The Lands That Sings

2014 is the year of the 126th Estonian Song and Dance Celebration (4-6 of July) and the 90th World Lithuanian Song Festival (2-6 July).

 

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These are two truly spectacular and unique events, where you can witness 18.000 singers on stage at the same time. The festival has a total of around 30.000 participants and up to 100.000 people in the audience. The Estonian, just like the Latvian, celebration takes place every fifth year, and the Lithuanian every fourth.

The Estonian Song celebration is the oldest one of the Baltic countries’. It first took place in Tartu in 1869 and featured 51 male choirs, with 845 singers and musicians performing in total. This was at the height of the Estonian National Movement (also known as the Estonian National Awakening), when Estonia, occupied by the Russian Empire, started acknowledging themselves as their own nation.

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The same movement was taking place in the neighboring Latvian and Lithuania and the reoccurring song celebrations played a big part in the shaping of their own national identity and the demand to become independent nations. It is even said that the baltic people sang themselves free from the soviet occupation during the Singing revolution.

The singing revolution started in 1988 at the Estonian Song Festival, when over 300.000 people gathered to sing patriotic songs and make political demands. In 1991 the countries broke free and restored their independence.

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Today the number of participants at the festivals can reach up to 30.000, with up to 100.000 spectators. This years Celebration in Tallinn will be record high, with 1046 choirs and a total of 32000 singers.

With that many choirs participating it is easy to think that any of the country’s choirs can sign up to participate in the celebration, but that is certainly not the case. In fact, only the country’s best choirs gets to perform during the festival. The competition is tough and the choirs usually rehearse their repertoire years ahead.

 

 

To find out more about the festivals and how to but tickets click below links:
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration
Lithuanian Song Celebration

 

 

Winter Warmers

We all know how chilly it can get during the winter in Eastern Europe; anyone who has visited these parts also knows how the locals like to tell tales and stories over strong liquor. We count down the top 5 winter warmers to try this year.


Riga Black Balzam – As thick as tar and 45%abv this drink is a cross between Jagermeister and cough medicine, which is handy as the local Latvians swear by this drink as a cure for the common cold…if you have enough we are sure it could cure most ailments.

 

 


Unicums – Brewed from over 40 herbs (apparently) this liquor from Hungary is sure to warm the cockles of your heart, even if the image of a drowning man on the label is a bit odd.

 

 

 


Zubrowka – This list would not be complete without a good old traditional Polish wódka and where better to start than the Bison Grass wódka. A single blade of Bison grass is placed in every bottle and although this has been copied many times over there is only one original Zubrowka.

 

 


Vana – This Estonian liquor is available in varying levels of potency, from 16%abv up to 50%abv. Of course when in Tallinn there is only option and that the 50%abv, not as old as others on the list it is perhaps a bit more palatable with a sweeter taste.

 

 


Rakija – A favourite amongst the Balkans this liquor made from distilled fruit, Serbian Rakija is renowned as the best around, due to the excellent fruit farming in this area…again the not so legal form of Rakija can pack a punch at 60%abv