Moldova hosts 10 km race in world’s largest wine cellar

MILESTII MICI, Moldova (Reuters) – Hundreds of runners competed in a 10 km (6 mile) race in the world’s largest wine cellar on Sunday, navigating by the light of headlamps as they hurtled through dark limestone caves that stretch some 200 km underground near the capital of Moldova.

Participants run during the “Milestii Mici Wine Run 2019” race, at a distance of 10 km in the world’s largest wine cellars in Milestii Mici, Moldova January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Dancers, musicians and singers wearing folk costumes performed in the darkness of the caves, cheering on the runners, who included tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe as well as locals.

The state-owned Milestii Mici winery entered the Guinness World Records in 2005 for storing the largest number of bottles of wine in the world. It now holds around 2 million.

Part of the race took place on slippery paths outside in the snow, but most of it was below ground, with runners galloping past giant oak barrels of wine. After crossing the finish line, they were greeted — with a glass of wine, of course.

“It’s unlike any race I’ve ever done, a once in a lifetime experience. Running through a wine cellar is unlike anything else and there were just people cheering everywhere. They were so excited, so incredibly happy to have us here, you never get that in a 10km,” said Amy MacDonald from Canada.

“I know I’m from Canada but still when you’re going up a hill full of ice it’s a bit slippery, and sometimes when inside the footing was a bit uneven and you just had a really hard time, you had to focus with your headlamp on each place you were putting your foot.”

The huge, centuries-old limestone quarry has been used to store wine for decades. To keep the runners from getting lost, they were issued with maps showing its underground “streets” named after different wine varieties.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million people wedged between EU member Romania and Ukraine, is one of the few winemaking areas of the ex-Soviet Union. Its wines and brandies remain popular in fellow former Soviet states but are less well known elsewhere.

The wine sector employs more than a tenth of Moldova’s workforce, although as of 2017 it accounted for just 2.8 percent of economic output of the country, one of the poorest in Europe. Moldova hopes to find markets in the West for its wine, and bringing in tourists to see the giant cellar could help.

But organizers of the race say the main purpose is just to have a good time.

“The goal is not to show some unreal speed result. People come here to have fun,” said Dmitry Voloshin, President of the Sporter sports organization which set up the race. “Instead of drinking wine at a table, why not run and then drink a glass of wine?”

Additional reporting by Alexander Tanas, Dorin Scobioala and Peter Graff


Crowdfunded honeymaker staffed by elderly revives Russian village

MALY TURYSH, Russia (Reuters) – With a workforce of elderly women and using local ingredients, a honey and confectionery business put together with funds raised online is breathing life into an ailing Russian village.

Cocco Bello Honey in Maly Turysh, in Sverdlovsk region around 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) east of Moscow, employs local residents, many in their sixties and over, left behind by an exodus of young people from rural Russia.

Many villages in the vast country have dwindled since the Soviet collapse amid demographic decline and a dearth of local jobs.

“I just really wanted to help,” said Guzel Sanzhapova, the 30-year-old founder of the honey business set up in part to nurture a dying village where her grandmother was born.

Sanzhapova launched a series of crowdfunding campaigns in 2014 and raised 6 million rubles ($90,337) to get the business off the ground.

Cocco Bello Honey now has an annual turnover of 20 million rubles ($301,125), she says, and employs up to 25 people depending on the season. The village has a population of 50 people.

Staffers prepare and package different types of honey including honey cream with berries and honey mousse, jams and herbal teas. They also pick herbs and berries, while the honey is produced by Sanzhapova’s father’s beehives, which he inherited from his father.

The products at sold at farmers’ markets, festivals and in Moscow and Yekaterinburg coffee shops.

“There is no work here, this is all (there is),” 64-year-old employee Mariam Pyatygina said, adding work dried up in the village when the state farm was closed after the Soviet breakup.

Sanzhapova now hopes to raise funds to build a community center in the village that would serve as a public center for neighboring settlements too.

“I didn’t think it was possible to expand farming like this in just a couple of years,” said her father Ravil Sanzhapov.

“I didn’t imagine this in my dreams.”

($1 = 66.4175 rubles)

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian


Shutdown sojourn: Free museums, music for furloughed U.S. workers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It may not put a meal on the table for furloughed federal employees, but some U.S. museums and symphonies are supplying food for the mind in free admission for workers affected by the longest partial federal government shutdown in U.S. history.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists walk towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

With the shutdown in its fourth week with no end in sight, cultural institutions from Massachusetts to Oregon are moving to help unpaid federal workers spend some of their otherwise idle hours with loved ones enjoying art, science history or music.

Museums in at least 27 states, along with at least 19 orchestras, offered free admission to federal workers who have unpaid time on their hands. Institutions range from The Metropolitan Opera in New York to the San Diego Air & Space Museum, home of the Apollo IX Command Module, which helped pave the way for man to walk on the Moon.

Nearly 200 furloughed employees have taken advantage of an offer from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which waived its admission fee for each furloughed worker plus one guest, said museum spokesman Norman Keyes. Fine art highlights at the museum, whose front steps were made famous in the “Rocky” movie series, include Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and an array of Rubens and Renoirs.

“Museums can offer a place both to get away from the fray and to recharge, and to gain perspective,” Keyes said. “It will not solve the shutdown crisis, but it can help build positive experiences during a difficult time.”

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry has also waived admission fees for each furloughed worker plus two guests for the duration of the shutdown. Star attractions include a German U-Boat submarine seized in 1944, the only one captured during World War II. It is the length of a city block, the museum boasts on its website.

Symphonies from Boston to Akron, Ohio, offered no-cost concert tickets to ease the stress of wondering when your next paycheck will be issued.

“Great music has the power to inspire, reduce stress and ease burdens,” said Joseph Giunta, who conducts the Des Moines Symphony.

“We invite federal employees to join us as our guests for an upcoming Masterworks concert,” said Giunta, noting each worker was offered two tickets which otherwise sell for $20 apiece or more.

Much of the federal workforce lives in or around Washington, D.C., but these people may be out of luck. That is because premiere cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian’s museums, galleries and zoo, which are always free to the public, remain closed to all for the remainder of the shutdown.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio


Catherine Deneuve to part with Saint Laurent gowns at auction

PARIS (Reuters) – A beaded dress worn by Catherine Deneuve when she first met Alfred Hitchcock in 1969 are among dozens of glamorous gowns up for auction next week in Paris, where the French actress is due to part with her Yves Saint Laurent collection.

Close to 130 one-of-a-kind styles crafted by the late designer for Deneuve, a close friend, will go on sale at Christie’s on Jan. 24. They include red carpet looks like a shimmering gold number worn by Deneuve to the Oscars, which is expected to fetch between 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($3,400).

The ‘Belle de Jour’ actress, a fashion fan often spotted among guests at Parisian catwalk shows, is selling the designs after parting with a house in Normandy, northern France, where she had stored them for decades.

“When she found herself in possession of all these clothes, she didn’t have cupboards in Paris big enough to hold them all,” said Francois de Ricqles, president of Christie’s France.

Deneuve, 75, has not said what the funds raised would be for.

Saint Laurent – one of the 20th centuries’ most influential designers, who popularized tuxedos for women, or “Le Smoking” – died in 2008. He and Deneuve met when the actress was only 22, and remained close.

“She was there during all the important moments of his career, in the first row of the audience at fashion shows – he would kiss her right after he’d taken his bow,” said Camille de Foresta, a sales coordinator at Christie’s.

“He gave her strength and confidence, because she said that wearing Yves Saint Laurent clothing was like wearing a light armor.”

Aside from the lot of 130 ‘Haute Couture’ looks, a further 170 items will be on sale in an online auction between Jan. 23 and 30.

Reporting by Jeevan Ravindran, Writing by Sarah White,; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne


Dior rolls out sashes and suits for men – on a conveyor belt

FILE PHOTO: Festive lights decorate the Dior store on New Bond Street as shoppers do Christmas shopping in central London, Britain, December 16, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

PARIS (Reuters) – Intricately structured suits came with wraparound satin sashes, and animal prints adorned jackets and clutch bags at Christian Dior’s menswear collection in Paris on Friday, worn by models gliding down a giant conveyor belt.

Parent group LVMH is making a big push in menswear, including at its other brands such as Louis Vuitton, where Dior’s men’s designer Kim Jones previously made his mark with a streetwear style that boosted sales.

In his second outing for Dior, however, sleek looks dominated a collection that played with textures, combining luxurious leather with furry black and white tiger prints and rich cashmere drapings.

Actors Noomi Rapace and Robert Pattinson and singer Lily Allen were among guests at the show where some suits came with a combat twist, overlaid with backpack-style accessories that resembled flak jackets.

Luxury labels make some of their biggest margins on items such as handbags or belts, and Dior has been pushing these in its men’s ranges too.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Robin Pomeroy


Pink is king at Berluti menswear show in Paris

Models present creations by designer Kris Van Assche as part of his Fall/Winter 2019-2020 collection show for fashion house Berluti during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, France, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – Hot pink suits and leather galore marked Kris Van Assche’s debut as Berluti’s designer at Paris men’s fashion week on Friday, as the brand known for its luxurious shoes paraded models through the glitzy corridors of the Opera Garnier.

The LVMH owned label – one of a handful where it is making a big push in menswear, including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior – also shook up its line-up of models.

Several older men sporting full white beards showcased some of its sharps suits, an unusual twist in an industry often under fire for only favoring very young, thin models.

Biker-style trousers completed some of the looks while other suits and even hoodies were made entirely from brown leather.

Van Assche, who used to be the menswear creative chief for stablemate Dior, also wove bold reds and pinks throughout the collection.

Paris men’s fashion week runs until Jan. 20.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Hugh Lawson


Ten-year old Chilean teaches star gazing to classmates

FILE PHOTO: Ricardo Barriga, 10, poses for a picture during an interview with Reuters in Pirque, Chile January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Ten-year old Ricardo Barriga’s backyard in Pirque, Chile is strewn with a blow-up unicorn, pool toys, a soccer ball and a $3,000 telescope that his parents mail-ordered from Germany.

The budding young astronaut can identify constellations in the austral sky, little-known features of the moon, planets and black holes. He recently started giving $4 lessons to classmates to help them do the same, with hopes of raising enough money to buy himself a space suit, he said.

Barriga counts himself lucky to have been born in Chile, a South American nation known as star-gazer’s paradise, with clear skies, a desert-dry climate and little light pollution.

The Chilean elementary school student came upon astronomy while flipping through the “A-section” of his parents’ encyclopedia and has been hooked ever since, he said.

“It was an encyclopedia with all kinds of information in it,” Barriga said. “My dream is to be an astronaut and also, to have a space suit.”

Barriga’s parents have promised him a trip to Orlando, Florida in the United States, where he hopes to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in nearby Cape Canaveral.

“I thought that if I could become an astronaut I could work for NASA,” he said.

Chile is home to 70 percent of global astronomy investment, thanks to the cloudless skies above its northern Atacama desert, the driest on earth. Within five years, the South American country will host three of the world’s four next-generation, billion-dollar telescopes.

Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Susan Thomas


Banksy ‘snow’ pollution mural sold for over $130,000

LONDON (Reuters) – A mural by elusive British street artist Banksy depicting a child enjoying falling snow that is in fact pollution from a burning bin has been sold for over 100,000 pounds ($130,000) to a British art dealer.

FILE PHOTO: People view new work by the artist Banksy that appeared during the week on the walls of a garage in Port Talbot, Britain December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden/File Photo

From one side, the “Season’s Greetings” mural on a concrete block garage in Wales shows a small boy with his tongue out to catch snow that, when viewed from another side, turns out to be ash from an industrial bin.

“I bought it and it cost me a six-figure sum,” John Brandler of Brandler Galleries, told Reuters by telephone.

“I am lending it to Port Talbot for a minimum of two or three years. I want to use it as a center for an art hub that would bring in internationally famous artists to Port Talbot.”

The mural appeared last month in the town on the edge of Swansea Bay, home to one of the biggest steelworks in the world.

Brandler, 63, said the entire mural – on the corner of a garage – had to be moved in one piece. He declined to give a specific price for the piece.

When asked how he could afford such luxuries, he said: “I am an art dealer. I own several Banksies, I also own (John) Constable, (Thomas) Gainsborough, (Joseph Mallord William) Turner, I’ve got (urban artist) Pure Evil – I’ve got all sorts of art.”

“My hobby is my business. The last time I went to work was when I was 18,” Brandler said.

Banksy, who keeps his real name private, has become the most famous street artist in the world by poking fun at the excesses of modern capitalism and lampooning hollow icons, slogans and opinions.

Previous works include “Mobile Lovers” which shows an embrace between lovers who stare over each other’s shoulders at their mobile phones and an abrupt warning near Canary Wharf in London that reads “Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Hugh Lawson


Luxury leader LVMH planning fashion brand with Rihanna: report

FILE PHOTO: Cast member Rihanna poses for pictures on the red carpet for the European premiere of Ocean’s 8 in London, Britain June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – Louis Vuitton parent owner LVMH is developing a luxury brand with singer Rihanna, in a rare move by the acquisitive group towards building a new fashion label from scratch, industry news site WWD reported on Wednesday.

Paris-based LVMH – also the owner of Christian Dior and Givenchy, among a host of other luxury brands also spanning champagne and cosmetics labels – declined to comment.

It already has a partnership with the “Umbrella” singer in make-up. Fenty Beauty, which was developed with Rihanna via LVMH’s Kendo “brand incubator”, which promotes new products and labels, has grown rapidly since launching in September 2017.

LVMH said last April it expected Fenty to reach $500 million in retail sales in 2018 – which includes the revenue reaped by third parties – though it has not given an update since.

The new Rihanna venture would include clothing, leather goods and accessories, WWD said, citing sources with knowledge of the launch. It said a collection could be released later this year, though the timing was uncertain.

Run by billionaire boss Bernard Arnault, LVMH has more often opted to grow through purchases, and it splashed out $3.2 billion at the end of last year to buy hotel owner Belmond in a bid to branch into upscale hospitality.

In recent months it has also invested heavily in developing its existing brands, however, including Celine, which has brought in a new designer and launched into menswear in a bid to grow revenues.

Luxury firms are facing headwinds including a potential slowdown in key market China, and are jostling to stand out from the crowd and attract younger shoppers by switching designers or working with celebrities and social media influencers as part of a marketing push.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Alexandra Hudson


Pets, owners flock to Madrid church for blessing of animals

MADRID (Reuters) – Dogs, cats and birds were blessed at a church in Madrid on Thursday on the feast day of St. Anthony, the patron saint of animals, with many of the owners making an annual pilgrimage for their pets.

St Anthony the Abbot’s church priest Angel Garcia expected up to 15,000 pets to be brought in for this year’s ceremony.

“St. Anthony cared a great deal about dogs and abandoned animals, healing and feeding them. That’s where the tradition comes from,” said the priest, who blesses each animal.

“We come here every year since I have her and we come together, right Rita?” Madrid resident Maria Diaz said to her dog as she was hugging it. “St. Anthony is going to bless you. Do not tremble!”

Diana Castillo, another dog owner, said she was keeping up a family tradition, started by her grandparents who would bring their pets to the ceremony, first celebrated 35 years ago.

“We are from Madrid for several generations and St. Anthony has always been a very important church for our family … I come here since we adopted her seven years ago and we come every year.”

Reporting by Sabela Ojea Guix, editing by Andrei Khalip