It was Summer Carnival time in Rotterdam at the weekend. I’d never been to a carnival before, so the temptation was too great to resist. You may have heard that carnival is popular in the Netherlands, and this is true, but I should probably point out traditional Dutch carnival is celebrated in February. The Rotterdam Summer Carnival is more like the kind carnival that is celebrated in Brazil. The first one was held in 1984, so it’s a fairly recent tradition.
The carnival began on Friday, with the Battle of the Drums. It’s pretty popular from what I’ve heard, but the street parade is the real crowd-puller and that’s what I wanted to see, so I postponed my visit until Saturday.
When I arrived at Rotterdam Central Station I picked up a map of the city and girl at the tourist information desk was kind enough to mark out the route for me with her pen. Bearing in mind the fact that the street parade was already on the move by the time I arrived in Rotterdam, I could have just found the closest point on the route and waited for the parade to arrive. I’m not big on loitering, so I started to walk towards the action.
The streets were busy and there was other entertainment available. After I’d been walking for 10 minutes I heard steel drums playing and went to take a look. I think the band came from London, but cannot be sure because I lost the flyer someone gave me. They were extremely good though and their playing had attracted quite a good crowd.
I walked a little further and found a good spot to wait. I’d have happily continued walking for a while, but the further I walked the more crowded the streets became and I didn’t want to be stuck at the back of a crowd. I probably had to wait around half-an-hour for the parade to arrive and I stood in the same spot for around two hours, so that should give you and idea of the size of the parade. There was a lot of people involved and they had flown in from all over the world.
Organising something like the Rotterdam Summer Carnival must take a helluva lot of hard work, and the costumes and floats were very colourful, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Some of the members of the street parade looked somewhat lacking in energy and enthusiasm. Having said that, they had been on the go for quite a while, although it does spoil the effect a bit when you see members of the procession walking stooped over their mobile phones. Some of the others had more than enough energy to make up for it though.
One of the highlights for me was when the rain started to get quite heavy. The speed of the parade picked up considerably and I heard a guy chanting, “We’re dancing in the rain, we’re dancing in the rain . . .” It was amusing. Fortunately, the rain eased off not long after that and the pace of the parade did likewise.
Did I enjoy the Rotterdam Summer Carnival? Absolutely. Would I go again? Yes indeed. In fact I will probably do so next year.
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