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Festival of doughnuts

Attendees of the Shrovetide festival in Mlynky enjoying šišky (doughnuts).
photo: TASR

THE FIRST annual Festival of Doughnuts, the traditional pastry of Shrovetide festivities in Slovakia, attracted over 500 people in the village of Mlynky in northern Hungary on February 17.

Mlynky (Pilisszentkereszt in Hungarian) lies in the Pilis Hills, and has over 2,000 citizens, 53 percent of whom identify as Slovak, making it the most Slovak village in Hungary. The village also has a German minority.

Marta Demjénová, who heads the local Slovak administration, told the TASR news wire the festival's culture programme included more than 200 artists. She also stressed the festival's regional character, saying Slovaks and Germans from neighbouring villages had attended as well. "The foremost aim was to have fun," she said, "but we also wanted to show that various nationalities can live together in peace, friendship and harmony. It was also a chance to demonstrate our traditions, Slovak as well as German."

One of the Shrovetide traditions in Mlynky is to fry the doughnuts. Local women have a number of recipes, including some with or without jam, or with lemon cream, which occurred during the competition. Twenty teams competed for the title of Best Doughnut.

Choir Alexandrov selling out Pasienky

The Alexandrov Choir is returning for a May Day concert in Bratislava.
photo: TASR

TICKETS for the famous Alexandrov men's choir from Russia are selling like hot cakes. Stageside seats for the concert, which takes place at Bratislava's Pasienky Sport Hall on May 1, have already completely sold out, and only 442 tickets were left in the other sections as of February 22.

The concert in Bratislava will be the legendary, 120-member Red Army Choir's second performance in Slovakia after more than 20 years. The first will be at the Steel Arena in Košice on April 30.

The choir has been touring the globe performing distinctive Russian songs since 1929. It started with 12 members - 8 singers, two bayan players and two dancers - in Moscow, and then quickly grew. Their first trip abroad was to Paris in 1937, where they won the Grand Prix at the World's Fair. It then became a propagator of Soviet songs and entertained troops on the front during the Second World War, supposedly even singing in trenches.

The choir has since survived communism, perestrojka, the wild early years of capitalism, the difficult 1990s and the Putin era. It has even thrived despite efforts to dissolve it due to financial troubles.

In 1993, the choir entered pop culture by performing with the Finnish cult band Leningrad Cowboys both on the Senate Square in Helsinki, to the screams of 70,000 ecstatic fans, and in Berlin. The Helsinki concert was captured in Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki's memorable film Total Balalaika Show.

The choir's most famous songs include Russian tunes Kalinka and Donci Molodci. But apart from Russian music, they also perform The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi's Nabucco, songs by Mussorgsky and many others. The concert in Bratislava will also feature the Slovak folk song Na kráľovej holi, which will be accompanied by folk musicians from the Slovak village of Terchová.

The presence of such a legendary Russian choir so closely associated with Soviet times will certainly make this year's May Day celebration in Bratislava special.

By Jana Liptáková

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