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CASTLE HOSTS THE THIRD ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF CELTIC CULTURE

Top pick: Kicking it with the Celts

LAST year, around 3,000 people came to celebrate the most significant of four annual Celtic holidays - Beltine, the Day of Fire - at the Červený kameň castle near Bratislava.
From the evening of April 30 to noon the next day, they danced around the fire, listened to Celtic music, observed old Celtic fighting techniques, and traditional crafts, as well as tasted Celtic food and drink specialities.
This year's festival, which is doing its part to increase public interest in the history of the territory that is now Slovakia in addition to that of the warlike Celts, will take place at the same castle as last year.


BAND Highland Corbies from Košice will play at this year's festival.
photo: Daniel Borský

LAST year, around 3,000 people came to celebrate the most significant of four annual Celtic holidays - Beltine, the Day of Fire - at the Červený kameň castle near Bratislava.

From the evening of April 30 to noon the next day, they danced around the fire, listened to Celtic music, observed old Celtic fighting techniques, and traditional crafts, as well as tasted Celtic food and drink specialities.

This year's festival, which is doing its part to increase public interest in the history of the territory that is now Slovakia in addition to that of the warlike Celts, will take place at the same castle as last year.

"Even though we are inspired by Celtic culture, we want to teach people to be interested in their overall history," says Roman Kozák, from Keltieg, the association that organises the festival each year. Keltieg is also the name of Kozák's band that plays Celtic-inspired music.

"One way to achieve this is to create a great experience with the festival and take it to a different place each year, so people can learn about the historical sites where the festival is held. However, we failed to do it this year, because of a misunderstanding with municipal authorities at Spiš and Devín Castles," he said.

The Červený kameň castle will open its gates at 17:00 on April 30. Three hours later, the lighting of two symbolic bonfires, between which Celts used to drive cattle to protect them from diseases, will start the 16-hour celebration held in the spirit of the oldest known group in central Europe.

In a temporarily erected Celtic village, warriors (portrayed by the fencing group Corvus Arma - Havrani) will lounge on straw and from time to time fight among themselves. Celtic signs will be painted on people's faces, and an acrobatic fire show will be performed. The so-called Celtic trio - beer, medovina (mead), and whisky - will be served along with Slovak food specialities.

"During the night, we will try to keep the participants awake and warm by offering them coffee for free, even though Celts did not drink much coffee," says Kozák.

Undoubtedly, he says, the main force attracting people to the festival are the 13 groups coming to perform Celtic music and dances.

Among them is the Scottish band Salsa Celtica, combining salsa rhythms with Scottish folk sounds, and the Spanish group Corqviev, playing traditional Asturian music. The latter will also be appearing at Bratislava's Slovak Pub on Obchodná Street along with Keltieg on April 28.

Paradoxically, this will be the first time in the festival's history that Czech bands will come to play, even thought it was Czechs who established the festival in Slovakia in 2001.

One of them is the Irish Dew band, which connects Czech folk songs with Irish ones, will perform with Sean Barry, an Englishman of Irish descent, on Celtic harp. The Marw group will play Scottish, Irish, and Breton music, and the band Czeltic will showcase Vašek Rout on Scottish bagpipes, who will awaken visitors with a solo performance at 6:00.

In the Celtic tradition, the Beltine fire, the fire for which the festival is named, was lit in honour of the God Belen. The fire was thought to be purifying, and protected the health of people and animals. That is why people danced and jumped over it, while the cattle were being dragged through its smoke.

The Beltine festival will be held from 20:00 April 30 until 12:00 May 1 at the Červený kameň castle (Hrad Červený kameň) near Modra, about 40 kilometres north of Bratislava. Tickets cost Sk300, and Sk100 from 6:00 May 1. mojweb.sk/beltine.

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