Perhaps, no other city made us so happy on arrival as the capital of Wales – Cardiff (Caerdydd – in Welsh). When 86 kilometers on a bike are behind and friends are waiting – anyone would be happy! But Cardiff also fascinated us by its ancient Welsh culture – in our first days in Wales we tried to dive into this culture as deep as possible.
Wales is the country of boundless fields, high mountains, emerald valleys, huge farms, ancient Celtic traditions and national parks. Making the way by bicycle on shady paths in the dense wood, you feel like the gnome or the elf, going to collect treasures from the cave of a red dragon – a symbol of the country. The impression is amplified with the unique Welsh language on which Wales is called Cymru – “the country of friends”. All signs in this country are in 2 languages. Within Wales Welsh language has equal status with English.
But it was not always this way. Long ago the English kings conquered Welsh territories and the local culture was suppressed and replaced with the English. It was forbidden for children to speak Welsh at schools, who broke the ban – got the humiliating tablet on a neck. And only in 20th century the government suddenly realized that to lose such heritage would be a fatal mistake and undertook a reconstruction of Welsh traditions.
Now local school students study Welsh till 16 years – generally as the second language, but more than a quarter of children go to schools where training is conducted mainly in Welsh. In Wales there are Welsh TV channels, radio and newspapers, books are written in Welsh (the most known writer and literary property of the country – Dylan Thomas), compose songs and even shoot one TV-series =)
Just before our arrival the Cardiff castle hosted a festival of Welsh culture – Tafwyl Festival. Unfortunately, we came too late to see it, but we were lucky: Nastya, our host in Cardiff, lives there more than a year and studies Welsh culture. And Nastya`s husband Stephen has been living in Wales all his life. So we asked guys to take a couple of pictures for us and to tell about the event.
The festival is urged to show Welsh culture from all sides: music was presented by performances of different bands on a scene, and also workshops for children (the charity organization, where Nastya works, held it).
In a tent devoted to literature it was possible to get Welsh books and to participate in storytelling events.
Traditional “Bake Off” was one of the most fascinating events: people brought home-made dishes for the public to decide – whose traditional Welsh pie was the tastiest.
It is better to come to such event a bit earlier – sweets disappear very quickly.
We have spent 2 whole days and three nights in Cardiff – thanks a lot, dear Nastya, for hospitality! Most of the time we have been working on our blog – we have lost a lot of time when we had no Internet and no roof above our heads. Fortunately, the city is not so big, and we managed both to work and to see everything!
As for the castle we have already mentioned – it is huge, beautiful and situated right in the center of Cardiff – very easy to find. See people on top? Yep, you can climb it!
The central small streets around the castle are remarkable for the ancient trade galleries – Arcades. There you can find both unpretentious vintage shops and cafes, and elite boutiques and picturesque British tea-rooms.
Be sure to visit one of these little shops and get the most popular local souvenir – Lovespoon. In old times young Welsh men presented to their girls such spoons – and if the girl didn’t return a gift, soon to be a wedding! If you are going to make the proposal to your beloved one, but you don’t know how to make it unique, here is an interesting way. By the way, in the majority of shops you can have your spoon personalized free of charge.
In the evening we walked on a dam between Cardiff and Penart and admired unusual architecture of the huge broadcasting center BBC (BBC Drama Village), lights of the gulf and cozy small restaurants ashore.
We were surprised having noticed a phone booth sticking out of water. It turned out that the “Doctor Who Experience pavilion” is located here – a must-visit place for all admirers of the tv-series.Fans of night life head for St.Mary street. On Friday and Saturday in the evening it is blocked for traffic: the street is all bars, people party and sleep right on the street. A few years ago one Polish photographer created a photo project Cardiff After Dark.
In the afternoon we have also found mass celebrations – of graduates! They have been getting their diplomas in Wales Millennium Centre.
Well, and here is a set of interesting facts about Wales, which we didn’t think up where to insert =)
National flower of Wales is a narcissus, but also – leek, which every year on the 1st of March decorates the heads of many Welshmen in memory of Saint David.
If in England everybody is mad about soccer, everybody in Wales loves and plays rugby!
National dish – cawl, whish is a stew with potatoes, meat and vegetables.
On our last night at Nastya’s we have cooked for her not Welsh, but a very nice and friendly dinner! =)