Experiencing Local Life at the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village in Rwanda

After trekking in the rainforest to spend time with the gorillas, we then went to visit the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village where we spent time learning all about the local life in the Rwanda countryside. It was a very interactive experience as we were given the opportunity to play drums, grind sorghum for banana beer, and test our archery skills. As we walked among the huts, our local guide explained to us all about daily lives of the people that have lived in this part of the country for hundreds of years.

Medicine Man
Drums Upon Our Arrival
Learning the Cultural History
Dramatic Dancing

From the moment that we entered the village, we were warmly greeted by the music of drums and the local villagers dancing in their authentic ceremony garments. The men wear dramatic blonde wigs, which they flip dramatically around as they dance making for quite the impression. We also had the opportunity to visit the king’s hut with its large bed and learned of the local traditions and rituals. Whether it was making banana beer, creating bee hives, or learning about the role of the medicine man, each hut that we visited was fascinating.

Sorghum to Grind
King’s Hut
Quite the Performance
Cultural Village

As with many villages that provide these types of cultural experiences, there is also the opportunity to buy handmade goods created by the villagers. The money goes towards the community, which is important as it encourages the local communities to embrace tourism and keeps them from poaching wildlife from the surrounding national park. Prior to tourists coming to Volcanoes National Park to trek to the gorillas, many of the villagers would trap gorillas to sell their hands as well as trap the mountain elephants and other animals to sell to people outside of the country. Rwanda has made great strides in reducing the number of poaching incidents and ensuring that the local people make enough money without needing to resort to trapping animals.

Bee Hive
Making Fire for Banana Beer
Wedding Ceremony Dance
Small Hut

Although spending time with the gorillas is clearly the highlight of going to Volcanoes National Park, visiting the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village was certainly still a wonderful experience. Considering we did both the trekking and the village visit on our first full day in Rwanda, we were certainly off to a tremendous start to our time in this interesting country. We definitely slept very well that evening before getting up early to move on to our next adventure within Rwanda.

Another Cultural Lesson
Watching the Ceremonial Dancing
Greeting as We Arrived
Our Guide at the Cultural Village

Seeing the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace

Seeing the changing of the Queen’s Guards at Buckingham Palace is truly a memorable experience. The iconic ceremony draws hundreds of people to see the not only the guards, but the marching band that marches its way around the Victoria Memorial to the entrance of the palace. Buckingham Palace serves as the residency of the Royal Family as well as the administrative headquarters of the monarch.

Watching the Marching Band
Ornate Gates of the Palace
Guards Marching in the Courtyard
Buckingham Palace

Although the ceremony has been put on hold due to the number of people that it draws to the location, when it resumes it is well worth taking the time to see if you are in London. We were fortunate enough to have a mostly sunny day to watch the guards march in front of the palace entrances. Even if you don’t make it to the changing of the guard, simply seeing the palace is worth the visit. If you do go to the changing of the guards, be sure to go early if you want to get a good view as people line up early to see the ceremony.

A Sense of the Crowds
The Band Approaching
Victoria Memorial with Crowds Below
The Unicorn on the Gate
The Palace After the Crowds Disperse

Honoring Unknown Soldiers Around the World

Tributes to fallen soldiers can be found throughout the world and they are often somber and sobering experiences. Memorials to unknown soldiers are particularly impactful and are often accompanied with special ceremonies. The tradition started at the end of WWI with both England and France creating their own versions of the tombs. Although there are ones in other countries such as Canada, Egypt, Belgium, and Iraq, we have had the opportunity to see this fitting tributes in the United States, France, Greece, Italy, and England. It is important to remember the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives to provide the freedom that we all hold precious.

Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington Cemetery
John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at the National Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery – Located in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac river from Washington DC, is Arlington Cemetery. It is the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well and is also the final resting place for thousands of veterans and the location of the Eternal Flame that sits at the head of John F. Kennedy’s grave. Seeing the changing of the guards is truly a fascinating experience and is a great honor for the soldiers who participate.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame Beneath the Arc de Triomphe
Statue of a Soldier at the Arc

Arc de Triomphe – Sitting in the heart of Paris, France is the Arc de Triomphe and located underneath the arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI and the eternal flame that burns in the memory of those who died and were never identified. We happened to visit on a cold and rainy day, which almost added to the mood that the memorial invokes. With all of the major avenues leading to the arc, it is a fitting location for such a tribute.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Below the Goddess Roma
Eternal Flame

Altare della Patria – At the base of a statue of the Goddess Roma at the Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy can be found the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame. Translated to the Altar of the Fatherland is also the location of a museum and a viewing platform on its roof with spectacular views of the city. It is certainly an awe inspiring location to visit in a city with such a rich history.

Guards in Front of the Tomb
Dramatic High Stepping

Syntagma Square – Located in the square just outside of the Parliament building in Athens, Greece is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At 11:00 am daily, there is the changing of the guards, but if you want the full pageantry that the ceremony has to offer, you should attend on Sunday when it is more colorful and elaborate. It is an experience that will not soon be forgotten as the soldiers make dramatic motions as they march into their locations.

Standing in Front of Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey – Inside of Westminster Abbey in London, England is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The grave is covered with a black marble stone that has an inscription by the Dean of Westminster engraved with brass that was melted down from ammunition on it. We were not able to take photographs inside of the abbey, so we don’t have any images to share of this particular tomb.

All of these monuments are well worth visiting, especially if there is a significant ceremony at the location. Each of them have many similarities, but are also unique in their own ways. We definitely recommend putting them on your itinerary when visiting any of these locations.