Celebrating the end of Winter the Russian way in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Winter in Russia and its neighbouring countries is a cold, long, drawn-out affair. Temperatures typically struggle at around the minus 10 to 20 mark for a good three to four months. No amount of big, fluffy siberian hats can help keep the chill at bay. So naturally, once March arrives, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians are keen to celebrate the arrival of the sun. They do this in the form of a Maslenitsa, an annual folk and religious festival where dreadful music is played and danced to and pancakes and dumplings are consumed.
This weekend, London’s Trafalgar Square played host to its own version of the Maslenitsa and I was one of the thousands that turned up.
At the centre of the celebrations was the effigy of Kostroma, a slavic fertility goddess. Revering her and dancing around her straw-filled being is said to improve soil fertility in the spring. She was at the centre of the first performance on the big stage.
Boss-eyed Bear was also present, though his relevance to the Maslenitsa was unknown. The crowds loved him though, especially when he strutted his stuff to the sounds of “popular folk group” Balagan Limited (our favourite Balagan Limited track is on YouTube).
There were plenty of ways to part with your cash. One stall was flogging Russian satellite tv while almost all the others sold Russian souvenirs and tat. The dolls were proving to be particularly popular.
Of course, no festival is complete without traditional food to try. And no blog post on Here To Geneva is complete without photos of said traditional food. So, here’s what I had;
To start, I had a savoury blini, a crispy deep-fried pancake filled with undisclosed meat. It was tasty, though rather greasy. Those in the UK familiar with Findus crispy pancakes will find them instantly recognisable.
Following that, a steaming cup of Borsch. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I’ve had Borsch in the past and it was purple and beetrooty. This though was red and oniony. I’ve since read that there are several varieties of Borsch where the amount of beetroot varies. This variety was heavy on the tomato and onion. It was like watery pasta sauce.
To finish, Pelmeni. These with like little meat-filled tortellini, though the dough was deep-fried and crispy. On top, a squirt of sour sauce that added little to the experience.
In all, it was nice to experience Russian culture for the first time, though whether it’s encouraged me to visit Russia in the future remains to be seen. If I’m promised Boss-eyed bear will show me round, you can book me a room right now.