This article was first published at Maastricht Region: To Live.
Carnival proper may not take place until March 6th, but the many activities that lead up to the actual event are already well under way. Last Sunday Dan & I lucked upon one such event while taking advantage of the monthly Sunday shopping day and eating lunch out.
In the Netherlands, shops are only infrequently open on Sundays; a fact that continues to throw me off, even two years later. I always seem to have something I desperately need to buy on Sunday around 11 am. Fortunately, many of the stores in Maastricht are open on the first Sunday of each month from noon until about 5pm. This week we needed some extra power converters for our various electronics and ended up a MediaMarkt; the only place we’ve ever found flat-faced converters.
Our first clue that something special was happening was a knot of people dressed in white uniforms loitering in front of one of the local cafes near Markt square. Next we heard the bright strains of a brass band warming up and saw that a stage was being assembled in the square. Clearly something special was about to happen.
On our way home, we decided to stop in John Mullin’s Irish Pub for lunch. Besides having good food (and authentic atmosphere), we knew that any parade in the city was sure to swing by the big picture windows.
The parade itself ended up being a small version of the official Carnival parade that will take place next month. It focused on some bands and many amusing floats, each playing their own music, and hosting a different gentleman (and in one case two adorable kids) in the classic silver hat/crown of the Prince of Carnival. As float after float pasted, we surmised that the parade must be of all the princes from the region around Maastricht. Each town in Limburg can elect their own to host local festivities. Many of the costumes and bands were familiar from last year; as was the raucous and happy energy that always surrounds such events. Carnival is simply a lot of fun.
The parade wound through the large crowd towards the stage set up on Markt square, and although Dan & I didn’t stay for the actual voting, we later learned that the parade and stage were to host the selection of this year’s official song of Carnival.
Naturally this is only the beginning of yet another entertaining Carnival season. Personally, I’m hoping for a warmer celebration this year and I can’t wait to see the full parade with floats.
Carnival 2011 will be taking place from March 6-8. For more information, read my commentary about why I participated in Carnival last year and check out this post is you’re looking to complete the perfect costume. Get the full scoop of Carnival activities on http://www.tempeleers.nl (Mestreech/Dutch only & music plays automatically).