Hidrellez Festival, Edirne, Turkey

The tour group in Istanbul

I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the photographer and videographer for a tour group going to the Hidrellez Romany Spring Festival in Edirne, Turkey. It was a small group, as many people cancelled, after a woman blew herself up at Bursa Ulu Mosque, just before the participants were due to leave for the tour. But though we were few, we had great fun!

The tour was run by Oriental Istanbul, a tour group specialising in travel, dance and music. The focus of this particular tour was to introduce the group to Romany culture in Turkey, and experience the Hidrellez Festival, held every year in Edirne.

The first two days of the tour were spent in Istanbul, taking dance classes, and generally enjoying the atmosphere. I joined the group on the third day, as they were about to take off for Edirne, where they began with different dance classes.

Turkish Folkloric Fusion class, taken by Yoko Kraliche

Belly Dancing class, taken by Dilara Sultan

Learning to dance with a tambourine

Raw Roman class, taken by Reyhan Tuzsuz

Meltem Guzey taught the group Bulgarian Folk Dance

We entered the Hidrellez Festival grounds, ready to party!

The Romany Gypsies were partying too…

…and there was music everywhere.

People were lining up to have their photos taken with the colourful Romanys

Hidrellez is a very important day for Romanys. They celebrate with street parties all through the night. Gypsy bands play traditional music, and people dance to the 9/8 rhythm.

A fire is lit, and the young men jump over it while making a wish.

For the not-so-brave wishes can be written down, and buried, or tied to a tree branch. In Edirne, the Romany people go to the river very early in the morning, to take a ritual dip in the cold water, or throw their written wish into the river, to send it to the prophet Hizir, who will help them achieve their desires.

We had such a great time on the trip. We spent one evening in the Aga Kosku  Restaurant, 
where Edirne Yuksel and Friends played traditional Romany music for us

Some of our group danced for the crowds in the restaurant..

…and Burcu, one of the group leaders, sang for us

Here is my video of the party

Despite our very late night at the restaurant, we left the hotel a 4:00am the next morning to watch the Hidrellez sunrise ceremony.

People gathered on the bridge at dawn, to throw their wishes into the river…

…while others hung their wishes on a tree.

This was a wonderful tour run by Oriental Istanbul, and I can’t thank the two leaders, Burcu and Yoko, enough for inviting me to be their photographer and videographer for the trip. It definitely felt more like fun than work!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Once, a poor relation to Sydney Harbour with its bridge, Circular Quay, and the Opera House, 
Darling Harbour has become Sydney’s new entertainment centre

Darling Harbour is such fun! There is always something of interest to see and do.  A large pedestrian-friendly area, Darling Harbour is a fantastic spot for a night out. But it isn’t just about the nightlife, it’s just as busy during the day.

Until 1984, this was just a harbour, with ships and warehouses like any other.  It was Neville Wran, the New South Wales Premiere at the time, who announced the Government's decision to redevelop Darling Harbour and "return it to the people of Sydney" in time for Australia’s 1988 bicentennial celebrations. It was formally opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on 4 May 1988, and has continued to grow from then.

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse, Darling Harbour

The lighthouse no longer serves its original purpose. It is now a museum piece alongside the National Maritime Museum in Sydney. This is not even its original position. When it was decommissioned, it was moved here from the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, and replaced by a modern tower.

New buildings are popping up everywhere in Darling Harbour…

…but the locals seem unperturbed!

…even this wanted bushman was seen strolling freely around!

People walking over the Pyrmont Bridge that spans the harbour

The first Pyrmont Bridge began operating in 1857, and the current swingspan bridge opened in 1902, which makes it one of the world's oldest surviving electrically operated swingspan bridges. We were thrilled to be on the bridge and see the operation ourselves, as the bridge swung open to allow a ship through.

There are often exhibitions on show in Darling Harbour, and we weren’t disappointed. We were amused to see a collection of road signs from around the world. Here are some we enjoyed:-


I thought Oregon City would be quite interesting!

How exactly?

Not secret now!

Does this mean no swearing?


I guess they are!

Perhaps if you run fast enough, you can stay on the surface

Is this a license to mug the visitors?

Darling Harbour is definitely worth a visit next time you are in Sydney!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Nundle "Go For Gold" Chinese Easter Festival, NSW, Australia

These Chinese lions were a prominent feature of the festival.
Their tricks brought gasps of amazement from the people watching.

In Chinese culture, the lion is a symbol of stability and superiority. The purpose of the lion dance is to chase away ghosts and evil spirits.

The lions danced for the crowd…

…accompanied by a percussion band

The noise of the drums, gongs, and cymbals is intended to drive away the evil spirits, as the lions dance to their special rhythm.

The lions took to the air in daring performances, each trying to outdo the other

The crowd loved the yellow lion’s antics…

…especially his balancing act

This lion showed great coordination

As the show ended, people put money into red envelopes 
and fed them to the lions for good luck.

Then along came the dragon parade

The Chinese Dragon is greatly respected in Chinese society, unlike its western counterpart that is generally greatly feared. The Chinese associate their dragons with positive traits like goodness, greatness, blessing, boldness, intelligence, abundance and prosperity.

…although this dragon looked pretty fierce to me!

The Nundle Go for Gold Chinese Easter Festival was a very popular event...

There was a carnival atmosphere, with stalls selling all manner of things,
and happy people everywhere.

Lots of people tried their hand at gold panning during the festival.

Gold was the original reason why Chinese flocked to this area in Australia. From the 1850’s to the 1880’s thousands of people from all over joined the gold rush here. Most of them for the gold, but others came to set up stores and gardens to supply the diggers. Although many Chinese left as the gold ran out, choosing to try their luck elsewhere, some stayed and became a permanent part of Nundle’s history.

The notice says "Steam Engine. Built 1872 in Lincoln England, making it 130 years old. 
Built by Ruston Hornsby Ltd." (Their maths is slightly out!)

Two lovely Chinese ladies

That was such a fun day, that we might think of ensuring we are in the area next Easter, so we can do this all over again! Thank you Jane, Suzi and families for an entertaining day out.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Noosaville, Queensland, Australia

The Glass Mountains, Queensland

Our hosts, Jan and Tim drove us to the Sunshine Coast, passing the Glass Mountains, originally named by Captain Cook in 1770 because they reminded him of glass furnaces back in Yorkshire, England

We stayed in Noosaville, a popular holiday destination. Its popularity is not surprising, given its beautiful waterways and picturesque natural environment.

Soon after arriving, we hopped aboard a boat, ready for a sunset cruise.

We passed wonderful waterside retreats, surrounded by lush green vegetation…

…and even though there was cloud, the glorious light of the sun managed to 
penetrate through from time to time

The clouds made a dramatic backdrop to the scene as we sailed along the river

The unmissable Big Pelican, Noosaville

Often referred to as Percy the Pelican, this huge fibreglass structure first made an appearance in 1977 on a float for the Waters Parade, as an emblem of the local council at that time. Having deteriorated and been moved and rebuilt several times, the pelican now stands by the Pelican Boat Hire, in Lion Park, next to the Noosa River.

We were fascinated by the unusual looking Pandanus Tree,
it almost looks as if it could walk away on those stumps!

This tree is found across Northern Australia, and there are 30 different species, of which the above is the most common. Indigenous Australians have traditionally used the leaves for weaving, and the dead branches for constructing didgeridoos. The branches can also carry fire from place to place. When lit, the fibrous inside smoulders, rather like a cigar.

We saw lots of these strange looking native Australian birds, 
the Australian Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami)

We also visited Noosa National Park, recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.

This is a view of one of the many wild beaches found there

We then stopped at Laguna Lookout with its panoramic view of Noosa

There is so much to see in this amazing area, that our short stay only managed to give us a brief overview. We will definitely have to visit again. Thank you so much, Jan and Tim, for our wonderful experience of Queensland!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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