Many countries in Eastern Europe celebrate Carnival this weekend, including Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, and other countries that follow the Western religious calendar for holy days. Masks are often a central feature of Carnival observances, with each country favoring a particular type of carnival mask.
Martenitsa for Baba Marta photo credit: iStockphoto/OmegaTransFer
Marguciai photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Lithuanian Verbos photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
If reading about the Sochi Olympics and current events in Russia has you interested in learning Russian language, you may be curious about how Russian differs from English and how it can benefit you. The Russian alphabet is known as Cyrillic and is a great place to begin learning Russian: if you travel to Russia, you'll be able to read street signs and maps even if you don't know what the words mean. Basic Russian phrases can easily be mastered. You may also be curious about Russian names, which follow a system somewhat different than in English. If you study hard, you might be able read Russian writers in their native tongue. However, reading Russian literature is enjoyable in translation, too, and will develop your cultural knowledge about this vast country.
Russian Language Blocks photo credit: iStockphoto/arinahabich
Photos of the plumbing situation in Sochi have been circulating since prior to the Olympics began. For example, one journalist was shocked by the idea that toilet paper should not be flushed. However, in parts of the world where plumbing is old and unreliable, restaurants and other establishments request that patrons not flush toilet paper due to the higher-than-average likelihood that pipes will get clogged and cause toilets to overflow. Toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe may come with such a warning (for example, it is almost ubiquitous in restaurants in Old Town Vilnius). How about two toilets side by side in the same stall? While uncommon, that phenomenon has also been seen outside of Sochi.
If the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics has you yearning to know more about Russian culture, your explorations into this fascinating topic will not leave you disappointed. Russia's culture--from its folk art (such as nesting dolls and lacquer boxes, to its architecture (St. Basil's Cathedral, anyone?), to its historic figures (Russian tsars, writers, scientists, artists, and other important figures) represent the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of icebergs, Russians love winter, too, but may love warming up with tea or vodka even better!
Russian Bowl with Mushrooms photo credit: iStockphoto/Serega
Prague is, undoubtedly, one of the world's most romantic cities, a quality that makes it an excellent option for celebrating February 14th. Valentine's Day in Prague is guaranteed to be truly special. Prague's cafes, boutique hotels, and romantic restaurants, many of which are near the city's must-see sights, mean that you'll feel you're walking in a fairy tale whether you're headed out to breakfast or making your way back after a long day of sightseeing.
Some athletes' families are sitting out Sochi for the 2014 Olympics. Sochi travel, they have decided, is too difficult and expensive, and security is a real concern, with the US having issued a travel advisory for the games. Sochi, at any rate, has been put on the map for travelers worldwide, and their impressions of the city during coverage of the games may determine its viability as a travel destination in the future.