Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the Year 2018!

Holidays and Festivals in Germany

Many holidays celebrated in the United States are observed in
Germany, too, including Christmas, Easter, New Year's Day, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2 in the U.S., has its roots in the German holiday Candlemas, reports
DLTK-kids.com , but a hedgehog that comes out of hibernation to predict the length of winter instead of a groundhog.

Oktoberfest

Germany is perhaps best known for the festival that starts in late September and continues into the first few days of October. The holiday that began as a 19th-century wedding celebration for the prince of Bavaria and his bride remains popular in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria. The wedding occurred on October 17, 1810, but the anniversary soon turned into a joyous revelry, now called Oktoberfest -- not only an occasion for beer drinking, but also for carnival rides for participants of all ages.

May Day

In some parts of Germany, May 1 marks the arrival of spring. A "May Queen" is chosen and children dance around a maypole while holding individual ribbons attached to the pole. Music, dancing and courting is likewise associated with the holiday. A second type of celebration also occurs on the first of May, according to TimeandDate.com, but this May Day, also called Labor Day, is mostly limited to the working class and labor organizations and isn't as widely observed. Generally, it's a time for parades, rallies, speeches and on occasions, demonstrations.

Carnival

Carnival in Germany is essentially the same pre-Lenten festival that occurs in Italy, Spain and Latin America. Officially, the party begins in November, but in reality, it doesn't get going until the last few weeks before Ash Wednesday, a Christian holiday and day of recovery for those who drank to excess during Carnival. In Germany, the event is for the most part limited to the southern and western portions of the country, reports Carnaval.com, with the biggest parties in Bavaria and along the Rhine River west of Frankfurt.

St. Martin's Day

At no time during the year is the difference between Protestant and Catholic in Germany more noticeable than on Saint Martin's Day. Also known as Martinmas, the holiday occurs on November 11, reports Tracie Marquardt, BellaOnline German culture editor. For Catholics, the celebration revolves around the Feast of St. Martin, the 4th-century Bishop of Tours (France). At the same time, Protestants are celebrating the christening of Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran church who was born in 1483 and named after the French saint. November 11 at 11:11 a.m. also marks the beginning of Carnival, according to
Carnaval.com.

By Henri Bauholz

Friday, 29 December 2017

Georgian Wedding Traditions

Georgian wedding tradition begins with machankloba. This is the tradition of matchmaking. It involves family members and friends who assist in arranged meetings to match prospective couples. The next step is nishnoba which represents engagement and culminates in the wedding ceremony of kortsili.

Georgian weddings are known for an immense number of invited guests which can exceed two hundred per family. All invited guests are expected to attend and to decline is considered extremely offensive, sometimes warranting the end of a friendship and possibly instigating an ongoing family feud. Bridesmaids and groomsmen are expected to refrain from romantic association with each other. This too can result in enmity among everyone involved.

A marriage should be approved by families of both bride and groom. Historically, bride abduction was common place and condoned when done with the bride's consent. This tradition has waned in the twenty-first century but is still sometimes practiced in more rural areas.

According to one custom, the groom should climb on the roof and free a white bird as the bride enters their new home. The newlyweds are offered a glass of wine. The groom drinks first then drops the wedding ring into the glass and passes it to the bride who drinks as well. Afterwards, the groom removes the ring from the glass and presents it to the bride while vowing devotion.

Most often, the bride and groom will move into the house of the groom's family. The bride first inspects the house after stepping on a decorative plate while entering. They are then given wooden torches called chiragdani. During her walk through the house, the bride should touch a cauldron which is a symbol of household and go round a pot with oil or wheat three times.

Georgians have a tradition of wedding processions through the streets. The bride and groom are often seen flailing their arms from the roof of a packed limousine. Guests and family members follow in a stream of endless cars. Horns and screams of revelry are heard for kilometers in advance.

Georgian wedding supras are among the most entailed. Toasts to the newlyweds are initially proposed by the lead Tamada who assigns vice Tamadas to each table. Toasts should be directed toward the bride and groom, success in raising children, long life together, and their respective families.

Wedding supras have been known to continue well into the morning if not into the next afternoon. Georgians sometimes joke about a tradition of brawls among rival families. Eating and drinking are encouraged until all guests have exited the reception.

*culled from www.advantour.com

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Georgia Holidays and Festivals

Georgians are big on cultural and religious celebrations when towns come alive with festivities and activities. Georgia's rich traditions are manifested in festivals that commemorate national unity and other milestones in history (such as Victory Day), along with other secular Georgia (Caucasus) holidays that are lovingly observed by high-spirited locals.

New Year's Day

New Year's is the favorite holiday of almost all locals and is often an extension of the festivities of Christmas time. It is celebrated with lots of food, free-flowing drinks, Georgian dances, choir performances, and the lighting of the midnight sky with colorful, flashing fireworks.

International Women's Day and Mother's Day

Celebrated on March 8 and March 3 respectively, these holidays show the Georgian's high regard for women. City streets are buried in flowers which locals purchase to honor their mothers, wives and grandmothers. There are plenty of festivities, shows, concerts, charity events, and folk festivals.

Victory Day

March 9 marks Georgia's Victory Day, which celebrates the country's freedom from fascism. In Tbilisi, Victory Day takes place in Vake Park, where exciting programs are held from dancing to brass band playing, plus the laying of flowers at the foot of the park's eternal flame and memorial. It is also a day for remembering war veterans and heroes.

Love Day

In addition to St. Valentine's Day, Georgians celebrate Love Day on April 15. This April observance is marked by gift-giving, romantic evenings and all things red.

Tamaroba

Held on May 14 each year, Tamaroba is the celebration of the reign of one of the greatest Georgian monarchs, Queen Tamar, who lead the country into its golden age. This day of remembrance is honored throughout the country, but the main festivities are held in Akhaltsikhe and Tbilisi.

Independence Day

While Georgia's independence was really dated March 31, 1991, locals celebrate their freedom on May 26, which when the country became its own state. Traditionally, a military parade is followed by a huge gala concert and the festival of flowers in Vardobistve takes place. This event transforms the Bridge of the World into a big, colorful ark of flowers.

Ninooba

Ninooba means the Great Church Holiday, which is dedicated to the arrival of Saint Nino, who first converted Georgians to Christianity. The celebration is held on the first day of June, when believers go on a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of Saint Nino that passes through the Mtskheta-Bodbe route.

Mckhetoba-Svetickhovloba

This large spiritual feast is celebrated by Georgians every October 14. It is based on the miraculous acquisition of the country's greatest relic—Jesus Christ's tunic—which was the reason for the establishment of the Mtskheta Cathedral. A festive service and a mass christening are held at this time.

St George's Day

Annually on November 23, Georgians remember Saint George the Victorious, one of the most legendary characters in the history of Christianity. On this day, churches ring their bells and believers pray for peace, welfare and health. Locals prepare festive meals and families sing traditional songs.

Christmas Day

Christmas sees churches begin solemn liturgy as early as the night before Christmas Day (December 25) with services beginning in festive parades called alilo. Believers and priests walk down the street carrying icons, crosses and banners while singing about Christ's birth. On Christmas Eve (December 24), candles are lit in Georgian houses and festive dinners are served.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Wedding Traditions in France

If you are lucky enough to have been invited to a wedding in France, or are planning to get married here, then here are a few wedding traditions you might not have seen before.

Every region in France has its own set of wedding customs and modern couples may not include them in their day at all or may change them slightly, but with a country as diverse as France is it any wonder there's so much difference?

Le Vin d'Honneur

Immediately following the wedding ceremony there may be a vin d'honneur , a kind of mini-reception usually close to the location of the ceremony, such as a church garden, or sometimes held in the same place as the main reception. The vin d'honneur can last for a couple of hours while canapes and cocktails are served and the bride and groom meet their guests after the ceremony. This time allows the bride and groom to relax as well as meet those guests who are not invited to the wedding reception, such as work colleagues or neighbours. Champagne, wine and cocktails such as the 'Kir Royal' are often the drink of choice at the vin d'honneur .

Croquembouche

Instead of a tiered wedding cake at a French wedding you might see a
croquembouche – an outrageously delicious pyramid of caramel covered profiteroles!

Choux pastry puffs are filled with vanilla pastry cream, coated in a thin crust of crispy caramel and "glued" together with melted toffee or chocolate ganache. These towering pyramids are often covered with webs of spun sugar but can also be decorated with fresh flowers, chocolate and sugar roses, cake toppers, chocolate drizzles or fresh fruit.

The traditional way of cutting a
croquembouche is for the bride and groom to cut off the top with a sword while the bridesmaids hold up the corners of the table-cloth to catch the pieces!

Dragées

One sweet tradition is to have prettily wrapped candy-covered almond favours called dragées to hand out to guests as a wedding keepsake. Some couples prefer to change this tradition slightly to reflect their preferences and offer a whole range of sweet-treats including chocolate bonbons, mini macaroons, truffles, local specialities or even jelly beans instead of sugared almonds.

Regional traditions…

La Danse de la Brioche

If you're at a wedding in the Vendée you might be lucky enough to see a very special dance with a rather large brioche. The bride and groom are presented with a giant brioche, often weighing more than 20 pounds, on a platter which they and their guests must hold aloft as they dance to prove their strength!

Pot de Chambre

On their wedding day the newlyweds are transported in a cart drawn by a donkey, and they hold a chamber pot to announce the ceremony to the villagers (this ride was called 'the donkey dance'). The day after, very early in the morning, the villagers had to hunt for for the newlyweds to give them the chamber pot (this was called "The running after newlyweds"). The running was a success when the villagers had found the couple. As soon as they were found, they had to drink the contents of the chamber pot, the bride first, then the groom and finally, the villagers. The content of the chamber pot was intended to give vigour to the couple after the wedding night. This tradition started in the Aveyron and depending on the region and can contain bananas, alcohol, chocolate, spices, bread.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

France Holidays and Festivals

France holidays and events vary as much as the regions themselves, and cover the gamut of religious holidays, food and wine, music, traditional celebrations, performance arts, as well as iconic events such as the Paris Marathon, the Paris Air Show, Tour de France, and the Cannes Film Festival. Basing a vacation around several of these events is a great idea to see French culture in action.

Carnival de Nice

This fabulous 12-day carnival runs between February 18 and March 8, culminating at Mardi Gras on the last day. Costumed parades with decorated floats, masked balls, food and drinks, the Battle of the Flowers, street stalls and performers, and a massive fireworks display all signal the approach to Catholic Lent.

Cannes Film Festival

Famous world over, the Cannes Film Festival in May brings a galaxy of stars of the silver screen from across the globe to Cannes, France, plus thousands of fans who gear up to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrities. Glitzy, glamorous, and excessive with riotous parties on million-dollar yachts and in luxury hotel suites, the Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate see-and-be-seen event of the year.

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Held over three days at the end of June, the Bordeaux Wine Festival celebrates one of the world's great winemaking regions in France. Over a mile of pavilions showcasing the best grapes of the region are set up along the Garonne River's banks, with tastings mandatory and the Bordeaux International Music Festival's rock, jazz, and classical concerts setting the backdrop.

Paris Air Show

Everyone who's anyone in the space and aviation world arrives in Paris in June for the world-famous Paris Air Show. International big businesses and the general public alike attend to watch a spectacle of flights from the viewing stands provided.

Bastille Day

Commemorating the July day during the French Revolution when the people of Paris stormed the feared Bastille prison, this holiday is celebrated all over France, but especially in Paris. It's national grandeur is commemmorated with military parades, fireworks, street parties, live music, and dancing.

Nice Jazz Festival

Centered in the 2,000-year old Arenes de Cimiez, the Nice Jazz Festival takes place for eight nights every July, attracting over 45,000 spectators and 500 musicians to its 75 or so shows. First held in 1948, it's one of Europe's biggest celebrations of jazz.

Tour de France

Sports fans and vacationers in France during the first three weeks of July form part of the millions who line the stages of this famous cycling marathon. The race path cuts across many of France's major cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, and Marseilles. Spectators' emotions run high and, for once, the French reserve and sense of privacy is thrown out of the window!

Festival Aix-en-Provence

Held in music venues and theaters in Aix-en-Provence, this festival is a major event drawing visitors from across Europe. Composed of recitals and concerts of mostly French classical music, as well as opera productions, the festival attracts many well-known soloists and orchestral players to the charming city every July.

Paris Autumn Festival

The Festival d'Automne de Paris is a celebration of the contemporary arts in a French city famous for its centuries of art appreciation. Over 40 events involving innovative contemporary artists in theater, dance, film, and visual design take place from September to December.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Finnish Wedding

Engagement rings in Finland are traditionally golden. They are worn by both partners. When getting married only the bride gets a new ring. June, July and August is when weddings are usually held. Saturday is the most popular day for the wedding ("haeaet").
Most Finns are Lutheran Christians. 
Apart from religious ceremony people in Finland can marry in civil ceremony too. According to some recent surveys this ceremony is more popular. 

Whatever the ceremony one thing is a must. The couple must get a marriage certificate which is provided by the state.

In the past the bride walked around her neighbourhood holding a pillowcase. People traditionally put presents in the pillowcase. She was accompanied by an old man holding an umbrella. His mission was to protect her.

A bride has her maid of honour or "kaaso" like she is known in Finland. She is usually her best friend.
The couple once used a car with some "decorations" on its exhaust pipe. 

People usually tied a cord with the bride's old doll, groom shoes and perhaps some empty cans to the pipe. This tradition used to represent the ending of an old life and starting a new one.

Some wedding receptions include a tradition where the bride holds a male kid for few minutes. She does it as there is a belief according to which she will then get many children.

Everyone wants to dance with the bride. In the past guests payed some money to do it. Nowadays each person just wish her all the best.

After hours of dancing everyone joins in the final dance of the evening. It is the waltz. It has a bit unusual procedure. Each woman dances with the bride. At the same time men dance with the groom. After that men dance with the bride etc. The goal is that every person present manages to dance with the bride and groom.

Bride gives her wedding crown to one of single women present at the wedding reception. She is blindfolded. Single women dance around her. The single woman who gets the crown is going to get married next.

Like in some other countries the Finnish bride is often kidnapped by the groom's friends. The Finns call this tradition "morsiamenryoestoe". To get her back the groom has to accomplish some tasks.

What about the wedding cake? Finnish newlyweds often feed each other with the cake. This should show that they will always care for each other.
The bride and groom cut the cake together. In parts of Finland people believe that the person whose hand is placed above the hand of the other partner will be the dominate in their life.

A wedding reception in Finland often includes at least one game. For example, guests can play a quiz about details from the life of bride and groom.
There is a tradition according to which the couple makes a list of present they would like to get. Finns prefer various pans and pots.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Finland Holidays and Festivals

Although there are only a few notable Finland holidays and celebrations, they are worth experiencing, especially the ones close to the Christmas season. Celebrations typically have historical, religious and seasonal themes (such as the Midsummer Festival). While most Finnish holidays are intimate affairs with close family, there are many interesting events that tourists can take part in throughout the year.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day

Just like everywhere else in the world, Finns celebrate the start of the year with great merriment. As if the Northern Lights weren't beautiful enough, there are also fantastic firework displays across the country on New Year's Eve.

Easter

Easter dates may vary, but traditional celebrations during the lent season remain the same. A time for reflection and self-control, the long holiday also gives ample opportunity for skiing.

Walpurgis Night

Otherwise known as Vappu or May Day, this event coincides with the Spring Festival. Closely related to Beltane, a Celtic Festival, it resembles most May Day celebrations throughout Europe involving the crowning of statues around town and colorful carnivals. People party on the streets, have picnics and wear decorative clothing.

Midsummer Festival

Also called Juhannus, the Midsummer Festival is typically held on the Saturday that falls between June 20 and 26. It celebrates the summer solstice, with most city dwellers heading to their summer cottage in the Lakeland, where plenty of drinking and bonfires take place.

Independence Day

Independence Day in Finland is held annually on December 6, commemorating the country's liberation from Russia. During this time, the President hosts a VIP ball for diplomats, merited athletes and artists, televised for all to see.

Christmas

Christmas is the biggest holiday in Finland, especially in Lapland, where Santa's Village is located. Everything closes for three days (from December 24 through 26), when everyone feasts on Christmas treats, attends religious ceremonies and exchanges gifts. Many locals also hit the sauna before sunset.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Estonia - Food and Restaurants

Estonian cuisine is heavily influenced by Scandinavian and German cooking and many dishes resemble Russian fare. One example is hapukoor (sour milk salad dressing), which is known as smetana in Russia. If there was such a thing as a national dish, verivorst , a black pudding served with mulgikapsad (sauerkraut stew) would be the main candidate. The old city in Tallinn (especially around Raekoja plats) has some of the best restaurants bathed in the charm of medieval splendor. Nightlife is very exciting, typical of a thriving European capital.

Bars and Pubbing in Estonia

The lovely city of Parnu has its share of cafés and cocktail lounges, ideal for quieter and more laidback nights out. Ranna Café (Ranna Puiestee 1d South Parnu) is one of the most ambient places to sip drinks while enjoying great views of the beach. The 3-story building boasts terraces that are a great place to view the sunset. Kuursaal (Mere Puiestee 22, Parnu) is a beer hall that was transformed into a 20th century spa with a beautiful outdoor area with the occasional rock show. Tartu, the famed university town, is teeming with trendy bar complete with large dance floors and techno music.

Hansa Tall (Aleksandri 46 City South, Tartu) is a lively pub with a rather old-fashioned tavern ambience, making it excellent for warming up before hitting the louder spots nearby. Moku (Ruutli 18, Tartu) is a popular venue for students and foreigners alike, along with Atlantis (Narva maantee 2 City East, Tartu), on the riverside. Club Tallinn (Narva maantee 27 City East, Tartu) is one of the best nightclubs in Tartu, hosting rotating DJs. For a more laid-back evening, Vanemuine Theatre (Vanemuise tanav 6 City South, Tartu), is one of the most prominent venues in Estonia and hosts a range of classical and alternative performances.

The capital has no shortage of night spots either, especially in the heart of the old town. Beer House (Dunkri tanav 5, old town Tallinn), is known for its fresh drafts (it is also a microbrewery) and stimulating music. Drink Baar (Vaike Karja 8, Tallinn) is a modern English-style pub, offering a wide selection of booze, comedy and trvia nights, and the best fish and chips in town. Texas Honky Tonk and Cantina (Pikk 43, Tallinn) is ideal for those craving an American night out, capped off with a frozen margarita and wild tequila fight.

Dining and Cuisine in Estonia

You will never run out of places to dine in Estonia and every city has its own mix of restaurants, cafés and bistros offering traditional local cuisines and tasty fare from across the globe. Olde Hansa (Vana Turg 1, old town Tallin) is the place to overindulge in food, ambience and entertainment, the spot is best known for its bear meat. Kuldse Notsu Korts (Dunkri 8, Tallinn) is near the main square and serves excellent Estonian cuisine like blood sausage and pork knuckle paired with house beer. If you're craving Asian, try Chedi (Olevimagi 11, old town Tallinn), which has a distinct Singaporean ambiance. 
Those in search of quality Russian cooking may want to try Troika (Raekoja plats 15, Tallinn).

Following Tartu's café and bar tradition, there are plenty of places to enjoy a light meal in the city.
Café Wilde (Vallikraavi tanav 4, Tartu) has a pub upstairs and is one of the best spots for good coffee, sandwiches and homemade cakes in Estonia. La Dolce Vita (Kompanii 10, Tartu) pizzeria specializes in thin crust pies cooked in a traditional wood-burning oven. This charming joint is also an excellent place for classic pastas and salads, which can be enjoyed on the patio. University Café (Ulikooli tanav 20, Tartu) is excellent for a casual buffet dinner with an old world ambiance and elegant wooden floors. The beautiful patio is an excellent spot for quick meals and coffee dates. Restaurant Central (Karja tanav 21 old town, Haapsalu) in Haapsalu is a good place for hearty dining in a pleasant outdoor terrace setting with a lively bar downstairs.

Haapsalu Kuursaal (Promenaadi 1, Haapsalu) has a beautiful seaside location complete with a lovely rose garden. It is located inside an old spa hall and hosts live performances and concerts from time to time. Altja Korts (Altja, Lahemaa National Park) offers delectable home cooked fare set in a friendly wooden farmhouse on the main road to Altja.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Monday, 18 December 2017

Estonia - History and Culture

Estonia is a mix of indigenous heritage and a wide range of Nordic culture. Because of its geography and long-time Soviet rule, the Russian and Swedish influence is obvious in all phases of life. Various Baltic, Finnic, Germanic, and Slavic elements are also evident in the country's religion, arts, local music, festivals, and film.

History

Considered a European Capital of Culture, Tallin has not lost its traditional charm despite modernization. Estonia's main city has been an important trading hub since its early years, serving as a major channel for the passage of goods and services. The old town is a recognized World Heritage site, teeming with remnants from its early sea trade down to the Soviet rule.

Ancient historical accounts affirm that Vikings passed through this Baltic region in the 9th century, followed by the Swedes and the Danes who tried but failed to impose Christianity upon the people, who were predominantly members of the Livs tribe. It was not until the 13th century that the inhabitants of the Baltic territory yielded to Bishop Albert of Buxhoevden. Danish influence was strongest in the Middle Ages, but dwindled after the region was overtaken by King Gustavus of Sweden as the result of the Livonian War in the mid 1500's.

The Swedish Empire peaked during the 16th and 17th centuries, but it gradually lost power as Russians took over Estonia under the Treaty of Nystadt, signed in 1721. After the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the entire territory became part of the Soviet Socialist Republic in the mid 1940's.

Four decades later, Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev proposed a new prospect for the Baltic States, which led to their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Estonia only needed a short transition before it became the fully developed nation it is today.

Stunning remnants of the past can be found everywhere in the country, including the numerous heritage sites in the old town of Tallinn, the intriguing relics scattered around the oldest city of Tartu and the war-wrecked state of Narva. Elsewhere in the region are imposing castles and watchtowers, religious structures that range from large Orthodox churches to stunning monasteries, convents and magnificent domed cathedrals.

Culture

Estonian culture is evident in various aspects of everyday life, not only in the way the people are devoted to their faith, but in the way they express themselves through art and other traditions. Their festivities are artistic, as well as expressive of Christian and Protestant beliefs.

The country's literary tradition is known for folk poetry, epic tales and detective stories. Many visual artists also have their place in the country, evident in the numerous collections of masterpieces in various museums throughout Estonia. The Kadriorg Palace hosts one of the most prominent branches of the Art Museum of Estonia.

Theater and music are also important elements of Estonian culture, with numerous festivals dedicated to different theatrical genres. Other events revolve around religious rituals and secular traditions marked by merriment, colorful celebrations and drunken revelries. No Estonian celebration is complete without a feast of classic cuisine. Homemade delicacies may be gut-wrenching for outsiders, but locals delight in their jellied meat, marinated eel and blood sausage. 

Bizarre culinary traditions aside, Estonian cuisine is largely influenced by Russian, Swedish, German, Danish, Polish, and other European delicacies, all of which create a unique fusion of flavors you will only taste here.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Estonia Holidays and Festivals

Estonia holidays are jovial, celebrating art and culture. Long winter nights are made bearable by the highly anticipated Black Nights Film Festival, which brings the best movies from all over the world. Colorful events like Olesummer Beer Festival and Viljandi Folk Festival bring the old town to life.

Tudengijazz Festival

This jazz and blues festival kicks off many other musical events across Estonia, especially in Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi. It is held early in the year, between January and February.
Baroque Music Festival
A celebration of classical music, this is one of the most highly anticipated festivals in the region, attracting orchestras and musicians from across Europe. The event tours the most prominent venues in Tallinn between January 28 and February 6.

April Music Festivals

Throughout the month of April, a number of music festivals are held all over Estonia, starting with the International Choir Festival, which heralds the arrival of the spring season with a choral competition. 

Estonian Music Days is another month-long celebration that recognizes the most prominent symphony composers and chamber music. Harpsichord Days Festival happens mid-month, and is celebrated in various towns like Tartu, Parnu and Viljandi, while the Jazzkaar Festival fills Tallinn Town Hall and Sakala Center with soothing sounds.

Day of Tallinn

This annual Estonian holiday on May 15 commemorates the birth of one of the most beautiful and historic European capitals, Tallinn.
Old Town Days
Held throughout the month of June, this festive is marked by medieval celebrations, parties, street entertainment, markets, and live folk music. It celebrates the rich old town Heritage of Tallinn's downtown district.

Ollesummer

This July beer festival is one of the most popular in Estonia and is held alongside many of the town's musical events. Local groups perform, while beverages overflow on the Tallin Song Festival Grounds.

Parnu Opera Days

Held in mid-July, this event features stunning operatic performances at the Parnu Concert Hall, celebrating classic opera and its heritage.

Tallinn Pride

A week-long event in mid-August, Tallinn Pride is marked by festive parades through town.
August Dance Festival
The August Dance Festival commences late August. It celebrates the different types of genres enjoyed by Estonians and the Baltic region.

RainbowJazz Festival

The Rainbow Jazz Festival is a series of concerts and performances by young artists competing for the prestigious title. This event often falls in mid-October.

Tallinn FoodFest

The Tallinn FoodFest is held throughout November, attracting all kinds of restaurateurs, bakers and wholesalers who show off their goods to hungry foodies and visitors.
St. Martin's Day Fair
This Estonian fair is celebrated in mid-November. It features folk music, costumed dancing, feasts of local specialties, and handicrafts exhibits.

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Held from November to December, this festival eases long winter nights with good theater. The highlight is a competition recognizing the best of Estonia's filmmaking industry.

Christmas Jazz

Christmas in Estonia is celebrated through a series of jazz concerts held at theaters and churches in Tallinn in December.

Christmas Market

Held early in December, the Christmas Market features all kinds of traders selling their wares and goods around the Tallinn Town Hall Square to a backdrop of live entertainment.

Christmas Village

This seasonal December event features traditional Christmas caroling, folk dancing and fairs at the Estonian Open Air Museum.

Midwinter Night's Dream
Held from mid- to late December, this film festival celebrates sci-fi and other cinematic works with futuristic themes.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Sunday, 17 December 2017

UK HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

UK holidays and UK festivals can be a great way to experience the history and culture of the United Kingdom. UK holidays encompass national UK holidays and UK festivals, as well as UK festivals that are more specific to England, Scotland, or Wales . Holidays in the UK include religious holidays as well as commemorative observance days, and many travelers even organize their trips around holidays in the UK.

Guy Fawkes Day

Guy Fawkes Day is observed each year on November 5th. This is one of the more popular holidays in England, and memorializes a failed plot to blow up the Parliament building (with members of government inside) in 1605. Though the plot was foiled, the eve of this day is often referred to as Mischief Night, and of the holidays in England, it is a favorite among young people who generally make pranks on this night.

Battle of Britain Day

Observed on September 15th, this is a national holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the historic World War II air battle in 1940. This is one of the more popular holidays in England. A formal remembrance is observed at Buckingham Palace.

Bannockburn Day

On June 24th, 1314, Robert the Bruce drove the English out of Scotland and gained Scots back their independence (for a time). This is one of those Scotland holidays not celebrated in England.

Highland Games

Of all Scotland holidays, the Highland Games are a favorite among foreigners and locals. The Highland Games are also one of the more famous Scotland holidays. The last Saturday in September, travelers will find Scots competing in various traditional highland competitions that are well worth viewing.

Saint David"s Day

One of the holidays in the UK celebrated mainly by the Welsh, St. David is the patron saint of Wales and is credited with converting Wales to Christianity. The holiday is observed on March 1st.

Edinburgh International Festival

Each year between August and September, the three week long Edinburgh International Festival takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland. A center for culture, dance, theatre, music, and more, this is quickly becoming one of the most renowned arts festivals in the world.

Glasgow International Arts Fair

Each April, the city of Glasgow put its best foot forward and hosts an international art fair. Local artists and guests display some of the most interesting art in the world at this festival.

Christmas Day

Probably the most widely observed holiday in the UK, Christmas Day is observed on December 25th. The whole country shuts down on the day, and many Brits even take a full two weeks off from work to observe the season. London in particular is a special site at Christmas time.

Whether you plan to go to the UK during the summer, winter, or anytime, there are some fun holidays and festivals that you can celebrate right along with the locals. It"s a great way to get a taste of the culture of the United Kingdom.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Denmark - Food and Restaurants

Every city and town throughout Denmark is filled with a great range of delightful dining options. Meat is the main dish in restaurants, so vegetarians may have a tough time. As a matter of fact, the Danes eat more meat than any other nationality in Europe. Cities like Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Aalborg have a long list of restaurants, some of which have been awarded a coveted Michelin star for excellence. While eating out and nightlife isn't cheap, value for money is virtually guaranteed. 

Copenhagen is the center of Denmark's night scene, but pubs and clubs can be found in other major cities, too. Beer flows freely in the country, after all this is the home of Carlsberg.

Bars and Pubbing in Denmark

Copenhagen is the premier night spot in Denmark, and one of the most renowned in Europe. Most clubs in the city open Thursday to Saturday and don't close until around 5:00 a.m. Sankt Hans Torv is a popular square in Norrebro that is filled with drinking establishments. Districts like Vesterbro and Indre By also contain plenty of pubs, clubs, and lounges. Club Mambo (Vester Voldgade 85, Indre By, Copenhagen) boasts the best Latin dance scene in the city and K3 (Knabrostræde 3, Indre By, Copenhagen) is the premier dance spot in the central district of the capital. Rust (Guldbergsgade 8, Norrebro, Copenhagen) is the late night spot many clubbers head after the other bars close.

Aarhus is second to Copenhagen when it comes to number of bars in Denmark. The large student population creates an energetic atmosphere after the sun goes down. Clubs and pubs have different closing times, but most stay open until 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. Train (Toldbodgade 6, Aarhus) is commonly regarded as the main club in the city, but a pre-party at the Kupe annex next door shouldn't be missed either. Fancy a free beer? The Social Club (Klostergade 34) is a memorable place boasting a happy hour until midnight. 

Another fascinating spot is Castenskiold (Aboulevarden 32, Aarhus), which transforms from daytime café to pumping club at night.
Aalborg is an exciting place for pubbing. Even though clubs are not really part of the night scene, visitors can still have a fantastic night out on the town and the longest street of bars in Scandinavia is located here. The Wharf (Borgergade 16, Aalborg) is a favorite drinking establishment that livens up on the weekend and is known to have the best beer in the city. The London Pub (Boulevarden 7, Aalborg) is a renowned spot, and although it can get loud on weekends, it offers the perfect place to chat with locals and expats. Pubs usually close in the early hours of the morning.

Dining and Cuisine in Denmark

It is easy to find delectable cuisine in Copenhagen, but finding great dining experiences on a budget can be a challenge. To save on eating out, seek out the pizza, sausage, and kebab stands that dot the city. The inner city boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants, and Frederiksberg also contains a number of great dining choices.

Krogs Fiskerestaurant (Gammel Strand 38, Indre By, Copenhagen) is a fantastic seafood restaurant that has been operating since 1920. For a classical lunch in Denmark, head to Gammel Mont (Gammel Mont 41, Indre By, Copenhagen). In Frederiksberg, the Michelin-awarded Formel B (Vesterbrogade 182, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen) is a French-influenced establishment with an awesome array of dishes.

Like Copenhagen, the Danish city of Aarhus boasts a competitive ding scene complete with cheap kebab and pizza joints, mid-range restaurants, and a high-end cuisine. In the Stroget district, hungry visitors can fill their stomachs with food and beer at Valhalla (Alboulevarden 35, Aarhus). A one-hour buffet is offered, and patrons can pour their own beer. Danish barbecue is on the menu at Havnens Perle (Sverigesgade 1A, Aarhus) which has great views of Aarhus harbor along with tasty bbq. The aptly named
Restaurant Seafood (Marselisborg Havnevej 44, Aarhus) serves up just what its name indicates.

Aalborg boasts more than 300 restaurants, so visitors have a vast choice when needing nourishment in northern Denmark. San Giovanni (Vesterbro 46, Aalborg) is a spectacular yet small Italian restaurant with divine dishes. KN Pizza and Kebab 2 (Kastetvej 56, Aalborg) is found in the center of town, and despite being a small kebab and pizza place, it has expensive and fantastic portions.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Denmark - History and Culture

Denmark boasts a wealthy culture that has been primarily shaped by its geographical location. Throughout time, the country has been strongly influenced by European powers, and as a result, it has a history of conflict. It wasn't always the weak, little brother and at one time, Denmark boasted one of the strongest naval fleets in Europe, helping the country to take control of Norway and parts of Southern Sweden.

History

Denmark's long and fascinating history dates back to well before the Viking era. Early records show Denmark was one of the centers of Viking civilization with attacks, pillaging, and eventually conquests of other parts of Europe before the 10th century. The medieval period saw much transition in and during the Middle Ages, Copenhagen became the capital of the Kalmar, which was a union of the three northern kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Until the 16th century, Sweden was under the reign of the Danish king. Nevertheless, a war with Sweden (one of many between the two nations during the medieval period) broke out in 1506, and by 1513, Sweden was able to secede from Denmark. The Reformation played an integral role in Denmark's religious beliefs. A civil war in the 16th century led to the defeat of the Catholic-influenced Lubeck army commanded by John Rantzau-led Lutherans, and Denmark became a predominantly Lutheran state.

Much of Denmark's history between the 16th and 19th centuries was plagued by wars. Most of these were fought against Swedish armies for greater control of the thriving Baltic Sea. The Napoleonic Wars spread to the shores of Denmark in the 19th century and eventually led to the British Army defeating and confiscating the Danish Navy in 1805. Denmark also saw the demise of its monarchical powers in the 19th century. By the 1840's, self-government had been appointed, leading to a new constitution within this once strong monarchy-based nation.

Despite its feudal background, Denmark chose to remain neutral for both WWI and WWII. During WWII, Germany found Denmark's position on the Baltic a significant advantage for Nazi success and occupied the country between 1940 and 1945. Following the war, Denmark initially experienced a period of high economic growth as a result of its strong agricultural industries and trade increases. This ended in the late 1970's with high unemployment and rapidly growing inflation. Today, Denmark's industry is renowned for its 'green' initiatives and programs, making it a leader in the green movement.

Denmark's Viking history can be experienced at Lejre Experimental Centre (Slangealleen 2, Lejre 4320, Denmark) or Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum (Vindebader 12, Roskilde County, Denmark). The National Museum in Copenhagen (Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 Copenhagen) is a fantastic destination for uncovering Denmark's rich past.

Culture

Despite the Viking departure, Denmark features a landscape which is dotted with brilliant reminders of its world-renowned past. Ships, living museums, and monuments dating back to the Viking era are begging to be explored. However, modern Danes are not at all like their predecessors and locals tend to be quiet, yet hospitable, and enjoy an active social life with friends and family.

This is true in both the festive summer season and the winter months (where the hygge or 'culture of recluse comfort' sets in). Greetings are warm, and close friends almost always meet with a hug. One thing to remember is Danish people pride themselves on their punctuality, and expect the same courtesy in return.

The Danish language is generally lacking an equivalent to the word please, so many locals tend to leave it out of their sentences when speaking English. Tourists shouldn't think of this as rude, but more of an innocent omission. Danes are not impolite and may become quite shy when around strangers not speaking their language. It is not uncommon for locals to omit other forms of formalities, like sir and madam.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Denmark Holidays and Festivals

Denmark is an energetic European nation with a yearly calendar full of events. The Denmark holidays and festivals range from religious celebrations to royal commemorations and sporting spectacles. However, the music scene is held with great pride by locals, and boasts an unrivaled list of exciting music events throughout the year. The Rock Festival in Roskilde is the most anticipated celebration with the Copenhagen International Jazz Festival not far behind in popularity.

Rock Festival

The Rock Festival in Roskilde is the largest public event in the country. More than 80,000 people flock to the city, which is headlined by more than 170 local and international bands. It is usually held in July, with all proceeds going to charity so you won't feel bad about dropping too much dough. Roskilde is only 20 miles (35 kms) from the city of Copenhagen, so anyone in Denmark's capital can get here in less than 30 minutes.

Copenhagen Jazz Festival

One of Europe's most beautiful and inspiring times is the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, held every July. The Danish capital is picturesque enough, but with a series of concerts and performances ringing through the streets it's downright magical and it's no wonder so many fall in love with Denmark here.

Skanderborg Festival

Taking place just after the Roskilde Rock Festival in August, Skanderborg Festival is yet another exciting rock event in Denmark. The most alluring aspect (aside from the great bands) is the location. The concerts are staged alongside a lake, in the dense forests close to the city of Skanderborg.

Aarhus Festuge

Even though Roskilde is home to the largest concert event in Denmark, Aarhus is home to the most extensive annual festival. Lasting for about 10 days from the end of August to the beginning of September, visitors can enjoy a huge range of attractions and cultural shows, including musical performances, dance, films, cultural exhibitions, and delectable cuisine. The festivities are spread out over the entire city of Aarhus, including parks, community halls, churches, and other public buildings.

Night of Culture in Copenhagen

A truly magical experience for any epicurean or history buff, the Night of Culture in Denmark's capital is a splendid evening that is held in mid-October. More than 300 cultural sites around the city, some of which are only open on this night, open their doors after hours, including churches, museums, and galleries.

New Year's Eve Copenhagen

Even though new year celebrations are held around the city of Copenhagen, tourists should make their way to Amalienborg Square. Thousands of locals and visitors gather here for the fireworks displays and a fascinating party atmosphere in full swing. The Royal Guard Parade is held in front of the square, providing insight into the Danish monarchy.

Winter Jazz Event

Spice up a cold winter holiday in Denmark by participating in the Winter Jazz Event. Lasting 10 days between January and February, more than four dozen spots host the event which has become so popular it now spreads across several Nordic countries.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Friday, 15 December 2017

Czech Republic - Food and Restaurants

It may not be known for its spices, use of herbs, or creative cuisine, but the Czechs know their meats, especially game and poultry, with lots of hearty influences from neighboring Austria and Hungary. There are no shortage of restaurants throughout the country, with lots of pubs and taverns serving food, as well as drinks. Local favorites include svickova, a beer dish with a sour cream sauce, cranberries, and dumplings, and bramborák , a potato fritter flavored with garlic. The Czechs also love fresh water fish, especially carp, which is the traditional Christmas meal.

Bars and Pubbing in the Czech Republic

The heart of the Czech Republic's nightlife scene is most definitely Prague, with everything from late night ballet and opera, to some of Europe's busiest strip clubs and casinos. In between you'll find a barrage of trendy cafés, moody jazz clubs, rocking live music venues, atmospheric taverns, and popular dance spots, many of which are crammed into the central areas of Stare Mesto and Malá Strana. As you get closer to Wenceslas Square, the bars tend to get a little rowdier.

To the east of central Prague you'll find the suburb of Vinohrady, which is a nice alternative for those looking for something a little more local. This youthful area has really grown over the past decade and is now home to the capital's hippest and trendiest nightlife, with numerous laid-back lounges cocktail bars and alternative music venues, as well as some of the city's cool cafés and top clubs like Radost FX (Belehradska 120, 120 00, Prague 2), one of the country's super-clubs.

Outside of the Czech capital, Brno promise a fun night out with many similar options from classical music and opera held at the Janáeek Theatre , to more youthful and trendy bars, live jazz and rock pubs. This is also the site of several casinos, including the classy Casino Admiral (Paradise Casino Admiral a.s., Komorany 146, Rousinov, 683 01). Brno seems to constantly be hosting culture festivals and concerts with must-attend events happening almost nightly, so be sure to check out local listings.

Dining and Cuisine in the Czech Republic

Once thought to be a country of bland and simple dishes, the Czech Republic is now one of the culinary centers of Europe, with Prague once again at the thick of things, bragging a number of award-winning and five-star restaurants which have helped to develop a new generation of celebrity chefs and concept dining. Among Prague's most popular is the world class Terasa u Zlate Studne (U Zlaté studně 166/4, Prague), a high quality, romantic eatery with a good mix of modern and traditional Czech and French cuisine.

You don't have to spend a small fortune to enjoy regional specialties, and traditional Czech cuisine is often best experienced at a local tavern or hospoda . Here you'll discover lots of hearty meat dishes, including stews with bread dumplings and fried cheese. Many of Prague's pubs and sports bars are perfect for such dining, including the trendy Potrefená Husa (Dlážděná 1003/7, Prague) and the atmospheric Budvarka (Wuchterlova 336/22, Prague).

Outside Prague, Brno offers French fare in at its popular Borgo Agnese restaurant (Kopečná 43, Brno), well known for its five-star cuisine and popular seven-course tasting menu with dishes including grilled foie gras and tortellini filled with 30-month old Parmigiano Reggiano. Another popular eatery outside the capital is the Moravska Restaurace (Horni Namesti 23, Olomouc), admired for its high quality, low price dishes, and believe by many to be the best in the Olomouc region.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Czech Republic - History and Culture

Czech history can be split into three distinct periods: the arrival of the Slavs in the 6th century through Roman rule and the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Republic of Czechoslovakia, from 1918 to the end of WWI when it independently became a communist state; and its more recent history as the Czech Republic, from November 1989 and the Velvet Revolution, with Bohemia and Moravia split from Slovakia.

History

The Czech state can be traced back to the early Middle Ages, but it wasn't until the 13th century when a significant kingdom was established. It was during the 14th century, under the rule of Charles IV, fondly known as the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, that the Czech lands gained any considerable power, with the area later becoming part of Austria under the 

Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867.
After the fall of the empire and the tragic events of WWI, the Czechs and Slovaks won independence and in 1918, formed Czechoslovakia, which was declared a sovereign country. The area grew, developing great infrastructure and power, and becoming a significant political force through most of the 1920's and '30s, but that all changed in 1938 when Hitler led an invasion into Czechoslovakia that split the country into three states, Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia.

Czechoslovakia was reformed again in 1945, after Hitler's defeat and the end of WWII, but much of the eastern portion was handed over to the Soviet Union and became the Ukraine. The end of the war also resulted in a change in government with the Communist Party wining the 1946 elections, leading Czechoslovakia into a new era.
A lot of friction and tension built up throughout the 1950s and '60s, with regular protests against the repressive socialist regime, giving birth to the movement known as the Velvet Revolution. This uprising, led by students and intellectuals, gained great attention in 1989 when the peaceful protests on November 17th turned violent after aggressive policing. This event caused the communist regime to step down and hold free parliamentary elections in June 1990, resulting in a new democratic rule.

It was two years later toward the end of 1992 that Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries gained stability and free government, with the Czech Republic successfully joining NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. They even held the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2009.

Culture

On first impression, Czechs often come across as quiet and polite, moreover, reserved and modest. This is until the evening begins and they switch into social mode, hitting the pubs and taverns, and celebrating their love of music, dancing and beer. Czechs are typically straightforward and honest people, calm and laid-back, happy to talk about politics and religion, often with very liberal views.

Etiquette is very important in the Czech Republic; they are courteous and pay respect to those who are well-mannered, frowning on rude, strange and anti-social behavior.  Social greetings are important, and it's polite to say Dobrý den ("hello, good day") when meeting someone other than close friends or family.

The Czechs love their sports, with football (soccer) and hockey by far the most popular spectator sports in the country. Their professional players rank among the best in the world, and both sports have a popular domestic league, with the national teams usually doing well in both. The Czechs also enjoy lots of outdoor activities such as cycling, skiing, fishing, and hiking, making good use of their large national parks.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Czech Republic Holidays and Festivals

The Czech Republic is well known for its festivals, concerts and events, and its well worth trying to plan your trip around one of these fabulous displays of culture.

Beltine Festival of Celtic Culture

The Beltine Festival of Celtic Culture takes place in Bohemia every year from April 30 at 8:00 p.m. until May 1 at 12:00 p.m., running for 16 straight hours without interruption. It's a fun, action-packed festival with everything from Celtic music and craft workshops to dance shows, kids play areas and activities, and lots of food and drink. The events are spread around a number of castles and historic buildings in Cheb, West Bohemia.

Burning of the Witches (Paleni Carodejnic)

The Burning of the Witches is a nation-wide Czech festival which predates Christian times when locals would light large bonfires to ward off evil spirits. During the evening of April 30, witch effigies are burnt around the country to a backdrop of fireworks, food and drink, not unlike the Guy Fawkes celebrations in the UK.

Velikanoc

Vlikkanoc is a Czech Republic holiday which is part of the Easter Monday events and an age-old pagan ritual. As part of the national festival, adult males walk around their towns and villages carrying large, decorated willow leaves, which they use to playfully smack the legs of the women they love or have a secret crush on.

Prague Spring International Music Festival

The Prague Spring International Festival is all about music and performing arts, with a number of shows taking place around the city from mid-May until early June. The first event took place in 1946 and continues to grow in popularity every year.

Summer Shakespeare Festival

For literary lovers, this is often the highlight of the Czech events calendar, a two-month long celebration of arguably the finest playwright who ever lived. From June until September, Prague Castle is home to a series of performances which take place in the stunning Burgrave Palace courtyard.

United Islands of Prague Festival

Held around various venues in Prague, including some of the large river islands, the United Islands Festival takes place from June 16 to 25. A celebration of the people and the quirks of Prague's most interesting and mysterious cultures, the event is primarily a music festival, but is also an opportunity to explore the Czech Republic's outlying islands. Things are cranked up a notch during the evening when events move to nightclubs and music venues, with partying, singing and dancing well into the night.

Highland Games

Based on the traditional Scottish Highland Games, Sychrov hosts its own version of this Celtic event, which is the largest of its kind in continental Europe in late August. The festival has grown in popularity over the years, now one of the most well attended single-day events in the Czech Republic, as people from far and wide flock to Castle Sychrov to watch performers and trained athletes toss giant cabers and show off their strength and skills in a number of entertaining events with food, drink, dance, and music to enjoy.

Harvest Festival

The Harvest Festival is actually two events, one called Posviceni, a very spiritual celebration where praise is given to God for bringing a successful harvest. The second is Obzinky, which takes place directly after the harvest has ended. Farm-workers and land-owners are joined by Czech locals and travelers to drink, dance, sing, and enjoy a large banquet, with a wreath made out of crops adorning the heads of farmers. The feast involves lots of sauerkraut and a traditional sweet cake called kolache . Both are fun to experience, especially in the countryside.

Prague Autumn International Music Festival

This momentous music festival has become a key fixture on Prague's cultural calendar and is one of the most popular events in Europe. Local Czech and international musicians and performers travel to the capital to celebrate the best of classical music, including big name stars with crowds attending by the thousands.

Verdi Festival

The Verdi Festival is a month-long event celebrating stage arts such as ballet, opera, and theater. Held in September at the stylish Prague State Opera house, it's a must-see for lovers of the classics.
Velvet Revolution
Less a festival and more an important day of remembrance for the Czech nation, November 17 marks the anniversary of the violent police reaction to the peaceful student protests. Known as the Velvet Revolution that took place in Prague in 1989, it brought an end to the Communist government. The day is marked by mourning the deaths of those involved and celebrating the positive political change.

Devil and Saint Nicholas (Cert a Mikulas)

One of the more fun and playful national events in the Czech Republic, December 5 is a day when adults get to dress up and visit the children in their neighborhood to determine who has been naughty and who has been nice, leaving gifts along the way.

*culled from www.iexplore.com
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