A little bit of history behind Carnival: Carnival, or Vastenavond, is a three day celebration before the beginning of lent. It is celebrated heavily in the South of the Netherlands, but not at all in the North (which is where I am). It is a huge street festival filled with music, costumes, dancing, drinking, herring, and a weird old woman doll that hangs in the main square until the end of Carnival. She is taken down at midnight on Tuesday night, just before lent, and people cry over her.

I headed to Maastricht on Sunday to celebrate the first day of Carnival, even though people started celebrating it four or five days early. It was a 2 hours train ride to Maastricht since it is SO far South. We arrived at around 11:30 AM and as soon as we stepped off the train, we could tell we were stepping into a celebration. Literally every store was decorated with masks and bright colors. The train station was covered in streamers and artwork. We got out to the main street where we met a friend of Anton's. She took us through the streets of Maastricht and we passes numerous groups of people dressed up together playing music from weird homemade carts they were pushing around. Pardon my photos. I felt weird taking photos of strangers while they were looking at me, so I tried to sneak them.

She showed us a costume shop where I bought a mask, because I was definitely underdressed. I was dressed up as a nerd, but everyone else had such colorful, elaborate costumes that I looked out of place.

We spent most of the day walking through the streets checking out all the different areas in Maastricht. Down one street there would be a crowd dancing outside a bar, down another there would be a herd of scary clowns marching to music, down the next was a flock of old men dressed as rainbow birds. I never knew what to expect. We stopped for olliebollen more than once because it's just so good. "Olliebollen" literally translates to oil ball. It's like a big round fried piece of dough covered in a mountain of powdered sugar. We went into a weird little bar so my friends could get some cheap beer. Outside the bar, a strange drunk Swedish guy dressed as Captain America decided that I am the girl he wants to marry and kissed me on the cheek. I thought for a second that he was going to kidnap me, but Alex came to my rescue. Later, we went into a gay bar called Sway for more drinks and really awkward, cramped dancing in between huge costumes and wigs. I could have suffocated in there. The music in Sway was traditional Dutch music, and it was so cool to hear everyone singing along in Dutch.

I really cannot describe with words or photos or even videos how amazing Carnival was. To see every single person from a city, be it young or old, rich or poor, dressed up in the most spectacular (homemade) costumes I have ever seen in my life is a sight I will never forget. I feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself and I am so grateful to have experienced it.


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