Kasteel Well Week 3: Carnaval
This past weekend was a very strange occurrence at the castle – nearly every student here stayed back. Why did we all stay at the castle? We were planning to celebrate Carnaval! Carnaval is only celebrated in the primarily Catholic province of Limburg in the Netherlands where we live. Carnaval is celebrated the week before Lent when the mayor hands over the keys of the city to the town fool. The jester then becomes the Carnaval Prince and leads the community in a weeklong celebration before Lent begins. Everyone dresses up to the point where you can’t recognize each other and the crazier your costume is, the better. The Dutch love to drink and this is a big excuse for them to party and drink all week. The whole town of Well was essentially shut down for Carnaval – all the shops were closed so everyone could be out partying. You can visit Well’s website for some more information about Carnaval.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of about 60 castle-dwellers marched in the parade through Well. Most groups had built floats but we just had a sign attached to a wheelbarrow. We’re high-tech. Our theme of “We Survived The Apocalypse” somehow won us 7th place in the parade, but none of us are sure how. My favorite moment of the parade was when the girls from the float behind us came running up to us yelling “Gangnam Style! Gangnam Style!” and we ran to their float and danced with them. I felt so much culture around me: Americans dancing with the Dutch to a South Korean song. Music really is the universal language!
Well is a special place on Monday night because the light parade is the only event happening in the region for Carvaval. The light parade reminded me of the nighttime parades at Disney World and Disneyland. Groups designed giant floats that were covered in different colored lights and effects. Dancing, singing and drinking Dutch people who were also decorated in lights typically flanked the floats. One of my favorite floats featured a dragon on the back of the float that moved it’s head side to side while blowing smoke out of its nose. The fact that someone built that in their barn is pretty impressive.
A few of us took the time to explore some of Limburg and see what it had to offer. Past castle-dwellers repeatedly told me to go to the thermal baths and to laser tag. So that’s exactly what we did. Our first trip was to the Arcen Thermaalbad, which was such a relaxing experience. The baths created a lot of steam in the cold night air but I think that just made the water seem even warmer. Our group agreed we’d be back during finals week just to decompress for a few hours.
The following night, we decided to try our hand at laser tag. Everyone in the past raved about the 3-story arena but they failed to mention how intense the Dutch are about laser tag. First off, the Dutch refer to it as lasershoot, so you know they mean business. I was definitely not physically or mentally prepared for what laid before us. There were multiple players that outscored our entire team. We took part in lasernight so we played multiple rounds with different scenarios. One of the matches we could only fire 1 shot every 2 seconds so you had to be a lot more careful than when we could shoot 4 times every second. Incredibly sweaty, we walked to our bus with our embarrassing score cards in hand and smiles on our faces. We’ll be back for sure – but hopefully with more Americans so we don’t look that bad again. A tip for future castle-dwellers: start training.