The Malta Independent 21 November 2018, Wednesday

Alternative Easter hotspots in South America and Europe

Gabriel Schembri Sunday, 16 April 2017, 07:30 Last update: about 2 years ago

Gabriel Schembri explores two distinctive Easter celebration hotspots in Hungary and Brazil

Ouro Preto, Brazil

If Rio de Janeiro is famous for its sizzling hot carnival celebrations, Ouro Preto is the place to be to celebrate Easter in Brazil.

Ouro Preto (Black Gold) was the focal point of the gold rush and of Brazil’s golden age. In fact, the village used to be surrounded by gold mines. Nowadays, its focus has shifted from gold to marble and granite. The town is relatively small, every church and plaza is accessible on foot and cars are quite a rare sight. This UNESCO World Heritage village has a relatively small population of about 70,000 people. But the steep streets of this town are swamped with people on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

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The pebbled streets are covered in flowers on Good Friday, right after sunset when locals carry thousands of bags containing flower petals of various colours. Four kilometres long, the streets are covered in carpets of flowers. The nice thing about the tradition is that visitors are actually encouraged to participate and come up with their religious designs made of petals.

Not a lot of tourists visit this small village which has more than 13 churches. But if you are travelling in South America, and want to get the Holy Week feeling surrounded by thick forestation, visit this historic village.

How to get there

Ouro Preto is some 550 km away from Brazil’s most famous city, Rio de Janeiro. The best way to get there is to get a night bus which will take you more or less seven hours. It might look like a long drive. Well, it is. But night buses in Brazil, like most of South America, are relatively comfortable and safe. Drivers usually make a couple of stops for a quick bathroom break or cigarette.

 

Holloko, Hungary

Hungary is a beautiful country with good roads and very friendly people. A pleasant drive to the northern part of the country gets you to one beautiful village called Holloko. The village is rarely on the itinerary list for tourists. This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits at the bottom of a medieval castle and on Easter Sunday, the villagers organise one of Europe’s oldest and certainly one of the most beautiful festivals of Christianity’s biggest feast.

A stage is set up just outside the village centre and thousands gather to watch live folk musicians perform. Their numbers are followed by a theatrical production, usually featuring a dance between the men and women dressed in traditional Hungarian dress.

There is one particular tradition where men recite poems to their women and then throw a bucket full water at them. This tradition originated from pagan customs when newlyweds would throw water at the bride to wish well for fertility.

The houses in the centre of Holloko are all painted white and many open their doors to welcome guests on Easter Sunday and show them around the house.

Egg-painting is also a very rich tradition in Holloko. The market, besides selling traditional clothing and artisan works, sells all kinds of food one could ever wish for.

How to get there

Holloko is about a 100 km away from Budapest. The drive is pleasant and roads are in good condition. It will take you around one-and-a half hours to get there. For those who do not wish to drive, there is a bus that departs from the centre of Budapest to Holloko. Last bus leaves Holloko at around 5pm. 

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