Sunday, July 4, 2010

Glaciers and Druids and Fiddles, oh my!

It has been an unusually long time since I posted. But, there is much to be caught up on, and I intend on having more adventures soon, so there will be even more to write in the future! These months have been insane; started my job (finally), wedding planning, lots of guests, gettin' hitched, hospitalized, and such things.

But first, I had a kickass adventure last night. One of those that you don't expect to have, but are eternally grateful for and quite possibly change your life. One where you set out to go to something that you are thinking will be pretty cool but possibly nothing special and then you get blown out of the water because you are listening to the best Irish bands in the world under a giant glacier in an Alpine forest, drinking mead, and surrounded by cloaked druids. That pretty much sums it up, but I feel like I should provide a few more details! Although no photos to speak of, because my camera is unfortunately broken and I didn't think to bring my husband's (oh! that word! husband! did you notice? It is because I am married now, you see).

The event that I am speaking of is called Celtica. I saw that Lunasa was playing, which is mostly why I wanted to go. They are an incredibly kickass Irish band that I am certain you have heard of, and if you somehow haven't, please stop reading this blog and listen to something of theirs right now. I didn't recognize the other bands, and actually thought that it looked like it might be quite a cheesy festival that I, a lifetime attender of many amazing festivals, would likely scoff at. Oh boy, I was wrong.

It spans 4 days, and takes places primarily in a really old evergreen forest right at the base of Mont Blanc (the tallest mountain in Europe). It's at a high enough elevation at the damned base that there was still some snow around. And it was directly beneith the biggest glacier I ever laid eyes on. One of those that you see and go, 'HOLY CRAP! That is a REAL glacier! EKKKKKKKKKKKK!', and can't take your eyes off it, except when you get distracted by the roaring glacial melt river at your feet (which is grey, because it comes from the glaciers, which are... grey), or one of countless waterfalls cascading from the tip top of the alps, or the giant centuries old evergreen trees, or the biggest mountain on the continent towering over your head. With all that, it is hard to keep your eyes off the glacier. It is pretty cool, and sad actually, you can see the path of the glacier as it has gradually retreated. It is such a strange thing, and it difficult to imagine that it was created purely by nature, but it would be difficult for man to create something of that scale. It leaves behind a trail of pulverized mountain and it's basically a crumbled mountain in a path in front of the glacier. Natures construction zone!

So that was overhead, in addition to Mont Blanc. There is the forest, and the river. And a very strange sound, exactly like nearby thunder, but it couldn't have been because the skies were totally clear. We eventually realized that it was the sound of the river moving boulders.

Upon paying and entering the festival, we walked through a forest path and then before us we came to a market in the twilight. Kind of like at the LEAF festival in Black Mountain, NC, if you've ever been to it, but more Celtic and less overpriced. It was pretty interesting; basically a street formed by two rows of vendors in the forest hawking their Celtic and Druid wares, ending with a stand that sold mead (idomiele in Italian). I've drunk a lot of mead in my days, and it is usually pretty nasty, but this was extremely tasty. And appropriate for the situation. At the end of the market, there was the main stage, where I heard something that sounded like harp music, but... not quite. It turned out it was a guy who is apparently far beyond the level of kickass that one usually stumbles upon in an alpine forest in Magic Storybook Land (AKA Valle d'Aosta, the region I live in) and was playing two giant harps at once in an incredibly complicated and gorgeous manner. It blew me away, and I am not easily impressed with regards to music.

Now, as for the people. They were dressed strangely. Not 'hippie festival in the woods' strangely, exactly. Well, yeah like this, but with woolen cloaks. Almost everyone. Also, just about everyone had floral wreaths on their heads. And a number of them carried ornate wooden staffs around. It was pretty strange, really. It turns out that many of them are Druids. Like, real Druids. Or at least the modern day interpretation. Celts obviously inhabited much of Europe before more recent empires (like the Romans and Ottomans) conquired it. I think my region here in Aosta was actually a purely celtic region until about only 2000 years ago. And druids are celtic high priests, or something like that. There is a modern day order of them that is apparently quite active in Europe.... kind of like how Native Americans are in the US, in some ways. Not culturally, because I don't think there are surviving celts who have continuously preserved their culture and lifestyles, but in the way that they were the 'native' inhabitants.

There were also lots of fires, and fire spinners, and such things. And a small creek that seemed to be used exclusively as a beer cooler. And really really great french fries and only Irish beer.

Lunasa kicked ass. A group of Irish dancers performed and their fiddlers, I swear, were playing mostly New English contra dance music. I swear to you! I actually yelped when I heard them play from a distance and ran to see if I knew them (but did not). I don't know what the deal was, but they sounded like it, and I can't think of another option. Except maybe they are Scottish and listen to a lot of contra dance music. That's the only other thing I can really think of, cause I kind of doubt they were American (as in, I'm quite certain I was the only American there in the whole festival).

It was amazing. I was inspired. I am now ready to jump back on the playing the fiddle horse and ply my guts out! And next time this festival happens (either in one or two years), I will be there camping in that druid forest for the whole weekend like the true festival girl that I am.

Now I am off to teach flatfooting to Italian teenagers for an old time music workshop week up in another high Aosta valley!

1 comment:

  1. I loved this.. read while listening to Lunasa on YouTube.