Carnaval is a huge celebration in the southern Netherlands. This is particularly true in the province of Limburg, where I am studying, since the people are largely Catholic. Many have heard of similar celebrations in Rio de Janiero and New Orleans, for example, but few know how wild the celebration gets here. People of all ages dress up and celebrate before the start of Lent. The university even gives students a week off for this celebration, and I took full advantage of this opportunity to visit cities in the Netherlands at their liveliest.
Carnaval was a prime time to tour the Southern Netherlands. I visited Sittard, Roermond, and Eindhoven on top of celebrating in Maastricht and taking a day trip to Cologne, Germany. Every city is decked out in vibrant colors, there are concerts at every center and parades galore, and people stick out like sore thumbs if they are not dressed head to toe in a ridiculous costume complemented by face paint.
This was an extremely entertaining, yet relaxing, break from studies, as the University expects students to be celebrating, not spending the week preparing for courses (this is why we have a week off). It was also a great time to embrace Dutch Culture by, for instance, listening to seasonal music. Here are two sample Carnaval songs: Fabrizio - De Körk and Humba TäTerä, typical of the type of music played for five days straight!
Carnaval was also a great time for exchange students to have interesting conversations with locals. Luckily, almost everyone here speaks English, so it is easy to talk with the Dutch people.
After the amazing Carnaval week, it was sadly time to get back to studies.
Parade Float in Eindhoven
Colorful Costumes in Roermond