Thursday, 8 March 2012

London Maslenitsa Festival

Sorry this post is a bit late, but I just wanted to write about my visit to the Maslenitsa Festival in Trafalgar Square, London, on the 26th Feb 2012. Maslenitsa is a celebration of the start of spring, a time to say goodbye to the long, cold winter period. It is an occasion of dancing, music and feasting and Russians will construct a brightly dressed effigy of Maslenitsa from straw and burn her. The ashes are then buried in the snow, symbolically fertilising the coming year’s crops.

Now that you know the meaning of Maslenitsa, I’d like to share with you my experience of the opening of the festival, a show put on in Trafalgar square. I had no idea that there were so many Russians in London!! Hundreds arrived buying traditional foods from the stalls, non-Russians buying souvenirs, such as hats and matryoshka dolls. There was a whole range of stalls with different goodies. However, it was the stage which was the main focal point of the day. The show was opened by children’s groups from Russian schools, all brightly dressed singing traditional Russian songs accompanied by traditional Russian dances. This was followed by a variety of successful Russian bands, such as Balagan Limited and In-Yan. 

From what I seen, I understand why Maslenitsa has started being celebrated internationally and why London is making the festival an annual celebration. I would advise anyone to attend next year; it’s free, so just go try it for yourself. Yes, the songs are in Russian so you may not understand them, but it’s a day of culture, fun and an amazing experience.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Windsor, England, UK

I have to admit, the main reason I chose to visit Windsor is to see Windsor Castle and I imagine I am not the only one. There were hundreds of people there, ready to view the delights inside, from Queen Mary’s doll houses, the Royal galleries and the paintings of many historical Kings and Queens. Also on the grounds, is St. George’s chapel, home of the tombs of many monarchs, including Henry VIII. All of this cost just £17 and,if you get your ticket stamped, you can come back and visit for free at any time for up to a year. However there was no changing of the guards, which left me a bit disappointed.

Windsor itself is just a small town: no thriving nightlife, a selection of shops but plenty of greenery. It is quite busy, as the castle brings in loads of tourists, yet still a quaint little town. You can avoid the busy streets by taking a sightseeing tour of Windsor & Eton (only £9 for students). The ticket you receive allows you to board the bus as many times as you like throughout the day, allowing you to get off at stops, take pictures, then get back on. The bus journey takes around 1 hour, leaving you with plenty of time between stops. It also gives you a more informed history of the two towns, including stories of the monarchs and traditions and alumni from Eton college.

The ‘Long Walk’, implemented by Charles II and inspired by streets in France, is also something you may want do if you don’t mind walking for an hour or two. This long path, which cuts across Windsor Great Park, eventually leads you to a statue of George III riding a horse on top of a hill. From here, you get a full view of the park with Windsor Castle in the distance.
I would recommend Windsor & Eton to any fan of British royalty. The tour of Windsor, the history you learn and the sights you see are amazing. There are gift shops throughout Windsor with loads of memorabilia for any collectors or enthusiasts out there.