Since the summer festival season is starting up where I live last week I asked a few travel bloggers what their favorite festivals were. If you missed the first two parts of this series just go here and here. In this third edition three travel bloggers share their favorite festivals. Here they are.
Iceland’s ‘Culture Night’ (Menningarnótt) makes Reykjavík erupt with fizzling activity, as inhabitants from all over the country gather in the capital to celebrate the nation’s history and traditions. Held every August, the festival features music, food, arts and craft from the early morning until a final firework display near midnight. This is a day to display pride in being Icelandic and all that this encompasses. It is a day when ancient myths and tales are shared, but also a day when the innovation and talent of younger generations is promoted.
Attendees were invited to participate in calligraphy classes and boat-making competitions whilst swathes of Icelanders in medieval dress paraded through town, their archaic attire contrasting nicely with the high-street fashion stores. Later on, free outdoor concerts played the synthesised sounds of modern music from native artists like Ásgeir Trausti and Retro Stefson. Hundreds of people of various ages embraced the rain to join the crowds.
What’s great about ‘Culture Night’ is the voluntary nature behind it, essential for the day’s successful functioning. There is a wonderful sense of community present as you wander all over town, being invited into a stranger’s garden for waffles and into another for a car boot sale, before dancing with strangers on the street. It is proof that you don’t need a lot of money to put on a spectacular show. It is also proof that being a rich, powerful country doesn’t correlate with being a strong, united nation. Forget the country’s economic misfortunes; the Icelanders who attend this festival are simply grateful for and proud of their heritage and values. Some festivals see people chant “peace and love” under the influence of a dodgy joint. Iceland’s ‘Culture Night’ is the kind of festival that doesn’t require psychedelic substances to make you change your perspective.
My favourite festival in Japan Okayama’s annual Momotaro Matsuri, also known as Uraja because it is, without question, the most fun and the most lively festival I’ve ever seen!
Throughout the first weekend of August about 3 minutes away from JR Okayama Station, hundreds of dancers parade down the street in their bold, eccentric, colorful, self-made costumes for Uraja Odori. Their dance routines are choreographed to the festival’s catchy theme song, and they couldn’t be happier dancing their hearts out to commemorate the defeat of the devil, Ura.
The scorching hot day will fly by as you’re watching the hundreds of dancers and munching on a variety of matsuri food, anything from meat sticks to soft ice cream or chocolate covered bananas with sprinkles.
If you’re not going to use an umbrella to protect yourself, sunblock is an absolute must. Make sure that you’re not sweating it all off and of course, stay in the shade as much as possible and drink enough fluids.
The last evening of the festival is my favourite part because that’s when everyone is welcome to join the dancers – you won’t regret jumping in! It will be your most fun and memorable experience of the entire festival! The dancers are delighted to teach you the festival’s easy dance, and you’ll have the time of your life dancing the evening away on the street. The songs will be repeated, so you’ll have plenty of time to get it down pat. You’ll have a blast and want the songs to be repeated all night.
If you spot me there this summer, come over and dance with me!
One of my favorite festivals is the Epidaurus Festival. It is part of the Athens Epidaurus festival and it is held every year during the summer months (from June to August). All the theatrical performances are held in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, situated within the archaeological site of Sanctuary of Asklepios. The theatre is the most famous theatre in Greece, very well preserved and with great acoustics. It has a capacity for 14.000 people. It was originally destined to entertain the patient of Asklepieio. What is so special about it is that to get to watch a performance on a historical monument of great importance that was built in the 4th century BC. My favorite performance so far was a play by William Shakespeare called Richard II with Kevin Spacey on the leading role. The ancient theatre of Epidaurus is a 2 hour drive south of Athens. You can always combine it with a visit to the nearby town of Nafplio and the archaeological site of Mycenae.
Thanks to Shannon, Becky, and Chrysoula for sharing their experience with these festivals.
Have you been to any of these festivals? What’s your favorite festival?