Maastricht’s Carnival 2010 took off brilliantly Sunday despite the cold and constant snowfall. I’ll send out a proper write up on Wednesday or Thursday, but for now here are a few pictures.
On our way to the Vrijthof, the sound of drums and music lured us down a side street to the front of the Prince of Carnvial’s Palace (well, ok, his house). There we watched a short ceremony which culminating in the unfurling of a banner. There was a little technical trouble, but a trusty ladder was brought in and the problem resolved.
After that little ceremony, we slipped down the Vrijthof early in the, apparently mistaken, expectation that we would need to stake out a space on the square for the official opening ceremony. Fortunately that wasn’t problem and we had time to inspect the wide variety of costumes and get a front seat for the speakers.
A few hours later the parade began (at about 3 pm) and we watched from outside John Mullins. Many of the costumes were very interesting; although some groups were a bit dull. Several bands of the ‘drunken’ variety kept things lively.
Afterward we went out with several other expats and joined the revelers in the streets and pubs. I was amazed by the number of families with small children running in and out of the bars. Everyone was clearly having a wonderful time and we bar-hopped around Maastricht, enjoying the traditional music, food, and colors.
Expatica’s Expat of the Year contest is now open for voting in three areas: Expat (individual), Employer, and Expat Services. There are many fine finalists, but I want to draw your attention to a couple of local finalists. I’d love to see one or both of them win and bring a little recognition to our area.
Sueli is in many ways my idea of the ideal expat person. She’s lived in many places and has a wonderful graciousness and generosity about her. I’d be happy if I could have half her confidence. She’s been personally supportive of me and my fledgling writing, and I’m sure she extends that same kind spirit to everyone around her. Sueli now lives in Maastricht with her husband and children and works for the European Journalism Centre and is the Crossroads Magazine editor.
As you may recall, I began blogging with Maastricht Region a few months ago, but that’s not the only reason I am pleased to see them as finalists for the Expat Service award. The Maastricht Region site and accompanying International Desk are making a real effort to address the needs of internationals in this area. Certainly I would have been thrilled to have had access to such a regional site two years ago when I started researching for our move. As time goes on I expect the value of Maastricht Region to grow, so I hope they can get a little extra props now as encouragement.
And yes you’ll see me in the video. I won’t be winning any awards, but I don’t look quite as stupid as I thought I would. There was some question as to whether the video should be recorded in Dutch (with subtitles) or in English. I stand by the decision to record (mostly) in Dutch. I think it supports the character of the region.
Voting for the Expat of the Year awards is open until March 14th and the winners are announced on the 23rd. You can watch short videos for each contestant and vote once in each category. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.
…A vote for Maastricht is a vote for bitterballen. >_>
Logo is (c) Expatica.
“Gemeente” (or Town Hall) is probably the third Dutch word you’ll feel compelled to learn (after koffie and Goedemorgen). And it must be your first stop after moving to a new town in the Netherlands to register your residency and, if you haven’t already, get a BSN (personal ID) number. Since your first few visits to the Gemeente can be rather taxing, here are some thoughts on making the process easier; or at least more informative.
The Gemeente is responsible for more than just residency. Some other things handled there are:
- Registration for a Drivers License
- Registration for a Green Bin
- Management and billing of city services (for example, sewer, road tax, housing taxes, etc)
- Information about business and residential zoning.
And, of course, they all have a general information desk and Maasricht now has an International Desk as well.
In honor of the Carnival season, I thought this late-breaking costume edition was appropriate. As the actual event draws near several costume shops have popped up in the center of Maastricht; three of which I have visited and will touch on below.
Located on Grote Gracht 48a, Rode Neus is a temporary costume shop taking up three whole store fronts and filled from tip to stern with all sorts of costumes organized by theme and color. In addition to some off the shelve halloween fashion wigs and scary props, they carry colorful furry coats, shiny ruffle shirts, and big plushy, one-piece animal suits. The popular “Ren Faire” garb is as available here in a variety of styles and price points; making many of the costume styles accessible to a range of people. The prop selection is nice, but if you can’t find what you need definately skip over to one of the other shops for a quick look. Rode Neus does not take PIN or credit card.
In ‘t Panhuis, located on the Markt Square near the McDonalds, is the only permanent carnival shop. It is a long, dark, and narrow space with has costume wigs, props, and add-ons (like wings and hats) to spice up your main costume. The rest of the year the shop carries sewing material and a range of Dutch gifts such as fake delft pottery, tulip bulbs, and clog-shaped slippers. Some of those regular wares are available this time of year too, so if you need some props or are sewing your own costume this is well worth a stop.
‘T Mooswief is the temporary brother of in ‘t Panhuis located on Hoenderstraat 5-9 near the river. The store is smaller than the Rode Neus, but makes up for its size with an excellent selection of fabrics in the back for those who wish to make their own costumes. This is one of the only times you can buy fabric in a store in the center of Maastricht; the rest of the time you must go to the Wednesday Open Market. The costumes in this shop are, unfortunately, rather disappointing; mostly remnicient of polyester Halloween fare. However, the wig selection is different from the other shops, so if you’re looking for just the right hair piece it can be worth the trip.
While colorful and foppish 18th century(ish) Dutch garb appears to be very popular, nearly anything goes for Carnival costumes. Unlike Halloween (which is the only other dress-up holiday I’ve celebrated), the costumes focus on fun, silly, weird, and crazy things, rather than frightening ones. Some of the best costumes; particularly the ones in the parade, are very creative and require a team of people to pull off. Many people wear masks or paint their faces as well. Check out this flickr stream for a little inspiration.
Carnival 2009/2010 is coming. It first burst onto my tiny expat radar on November 11th as I tried to walk through the Vrijthof on my way to class, only to be stopped by a huge and colorful crowd of people in cow costumes (among other things). A month ago, we began to hear and see many marching bands and tiny parades kept springing up. Now, one week before the event, nearly every house in Maastricht, and all the stores, are graced with the traditional red, yellow, and green banners.
All done? Ok, down to business.
Like I mentioned before, I find the entire exercise to be a bit baffling, but I am very curious to see what the event and parades are like. so this year we’ll be participating in our visit Carnival to the extent our limited language skills will allow.
Carnival events begin on Friday, but the day when the locals dress up (unless your in an event) is Sunday (according to this article). I’m not sure if people also dress up on Monday & Tuesday. Anyone who want to help out on that question, I’d appreciate it.
Our costumes? They are a secret for now, but we’ll have lots of pictures after Carnival.
Of course the flipside of everyone getting dressed up and having a good time is that Carnival is taken very seriously by those who grew up with it. Everything I’ve read suggests that there are several levels of participation in Carnival. Outsiders (like me) only get to participate in a shallow level of revelry revolving around parades and bars and listening to music. We simply don’t have the experience to do or understand more. Locals and people who participate year after year (and speak the local dialect) are able to delve much deeper into the event and participate in the event the “right” way.
This distinction is maintained both by an attitude that outsiders don’t “get it” (ok, you’ve got me there) and a linguistic restriction due to all the most important events and speeches being held in Limburgish (which prevents outsiders from getting too deep). I’d never suggest events shouldn’t be held in the traditional language, but I doubt I’ll ever be at the point where I learn both Dutch and Limburgish fluently enough to understand these speeches. And that is kind of sad.
See you there!
Roughly translated. I don’t know which, if any, of these events may be by invitation only.
Saturday, 13 February
Sunday, 14 February
Monday, 15 February
Tuesday, 16 February