Europe 51 – The best of the rest

The best of the rest  (11)

Lajkonik Festival

Where? Krakow, Poland

When? June 1

How long? 1 day

This procession celebrates a famous defeat of the Mongols, who were repelled from the gates of the city back in the thirteenth century. Basically, everyone follows a “Mongol warrior” on a hobby horse around the streets for three hours until they get to the main square, where they wander off to get drunk in one of the city’s many cosy bars.

Landskronakarnevalen

Where? Landskrona, Sweden

When? July

How long? 4 days

Designed to let off summer steam and raise the town’s profile, Landskrona’s carnival inevitably suffers by comparison to other, more traditional European carnivals, and it obviously has no indigenous roots, but there’s usually a great selection of imported Caribbean calypso and local bands, samba processions, some kicking sound systems, and big street parties throughout the weekend. The best time to be there is on the Friday and Saturday nights, when the music pumps out non-stop before winding down to the so-called Family Day on Sunday.

Midsummer Celebrations

Where? Finland

When? June

How long? 2 days

There’s something about those long hours of summer daylight that set the normally sober Scandinavians partying, and nowhere is this more so in Finland than during the weekend before the midsummer solstice on June 21. Nominally in honour of St John, Juhannus Eve festivities start with a good clean-out of the home, which is then decorated with birch sprigs, before dragging all manner of scrap wood outside to build giant conical piles known as kokko. Later there are lively parties, at which everyone eats themselves insensible and the local brew Koskenkorva is enthusiastically downed, after which the kokko are set alight and great bouts of folksinging and dancing ensue around the flames. Saunas and rivers are on hand if you need to clear your head, after which you can befuddle it again with beer and more spirits.

Midsummer Celebrations

Where? Sweden

When? June

How long? 2 days

The weekend closest to midsummer solstice is a national holiday in Sweden, and there’s a tradition of making merry that dates back to Viking fertility festivities designed to ensure a fruitful harvest. This perhaps explains the slightly phallic-looking “maypole”, which is tightly garlanded with greenery and flowers and raised as the focus of the event. Morning dances around the pole give way to time-honoured family meals of potatoes and herring, and if this sounds a bit bland for the occasion, your spirits will be restored after washing it down with some good (Danish) beer. Traditional singing and dancing fills the rest of the day, with more hard-core partying well into the light summer night.

Midsummer Celebrations/ Jaanipaev

Where? Tallinn, Estonia

When? June 21-24

How long? 4 days

In Estonia, the midsummer festivities traditionally continue for a couple of days afterwards, running into Jaanipaev (St John’s Day) on June 24, resulting in a full four days of partying and celebrations. The fun rages nationwide but is particularly good in Tallinn, where as part of the so- called Grillfest there are plenty of bands playing and other events around the city, and huge quantities of chargrilled pork on offer at open-air barbecues. On Jaanipaev Eve it’s traditional to light a huge bonfire and then jump over the flames for good luck in the coming year – followed by some serious drinking, singing and dancing, to take you through the few short hours of darkness.

Mondial du Snowboard

Where? Les Deux Alpes, France

When? October

How long? 3 days

The French Alpine town of Les Deux Alpes kicks the snow season off a bit earlier than its near neighbours with the mammoth Mondial du Snowboard (®www. mondialdusnow.com), the wildest snowboarding gig in Europe. Now in its eleventh year, the event remains at the cutting edge of snowboarding and is used as a showcase for numerous board manufacturers to reveal their latest designs, as well as laying on a world-class competition. Around thirty thousand boarders party it up in the breathtaking alpine scenery while laying down tracks across the two-thousand-acre snow-covered glacier. Non-boarders can take in skateboarding and BMX biking expos as well as the infamous nocturnal music, partying and clubbing scene.

 

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