

If you want to experience frolic atmosphere of people blending in fiery, hot dance honoring the Sun, visit one of the most exquisite festivals in Scotland, based on the modern view on the rich Celtic traditions, yet keeping the true spirit of Scottish people. And remember that the Beltane Fire Festival is more than just a show. It is a chance to feel yourself a part of the boundless Universe, ruled by the Almighty Nature.

The King’s Day (Koningsdag) 2020

King's Day

 FOLLOWING RULES OR LETTING LOOSE?

Amsterdam is a popular touristic spot. Myriads of people from all over the world swarm the city every day for different reasons. Since Amsterdam is advertised as the city where everything is allowed, some people call it a paradise for drugs and sex. And, surely there is some truth in these words. However, if you live for some time in Amsterdam and communicate with locals, you will find out that in fact, the Dutch are very conservative and secluded, they care a lot about their social space and they are definitely not porn merchants and drug traffickers as  many people think due to numerous false stereotypes about Amsterdam, spread across the globe.

People in the Netherlands like to say ‘doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg’, which means  ‘just act normal, that’s crazy enough’. These words perfectly describe the way of life of an average Dutch. But everything is completely different when the day of “orange madness” comes and unites reserved Dutch in the crazy & orange atmosphere of King’s Day.

QUEEN’S DAY OR KING’S DAY?

Koningsdag or King’s Day is a National holiday, which takes place in the form of the huge vibrant street party on the King’s Willem-Alexander birthday. As a rule, King’s Day is celebrated on 27th of April, but when the King’s birthday falls on Sunday, all the celebrations are moved to Saturday.

Also, it is interesting, that this holiday is called King’s day only for a few years. For decades King’s Day used to be the Queen’s Day, due to the row of the powerful female royal monarchs. The holiday was held initially on the  31st of August, 1885 as Prinsessedag ( Princess’s Day), on the birthday of the heir to the throne,  Princess Wilhelmina. When in November 1890 she was enthroned, the holiday got the name Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). With the coronation of Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana,  the celebrations were moved to Juliana’s birthday, the 30th of April. The next was Queen Beatrix. Naturally, the holiday supposed to be switched to her birthday, but she decided not to change the date. Firstly, in honor of her mother, the previous Queen Juliana. Secondly, probably, because of not the best weather in the Netherlands on her birthday which falls on the 31st of January.

Nowadays as we already mentioned, the Dutch and thousands of tourists celebrate the birthday of the King Willem-Alexender, on the 27th of April with obviously better and warmer weather for the open-air festivities.

IF KING’S DAY, THEN IN AMSTERDAM!

Although you can find celebrations, and parties dedicated to the King’s day, in every corner of Netherlands, Amsterdam remains the location of the most splendid celebration with fascinating musical performances, dancing, and positive ‘orange’ vibes.

King’s Day celebration in Amsterdam kicks off on the eve of the holiday. People call it King’s Night. This is a time when the  Amsterdam is transformed in the city of the astonishing, mind-bending concerts and parties with the best world-known DJs. Celebrations proceed to the morning, and often don’t stop the next day, but grow to the next level. And it is a sin not to party on this day!

THINGS TO DO ON THE KING’S DAY

When the KIng’s day begins, we recommend you not to start the day at Amsterdam’s infamous “coffee shops”, if you don’t want to be stoned for the whole day, melting on the sofa from mind-numbing marijuana. You can relax in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam any other day, but the party vibes of King’s day you can enjoy only once a year.  The first highlight of the holiday we advise to visit is vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’). During the Koningsdag, people are allowed to trade for free, without any license.

From 7 am till 11 am, Amsterdam transforms into a large street market. There you can find everything, starting with old children’s toys, second-hand clothing and finishing with gadgets offered at low prices. If you want to relish the variety of goods and find something unique,  you should come early in the morning. But remember that this free market is more about having fun than buying something really valuable. Just follow the simple rule: don’t be shy to negotiate about price and simply have fun. Also, you can try to set up your own shop and sell something, perhaps, something you’ve always dreamt to get rid of but didn’t have a chance.

King's Day

Except for trading and partying to the DJs beats on King’s Day, there is also a host of other activities. Whether you came here with your boyfriend or girlfriend, family or friends, you will find something appealing to you. Visitors are offered to take a part in numerous, games, sport events. While parents can have their beer, kids may play some Dutch games, like koekhappen, in which they bite off an attached to the thread spiced cake, called ontbijtkoek. Another popular game is spijkerpoepen (in which participants tie a string around their waist with a nail dangling at one end, which they try to lower beyond the bottleneck without using their hands).

One more attraction of the King’s Day is its parades of colorfully decorated boats that fill Amsterdam canals. Prinsengracht is the main canal with the biggest concentration of boat parties. To join the floating party, you don’t need a special invitation. Very often boats just stop near shore to pick up any willing to party with them. However, joining this party, mind that only one regular drink per person is allowed on the boat and most of the boats don’t have a toilet. You should definitely join the floating party if you have an opportunity, but if not, there is a plenty of other non-stop parties in Amsterdam.

King's Day

Except for the huge free market, amusing Dutch games and crazy partying, you can take a break and go to some museums. Majority of museums are closed, as King’s Day is a national holiday. But a few hotspots, such as Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum stay open.  Of course, we don’t suggest you spend one of the biggest holidays in the Netherlands only in museums. When you enriched yourself culturally, you can always join the revelers and continue partying until the end of the day.

In addition, during the Koningsdag, you can be lucky to see the King and the Queen, not on the TV, but in the real life. Each year, on the King’s Day, royals go to a certain town in the country to meet the people and participate in the celebration, playing  Dutch games and enjoying the old traditions of the country. Despite the many accidents that happened during the several King’s Day and Queen’s day celebrations, Royal family doesn’t stop attending this annual street celebration, trying to show the connection and equality of royals with the Dutch people.

Now when you know about the main attractions of King’s Day, you may have a look through some useful tips, that might help you enjoy King’s Day to the fullest.

King's Day

King's Day

KING’S DAY TIPS

  • First of all, take care of your outfit. Orange is the color of the monarchy. To become a part of the holiday, you should wear from head to toe orange clothes, and also you can complete your look with some ostentatious accessories. While being clad like a clown, be confident, as at this event, the weirder and oranger you look, the better.
  • Speaking of your shoes, they are shouldn’t be necessarily orange, but comfortable. Taxis and public transport are usually restricted through the center of Amsterdam during the King’s Day. So, you will have to walk a lot.
  • Next tip for the freshman. If you want to blend in with locals, learn the words of Het Wilhelmus, the Dutch anthem and the symbol of patriotism.  During the Koningsdag you will hear many times crowds singing about the courageous William and his fight for the Dutch nation.
  • Before going to vrijmarkt, prepare lots of small change. Many vendors are not always able to change large bills.
  • Once again, although Amsterdam is known to be the city of freedom, there are some strict regulations, regarding alcohol during the King’s day. As well as on the boat, in any public place, you are allowed to have only one alcoholic drink at a time. If you carry more than one bottle of alcohol, it might be confiscated.
  • Be careful. The crowded celebration is the best place for pick-pocketers, so watch your wallet. Unfortunately, not everyone comes to Amsterdam with good intentions.
  • Finally, don’t forget to book accommodation way in advance. Amsterdam is a very crowded city, on Koningsdag the population of the city is double-increased, and we don’t exaggerate. Both the most luxurious hotels and the cheapest hostels are booked a long time before the celebration. Book as early as possible, or just right now!

Welkom in Amsterdam!

Battle of The Oranges 2020 (Battaglia delle Arance)

Orange Battle

Ciao! Welcome to the romantic country of  Italy with its wealth of delightful food, superb wine, and grandeur of architecture from which you simply can’t take your eyes off. There are at least one hundred reasons, why one should visit Italy. One of these reasons is its outstanding festivals. You’ve probably heard about Carnevale di Venezia, but have you ever heard about the Carnival of  Ivrea, famous for the Battle of the Oranges? You should definitely add it to your bucket list. The 2020 Battle of the Oranges edition will be held from February the 22nd to 25th, traditionally taking place on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

ORANGE WAR OR THE WAY TO GET LADY’S ATTENTION

The Battle of the Oranges is a spectacular food war that attracts travelers from all over the world. The origin of this festival is still unclear. According to the popular legend, back to the Medieval times, Ivrea’s lord tried to rape the miller’s daughter, Violetta, on the eve of her wedding, supposedly exercising his droit du seigneur (right of the lord). The tyrant’s plan failed when the young rebellious woman instead beheaded him and townspeople attacked and burned the palace. Nowadays, every year, a young girl is chosen to play the part of Violetta, the defiant young lady. The battles are fought between nine teams of orange-throwers on foot( symbolizing rebellious people) and throwers on horse-drawn carts wearing protective clothing (symbolizing local guards of the tyrant).

However, there is another explanation of throwing-oranges festival. Some people say that the origin of this tradition is in the mid 19th century. Local girls, standing on balconies, started to throw some oranges at the parade carriages, together with confetti and flowers, in order to draw the attention of boys in the carriages. Boys started throwing some objects back at girls, and that is the other theory of how this little battle began.

RED CAP OR ORANGE SQUAD?

Some people don’t relish the idea of getting struck by a flying orange. But if you are crazy enough, really want to soak in the culture and traditions of the city and have a desire to take a part in the orange-throwing battle, you can volunteer to join one of the nine teams on foot. If you don’t want to be the target of orange throwers and at the same time you want to show your full participation,  wear the Berretto Frigio (a red cap) and you’ll be seen as a spectator and not a target. Although a red cap can’t guarantee you won’t get hit by orange, so dress accordingly. Wear non-slip shoes and clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.

Orange Battle

MUST-SEE AND MUST-TRY  IN IVREA

Besides throwing oranges and watching the food battle, there is myriad of other things to do and see in Ivrea. Ivrea is a charming, picturesque, medieval little town. Start your sightseeing from Piazza Castello and Castle of Ivrea, then go to Bishop’s Palace and Ivrea Cathedral, which are superb examples of Medieval architecture. Check out one of Ivrea’s several museums, for instance, Civic Museum of Ivrea. It is definitely worth spending time on it. Besides, if you are born with a sweet tooth, you should definitely visit creative chocolate shop Nella Chocolate. You can also take a walk down the Via Arduino and Palestro, which are considered to be the main shopping streets.

Orange Battle
Castle of Ivrea

The very important part of getting acquainted with the city is tasting its local cuisine. In the morning, during Carnevale di Ivrea, don’t miss the free distribution of beans. Cured pork and beans washed down with red wine is a foodgasm. Speaking of local wine, you should try spiced, hot-served wine, known as vin brulé. Its fragrance and exquisite taste make it a must-try for every traveler. And, probably, the best way to finish a meal is a piece of Torta 900. This is not just a cake, it is a delectably sweet chocolate cake, that simply melts in your mouth and is an example of a spectacular Italian cuisine.

Orange Battle
Torta 900

Although the Battle of the Oranges is a little messy and even violent, it is not simply the throwing of oranges. For locals, it is an important part of their culture and first of all, it’s the symbol of their liberty and freedom of expression. The Battle of the Oranges makes this carnival one of the leading carnivals in Italy and all over the world. No elaborate preparations are required. Just book accommodation and air ticket in advance, bring your Berretto Frigio, comfortable clothing, plus yourself and your friends. Find your freedom, unleash yourself from rigid rules and gloomy daily routine. Feel the vivacious atmosphere of the Carnival de Ivrea and its crazy, yet fantastic Battle of the Oranges.

 

…if you lack vitamin C, BENVENUTI AL BATTAGLIA DELLE ARANCE!

Venice Carnival 2020

 “Parade in crinoline and lovers in disguise:
Mysterious, opulent, lascivious Carnival!”
-Mihaela Pirjol

Venice Carnival, what was your first thought, first association? Mirrors of water, old roads that lead you to get lost in narrow streets, the grandeur of mysterious architecture,  people that hide their personalities behind masks,  music, and dancing soaked in history, that reminds us about that epoch “with curls, silk, satin, pearls, and lace”. Venice Carnival is a period of fairy-tales, dreams, hidden desires, love and freedom. Let’s dive in the next journey of something obscure, mysterious and exciting!

The Carnevale di Venezia is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. It is a magnetic peculiarity and symbol of the “floating” city. This Carnival is a riveting mix of magnificent masquerades, street fairs, charming balls with a beautiful background of Venice. The Venice Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to boost interest in Venice and its rich customs and traditions. However, the original Carnevale di Venezia traces its roots back to the 12th century, if not earlier.  Many of the traditions and extravagant, bizarre, fantastic highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.

Venice Carnival, which in 2020 will be held from February 8 to February 25 traditionally takes place in the days leading up to Lent. This magical event fills the streets with smiles and laughter, where you can see people wearing sumptuous costumes and masks. If you want to be fully immersed in the charming atmosphere of the festival, wear a costume or at least a Venetian mask. After all, the Venetian mask is the remarkable feature that makes Venice Carnival unique and it can be also a nice souvenir to bring home. If you want to be 100% involved in the celebration, then take a part in the costume contest, showing your outfit on stage at the Gran Teatro of Piazza San Marco.

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival

Coming to Venice Carnival is not only about drinking and making fool of yourself wearing odd, fantastic, fairy-like costumes.  For instance, you can discover hidden Venice on a Carnival-exclusive walking tour (be sure to book online in advance as these tours and events sell out quickly).

One more thing, you shouldn’t miss the Flight of the Angel or Volo dell’Angelo in Italian. This performance is free and also one of the most crowded ones during the entire program of the Carnival, so if you want to see it, arrive in Saint Mark’s Square ( Piazza San Marco) earlier, not later than 11 am. Also, every day at St. Mark’s Square you can contemplate the largest number of masqueraders between 10 am and 4 pm when the costume parades are going on.

Venice Carnival
Volo dell’Angelo

While enjoying the pomp and pageantry of the constant procession of parades, don’t forget to taste something specifically from the local cuisine, for example, the sweet treat called frittelle. Experience the variety of Italian wine. It can taste like a symphony, a flawless performance or a euphoric salsa party. Relish full-flavored divine pasta. There is nothing better, than delectable pasta accompanied by heavenly wine, like Barolo or any other, depending on your unique taste. The marvelous culmination of your Carnival experience will be the fireworks show at St. Mark’s Square, which is said to be one of the most unforgettable moments of this great celebration.

Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival Fireworks

Dreaming about Venice, mind that every good trip requires a  great preparation. The Carnevale di Venezia is one of the most visited events in the world and hotels might get fully booked months in advance. Avoid paying extra and frittering away your money, get your booking as soon as possible. The most important, don’t forget to bring your costume and mask!

BENVENUTI AL CARNAVALE ! WELCOME TO CARNIVAL !

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