Itâs on the border of the Moscow and Kaluga region, seemingly in the middle of nowhere â but even the red-bearded English hit maker Alex Claire found it. Itâs quiet there when itâs not loud. Itâs a vast mixture of forest and plane, where you can visit India, Indonesia, Yakutia, Ukraine, Nepal â all within minutes. It may at first seem to get hard to get to, but in fact itâs pretty easy. And itâs well worth it. Itâs Etnomir, the cultural and educational centre and ethnography museum in the open air.
A friend mentioned it to me, sharing videos of the Irish Sinead OâConnor and the Russian legendary rock band âAquariumâ performing as headliners of the âWild Mintâ music festival 2013. As I watched, I knew that I wasnât going to miss Wild Mint 2014 for the world. Along with a chance of spending three days in the hectic, musical, crowded, colourful, agitated and lively atmosphere of Etnomir.
140 hectares of land. 90 kilometres from Moscow. Started in 2006, Etnomir is growing, offering its visitors more exciting events, stylish hotels, souvenirs to take home, new friends to make, walks to take, and new impressions every year and all year around. Itâs an amazing journey you can join any day of the week, any season of the year. Events vary, representing different aspects of different cultures. Each week has a theme, and whatever weekend you decide to escape to Etnomir from the busy city life â you are sure to love it.
The first question, quite logically, would be â OK, the place sounds interesting, but where do you stay and what do you eat when youâre there? You have to make sure these things are in place before you hang out with music and culture lovers. If you like camping, you can stay in a tent or in your mobile home. And bring lots of snacks with you. But you might just as well choose to stay in one of Etnomirâs hotels. I donât know of any other place where a hotel is so much fun to choose. You go on Etnomirâs site, and browse. Where do you want to stay? India?
Indonesia? A Russian merchantâs palace, in a âterem,â a Ukrainian hut â you name it! The prices are quite affordable, and the peaceful aura of the place ads to all the modern conveniences of the small but cozy rooms of the hotels. And of course, one of the most important features of any country is its food. Etnomirâs cafes are changing too, but the tendency is obvious â the Russian, Ukrainian, European, Eastern, vegetarian â the list goes on. In short â I brought snacks, but when I got there, I knew I shouldnât have bothered. And, as any coffee-lover would, I rejoiced as I discovered a lovely coffee bar (that asked its visitors not to use computersâ¦ but they kindly let me, as I had to record my impressions there and then). Naturally thereâs free Internet there, too.
Of all the things Etnomir is, in the first place is, — itâs entertaining and enjoyable. As soon as you walk out of the free parking area, and head to the entrance, you are in for an adventure. The entrance is the beginning of Ulitsa Mira (World Street). Itâs a long building that would probably remind you of one of Moscowâs âpassageâ type of malls (like GUM). Only instead of leading designer brand shops you will find rooms styled as different countries and times; souvenir stands (nothing like what you see in Arbat and the Red Square), cafes and a small stage for shows and games.
And then, you walk out the door and find yourself on the other side â in Etnomir itself. You find your hotel, rest, and then go on a quest. What you will find depends in part on the type of event happening there. But you can always take a boat, try your hand at archery, ride in a cart and enjoy the view, or buy amazingly tasty freshly baked pies from a huge Russian oven (that claims to be the biggest in the world!)â¦
Wild Mint and Other Events
What can be more fun than a music festival with two stages, performers from 12 countries, and games, snacks, movies, gigs, workshops in between, before, after or alongside with the shows?
Nothing really. Not if you love music, like discovering new stuff, and enjoy live shows in the open air. All of these are a passion to me, a passion I follow without questioning. Among the countless bands and artists performing at Wild Mint 2014, I knew very few, so to me, the festival was full of surprises, making me want to tell the world that good music definitely didnât die in the late 1960s, like sceptics say, but it lives on. Good traditions take new forms all the time. The absolute headliner, the very last one to hit the stage, as you probably already guessed, was Alex Claire, who absolutely blew everyoneâs minds. But to the expat eager to learn more about the country he or she is experiencing (probably going as far as actually learning the Russian language), I suggest you check out the following bands and artists: Olya Bravina, âMy Sisterâs Bandâ, âTherr Maitzâ, âGerineldo Melkiadesâ, Nina Carlson, Maata, Iva Nova, the Keith Frank Band, the Toobes. You might see them play in one of Moscowâs, Saint Petersburgâs or even Minskâs clubs â and youâll have a great time. And in the summer 2015, you make a plan to attend the Wild Mint Festival!
And until that happens, if you think Etnomir sounds like a place youâd
like to visit, here are some events you might want to attend:
September 13 -14 â Spanish Fiesta
September 20-21 â 3rd annual international fair
September 27-28 â International Tourism Day
October 4-5 â European Culture Days
October 18-19 â the unofficial English holiday Apple Day,
observed since 1990, comes to Etnomir!
October 25-26 â the Indian holiday Divali, a celebration of light triumphing over darkness and good overcoming evil
November 1 will mark the beginning of a long weekend, with the celebration of Russia Day on the 4th. Thereâll be a lot going on, with a focus on Russian traditional dance, games and food
November 15-16 is a weekend to explore tea traditions and learn about tea ceremonies.
November 29-30 is a weekend of light. As winter sets in and it gets dark early, make your world brighter. You will learn all about lamps, candles and torches, see fireworks, and get to do lots of exciting things