Published: February 23rd 2012February 22nd 2012
this is the pea-sized hail that greeted us as soon as we arrived.
Oh man. So this past weekend, we went to Maastricht for Carnavale - their pre-Mardi Gras celebration. Carnavale is celebrated in the south of Holland, so we had to get out of Utrecht to take part. We had some options, but we decided to head to Maastricht, a town about two hours south of Utrecht, right on the Belgian border and close to the German border. We met at Utrecht Centraal station at 9.45am to catch the 10.08 train south. There were four Canadians, three Austrains and one Turk to begin with, though that didn't last.
The best description of carnavale might be the one given by my buddy David, who is a true journalist at heart: "So every year, Maastricht, this sleepy little Dutch town along the German border throws a carnival called (wait for it) Carnavale. Essentially, imagine if St-Patty's day and Halloween had a kid, and then that kid threw a massive 4 day long street party and invited thousands of people. Everyone in the city, adults, children, teenagers, elderly people, all dress up in these incredibly elaborate costumes and face paint... like real costumes, not just "Slutty Frankenstein." At nearly every street corner, there are these marching
this gentleman's costume was an ostrich... amazing.
brass bands that rove the city playing music all day. People then proceed to consistently drink for 4 days in the streets; the bars are actually so full that they spill into the streets and kind of mash into one giant blob of music and dancing."
I could not have summed it up better myself. And let me be serious for a minute: I have never experienced anything more insane in my life, and that's coming from a girl who grew up in Central Alberta with fairs and rodeos and the Calgary Stampede.
So our day started on the 10.08 train. We started drinking immediately; that's not negotiable in Europe. Drinking starts early, especially when it's for a specific, annual event. The train ride consisted of Heineken tall boys and white wine and coke in disposable glasses, courtesy of teh Austrians who had planned ahead. We got to Maastricht at about noon and waited for our other two Canadians, who were coming in from Rotterdam.
As soon as we stepped out of the train station, we were accosted by a major hailstorm. Pea-sized hail was falling out of a sky that had been clear moments before, catching us
this is the afteroon in downtown Maastricht.
by surprise. It made for a less-than-perfect walk to our hotel, but getting in out of the hail was absolutely worth it. We spent the next couple hours getting ready for Carnavale - face paint, crazy hats, floral leggings, rainbow boas. We learned later that if you were without a costume, it was also acceptable to deck yourself out in the colours of the city, which are red, yellow and green in Maastricht.
The sky was mostly clear when we left the hotel and headed out into the downtown core. The streets were absolutely packed with people, all of whom were wearing costumes and face paint and holding beers or flags or musical instruments. It was like being in another universe; the city was almost unrecognizable. We walked around for a couple of hours, until we were too tired and hungry to handle it anymore. We stopped for some (McCain's, say what?) fries with mayonnaise, and then Sedat (from Turkey) brought us all into a Turkish restaurant for enormous donairs that cost only 5 Euro.
Afterwards, we started our own little pub crawl... at 18h. Yup. 6pm and our pub crawl started. Along the way, we found children playing
parade for Carnavale.
while their parents drank, a 12-year-old serving beer, a man with an ostrich, Hulk Hogan, a trampoline in the middle of the street, a KISS-type parade, 76 pounds of shattered glass on the streets and more 2 Euro beer than you can shake a stick at. My words can't do it justice, at the very least Carnavale has to been understood through pictures, though ideally you have to just see it for yourself.
At 3am, we were finally done. The seven of us trekked back to the hotel and fell asleep: four of us in the king size bed, one on the couch, one on the floor, and one in the fetal position under the desk. Maastricht was too real for us.
I lost my camera case, forgot my shampoo and facewash, Lukas left his jacket behind, but otherwise we made it home pretty much in one piece. We were only gone from Utrecht for about 30 hours, but it felt like 4 days. Maastricht definitely won, but we all made it home safe and alive. And, after a weekend like that, that's really the best you could hope for.
There are more photos below