RITES OF PASSAGE
RIGA, LATVIA, 21 DECEMBER
The pagan tradition of winter solstice is celebrated in many countries, but it’s in Riga, Latvia, that the darkest day of the year makes its biggest impression. Traditionally, festivities here have also celebrated the most important god in Latvian mythology: Dievs, the father of all gods.
Singing, dancing and ghoulish costumes are the order of the day, and there’s at least one huge bonfire in the city centre, which symbolises the burning of evil spirits and any bad luck from the past year. To learn more and witness the action, head to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (www.brivdabasmuzejs.lv) on 18 December (events also take place on the weekend), where there’ll be food, frolics and good old-fashioned log-dragging.
IMPRESS YOUR TRAVELLING COMPANIONS
250 Approximate number os bee species in the UK
200 Milion Estimated value in puonds sterling of honey bees to the UK economy
70,000 Approximate number of bees in a hive in summer
300 Area of Malta in km²
3,500 Approximate year BC that the Ġgantija temples were built on Gozo, Malta
45,227 Area of Estonia in km²
Counties Estonia is divided into 15
800 Temp in °C of Etna's molten rock
500,000 Years Mount Etna in Sicily has been active
100 Average height in meters to which Sicily's Stromboll volcano ejects lava into the air
THIS MONTH, WE ASKED: What’s your favourite movie?
“Notting Hill is such a brilliant British romantic comedy.”
JULES CLIFFE-JONES, WEBSITE EDITOR
“Top Gun is an action movie that’s got it all.”
DAVID PENNEY, OWNER OF WWW.ACTIVITY- ADVENTURES.COM
“On Golden Pond always moves me. Sometimes it’s good to cry!”
LORRAINE CRESSEY, TRANSLATOR
BRITS SET TO ENJOY ANOTHER DAY OFF WORK
Some say a hereditary monarchy is an outdated institution, but when it comes to getting a day off work it’s amazing how many Brits suddenly decide they rather like having a Queen aft er all. Following on from a day off for Wills and Kate’s wedding last April, comes a one-off bank holiday for summer 2012. The latest reason for the people of the UK to feel favourably towards her Maj is a 5 June holiday in honour of her Diamond Jubilee. Expect official celebrations around Buckingham Palace from 2 to 5 June, details of which are still under wraps. You can also expect that quite a few of Her Majesty’s subjects will celebrate in their own way, by hopping on a low-fare flight to make the most of the long weekend.
THIS MONTH’S SNACK ATTACK: TURRÓN
The Spanish nougat turrón is popular all year- round, but never more so than at Christmas, when a hefty, almost rock-hard slab of the sweet stuff is the almost obligatory festive dessert. The oldest known recipe for turrón, or something very like it, appears in a 16th-century recipe book, so its appeal is certainly enduring. Made primarily from egg whites, caramelised honey and nuts, the finished product can be hard to break apart to eat – but do persevere. Look out for Turrones El Artesano, a brand from Alicante.
I KNOW A LITTLE PLACE
THIS MONTH: AARHUS, DENMARK
WHERE AGAIN? The Danes’ second-largest city, a coastal port on the east of the country’s main “finger”.
INSIDER’S VERDICT: Aarhus has it all. A youthful, vibrant city centre with waterside pubs, and plenty to keep you busy on its doorstep. Not far away you’ll find amusement parks, countryside with wild deer, and the very pretty Marselisborg Palace.
TRY IT IF YOU LIKE: Contemporary art. You can easily spend a whole day or more at ARoS, a magnificent gallery that features a huge, rainbow- coloured glass walkway on its roof, entitled Your Rainbow Panorama. It was created by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, and offers panoramic views of the city.
Drop what you’re doing and answer this!
According to an old British superstition, what should you say upon waking on 1 January?
A Parrot, parrot
B Rabbit, rabbit
C Squirrel, squirrel