Your Guide To ‘The Snow And Ice Festival’ in Harbin, China

China’s northeastern city of Harbin is the home to one of the most impressive snow and ice sculpture festivals in the World. This frigid and frosty city drew more than one million visitors last year who all came to witness the exhibitions of some incredible ice sculptors who create some of the most stunning exhibitions of snow and ice that you are ever likely to see. The size, intricate nature and creativity that goes into each of the sculpture simply needs to be seen to be believed and here we give you a run down of what you can expect on a trip to Harbin’s Snow and Ice Festival.

When?

Officially speaking, the festival begins on the 5th of January and lasts for a month, with that being said, it is worth noting that weather permitting, the festival begins early and finishes later than the advised dates.

Where?

Within the city of Harbin, you will find displays and sculptures throughout the city but there are two main exhibition areas where you will be able to find the main events. The first exhibition location is Sun Island, this exhibition is on the other side of the Songhua River from the city and is where you will find some enormous and gargantuan sculptures.

The other exhibition location is  Ice and Snow World which is a nighttime space where you can be struck in awe by illuminated and full sized buildings which have been built entirely from snow and ice.

What Can You Expect?

Other than stunning sculptures of buildings, famous landmarks and cartoon characters, you will see a whole city which is dominated by the festival, regular lantern processions, ice skating activities, ice shows, skiing and even winter swimming are all features of this festival.

As you might imagine, you can also expect very cold temperatures as this area of China receives its temperatures from Siberia, lows of -30 degrees are the norm around this time of year.

What’s it About?

The festival does not have any deep religious or culture connotations, it is more of a why not festival and it has been around since 1963. The sculptors used to be only Chinese but in recent years the festival has international status and as such it attracts master sculptors from all over the World.

How Do They Make The Sculptures?

The ice is dragged from the frozen Songhua River by huge teams with very big saws, the sculptors then use a huge range of tools to sculpt the blocks of ice into incredibly fine pieces of art in the days running up to the festival. The sculptors also utilize deionized water which is frozen and produces crystal clear glass-like ice which adds an incredible element to their creations. To add color to proceedings, artists will add a serious of multicolored lights behind their creations to give the incredible detail to their work.

This festival will leave you completely awe-struck and possible with a  little frostbite but you will never see anything else like it on the planet.

5 creative ways to take advantage of your vacation photos

The digital era brought, among other things, a huge increase in the sheer amount of pictures everyone takes during the holidays. Years ago, you were limited to a couple of rolls of film, or had to buy your own postcards from wherever you went. Now, a standard DSLR can help you take a few thousands of photos relying on one memory card. Ever more, most smartphones take great pictures, and it’s not rare to come back with 500 snapshots after a few days on holiday. The real question is not how many pictures you take. It’s what you do with them afterwards.

Image source: besttravelphotos.tumblr.com

We’ve all found ourselves in the situation that we have thousands and thousands of pictures on our computers or phones, but never really take advantage of them. We don’t use them to decorate our home, to improve our level of comfort or to remind us of great trips. For those of you who have this problem, we’ve come up with a list of 5 great ideas you can try to take advantage of the pictures you have from your travels.

Here is the list:

  1. Print them in large scale

Don’t limit yourself to printing small versions, 10x15cm, of your favourite photos. If the resolution of this picture is good, try getting large versions of them printed, either on photographic paper or on canvas. These can then be used to decorate your home with unique pictures, rather than store-bought standard art. An example of this canvas printing from the Canvas Factory is below:

Image Source: Thecanvasfactory.com.au

  1. Use them to create and decorate objects around the house

Print a large amount of photos and stick them on your closet door. You’ll remember the great times you had on your holidays every time you get dressed. You can also decorate other objects from your home, like book cases, wall clocks or doors to make the entire place look more unique and show more of your personality.

  1. Create your own postcards

If you enjoy sending out postcards to your family and friends, why not send them pictures you took yourself, rather than generic ones you’ve bought for 1$? Making a postcard out of a photo is an easy task for any photo store, and doesn’t cost much at all. This gesture will surely impress the recipients.

  1. Create fridge magnets

This is one of the easiest, yet overlooked ideas. Instead of buying fridge magnets, use your photos to make your own, inscribe them, and then put them up on your fridge. You’ll fill the entire space after a few trips and can always see all the cool places you’ve visited every time you enter the kitchen.

  1. Organize them in hard-copy albums

This really isn’t a very creative idea, but people often overlook it and you have to remember the old faithful ideas are exactly that for a reason. The feeling of photographic paper in your hands is just as great as it was 20 or 30 years ago, and printed pictures tend to have a longer lifespan that digital ones. Do you really want to lose all your pictures due to a hard drive malfunction or if your social media accounts get hacked? A photo album is an inexpensive way of keeping these memories alive for as long as you live.

Image credit: Pinterest Travel

We hope we helped you with some ideas regarding what you can do with your vacation photos. There are much more things that can be tried, things different from the standard uploads on your Facebook, Instagram or Picasa accounts. Set your creativity free, and if you implement any of the ideas above (or others), please don’t hesitate to share the result with us!

Your Guide To ‘The Purim Festival’ in Israel

The Purim festival is on of Israel’s most widely celebrated festival, this is a deeply important festival in the Jewish calendar and today we are going to take a look at why the festival holds such importance, and how it is celebrated.

The Significance of the Celebration

If possible, we will try to break the history of the celebration down in a nutshell. At its most basic level, this festival is to celebrate the survival of the Jewish people after a decree was issued by the King in the 4th Century BC to kill all of the Jews.

King Ahasuerus was the ruler of Persia during this time and when his wife, Queen Vashti disobeyed his orders, he had her executed. During a kind of beauty pageant to search for his next wife, he decided upon a Jewish girl named Esther who would become the new Queen, she never divulged her religious beliefs.

There was a man named Haman, an anti-Semite who rose to become the Prime Minster of the Empire and in one incident, the leader of the Jews, Mordechai, also the cousin of Esther, refused to bow to the Prime Minister because of his hatred for the Jews. Enraged and embarrassed, the Haman convinced the King to issue a decree that all Jews would be killed on the 13th day of the Adar – Interestingly this is where the name Purim or ‘lots’ comes from as the day was chosen by way of a lottery.

The Jews gathered behind Mordechai and Esther revealed her identity to both Haman and the King during a feast. The King reneged on the decree, had Haman killed and put Mordecai in his place as the Prime Minister. On the 14th day of the Adar, the Jews feasted like never before.

How it is Celebrated

To this day the Jews celebrate this festival on the 14th day of the Adar and there are 4 keys to how they celebrate

Hear the Megillah

Jews head to synagogues all over Israel to hear the Megillah ( The book of Esther ) which tells the story of the Purim. When the name Haman is mentioned, it is customary that the Jews stamp their feet to eradicate his name

Give to Those in Need

Jewish unity is a key theme here and during the celebrations for Purim it is customary to give to the needs. Jews must give food or money to at least 2 people during daylight hours and they must place at least 2 coins in a collection box.

Send Food for Friends

The importance of togetherness and friendship is marked by sending food gifts to friends. Men send food to men and women to women and the food packages must contain at least two food items.

Feast

What better way to celebrate survival than to feast, and that is exactly what happens during Purim. The table should be well decorated and the food be plentiful as the Jewish people celebrate with friends and family in a great feast.  Songs from the Torah are sung as they enjoy various meats and wines.

This sis the biggest festival in the Jewish calendar and if you are in Israel during this time then you can expect to see some grand celebrations.

Your Guide To ‘The Nowruz Festival’ in Iran

For over 3,000 years, the Iranian people have been celebrating a festival called Nowruz which is their New Year. The festival takes place each year between March 20th-23rd and signifies the first day of the Spring and the rebirth of nature. The Persian and Iranian New Year is one of the biggest celebrations of all the Persian festivals and is made up of various different customs as part of the overall celebrations. Let’s take a look at the past and the present of this incredible festival. The word Nowruz quite literally means new year and this is how the celebrations go down.

The Origins

For thousands and thousands of years, this time in the calendar has long been a celebration for many different religions and peoples, from the Zoroastars the Babylonians and to the Proto-Indo-Iranians as a celebration of the end of the winter. The vernal equinox signifies the beginning of the spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the rebirth of nature and the time when crops can once again be sewn. This is a celebration that is enjoyed by many different people’s and religions to this day but the largest by far is by the Iranian people by way of Nowruz.

Celebrations

There are many different parts of the overall celebrations and we are going to take a look into a few of the ways in which the people enjoy the festival.

Haft Sin

Some days before the New Year, a special cover called the cloth of seven dishes is placed on the Persian carpet or table in the household. The number 7 is sacred in Persian tradition and seven dishes are placed on the cloth to represent the seven angelic heralds of the life-rebirth. Sprouts, Samanu pudding, Apple (Seeb), Senjed (fruit from the locust tree,) Garlic (Seer,) Somaq berries and vinegar (Serkeh) are all laid out n the table. Other items can be placed on the table which represent hopes for the future, these range from coins for wealth, eggs for fertility, a mirror for reflection and sometimes an orange floating in a bowl of water to represent the Earth in space.

Chaharshanbe Souri

The actual beginnings of the celebration are on the eve of the final Wednesday of the year. Many bonfires are made and family members will jumping over the bonfire and chant “Give me your redness and take away my wintry sallow complexionˮ. When the fires go out, the ashes are collected and planted in the fields to represent the burial of the previous year.

Haji Firuz

The heralding of the New Year is this character who signifies a fire-keeper, a man from the village will dress up in a red get-up complete with black face and red hat. People will gather around Haji Firuz and chant, sing and play the tambourine to celebrate the New Year.

Sizdah Bedar

This occurs on the 13th day of the year and sees families take to the great outdoors to celebrate nature. They will take picnics and enjoy games in the fields. The sprouts (sabzeh) which have been kept on the tables or in the homes will be thrown into the fields to rid bad luck form the house and to make the nature greener.

And that is the celebrations of the Iranian New Year or Nowruz.

Your Guide To ‘La Tomatina’ in Buñol, Spain

If you want to a go to one of the World’s messiest festivals then why not visit Spain this year and go to a festival where you can spend the day throwing rotten tomatoes at people. Wait, what, Tomatoes? That’s right people, a festival exists in the World where you essentially spend your day, launching piles and and piles of tomatoes at each other in the street before being hosed down by the local fire service. Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you, La Tomatina, and here is your guide to this crazy Spanish festival.

The Origins of the Festival

The festival takes place in Buñol, Valencia and has done since around 1944, its origins are unclear but the general thought is that it began when the townspeople became frustrated at the city councillors and rioted by throwing tomatoes at them to display their discontent. The years that followed saw the beginnings of the festival until it was banned in the lat 50s as a result of having no religious significance. After a swell of public support, the festival was reinstated in 1970 where it became an official festival and had rules imposed. the key year for the festival was 1975 where the introduction of tomato throwing became a key part of the festival and that has continued up until the modern day.

The Festival

The amount of participants that join the festival each year has risen to around 40,000 as of 2016. The festival is held on the last Wednesday of August during the week-long festivities of Buñol and the tomatoes arrive in trucks from local growers.

The Fight

The tomato fight lasts for around one hour, the beginning of the fight is signified in a strange way but one that is much in line with the festival. At 9am there is a large, greasy pole with a ham tied to the end of it, people scramble to reach the ham and once someone has grabbed it, the fight begins. The rucks will tip around 130 tonnes of ripe tomatoes on to the waiting crowd and madness ensues. The hour-long fight culminates in the sound of a cannon where everyone is left covered in squelchy tomatoes and red from the juice. After the fight, everyone scrambles to find the nearest person with a hose to be cleaned down.

The Rules

Yes, there are rules to this madcap festival and they are as follows:

– You must squish the tomatoes before throwing them in order to avoid injuring people.

– You must not throw anything other than tomatoes during the fight.

– Participants must make way for trucks and lorries coming through.

– After the second cannon is sounded, no tomatoes are allowed to be thrown.

How to Get Involved

As mentioned before, the festival takes place on the last Wednesday or August and in the town of Buñol, Valencia. Participation for the event costs 10 Euros and if you want to be one of those on top of the truck then you will have to pay a whopping 750 Euros.

What better way to spend a Spanish summer day than launching tomatoes at strangers!

Weirdest And Most Wonderful Australia Festivals

For a nation who are considered pretty down-to-earth, straight shooting folk, you’d be surprised at juts what kind of weirdness goes on throughout Australia. I was intrigued to get involved with some of the most madcap festivals that the country has on offer so last year I headed down under, flew about, rented some cars from Budget and headed throughout as much of the land as I could to explore some of the crazy festivals that the country had in store and I wasn’t disappointed, here’s what I found.

Chinchilla

Chinchilla is the melon capital of Australia and in the late 80s there was a terrible drought which meant that production ground to a halt. Once the drought was over, the town organized a festival of all things melon-y and the results are awesome. Each year the town and tourists gather for a melon appreciation day which sees them compete in a range of activities that are based around, you’ve guessed it, melons. Here you will find melon skiing, pip spitting and eating contests as well as melon hats and memorabilia. Truly a festival like no other.

Darwin’s Beer Can Regatta

In what is a beautiful combination of sustainability and madness, each year Darwin runs its Beer Can regatta which sees inhabitants collecting all of the littered beer cans that are left on the beaches, and turns them into sea-worthy crafts which pit themselves against the other entrants. Winners of the regatta are not only judged on their ability to float but also their design which has led to some incredible, beer can masterpieces over the years.

Alice Springs Camel Race

Whilst horse racing does exist in Australia, the locals of Alice Springs have flipped the idea on its head and since around 1970 decided that camels are far more fun to race. The Uluru Camel Cup is a coveted trophy for which many practice all year to win, these feral beasts are highly populous in Australia and they can reach some truly incredible speeds.

Wife Carrying, Singleton

The highlight of the Singleton Agricultural Festival is the wife carrying competition, an idea first conceived in Finland but one which offers sufficient madness for the Aussies to jump on to. The wife carrying competition is more than just a race, entrants must not only hump their Sheilas to the finish line fastest but maneuver through a tricky obstacle course along the way. Once nothing more than an entertaining event, entrants these days take the competition far more seriously and the winner is highly respected.

Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival

Not just any seafood festival, the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln likes to add some real fun and games to they appreciation to all things marine life. At this festal you will find the high class side of things with oyster-sipping and fine dining and then at the other end of the spectrum you will find muscle-bound men hurling a frozen tuna fish to see who can throw it the furthest, true madness.

I would recommend that if you are visiting Australia this year then you check out which of these crazy festivals is on the calendar during your stay to appreciate a whole different side to the country.