Sunday, February 19, 2012

My First Carnival

These days we're celebrating the carnival here, then we'll plunge into the abyss of the Easter Lent. As one of the etymologies suggests, the carnival name is derived from carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", so the whole idea behind it is that we're going now to eat and drink like fat pigs, then silence. For forty days we will engage in a battle with ourselves that involves penance, self discipline, minimal existence, in short - a stoical abstinence. Or we'll be doing nothing of the kind, but use this occasion to get dressed in silly clothes and get wasted but now in a justified manner.

I remember my first carnival in Holland. I was very curious back then what the carnival meant and what we'd do to celebrate it.  I was told that a costume was customary but not compulsory. So I decided in a moment that I looked goofy enough so no effort should be spent on making that worse. Anyway, I made four knots on an handkerchief and placed it on my head and imagined to be a pirate trying to protect his head from the burning sun. As on a February's night, in the Netherlands, THAT was a problem!

We went to the city centre and chose a pub, which was considered not to be crowded, since no one fell out when we opened the door. The music, my dear friends, was reaaally terrible, to say the very least. Mostly German schlagers, need I add something more? I had a feeling of a very long night.

"I think it's going to be a long night", I decided to share that with my Dutch friends, "what song is this?"

"Anton aus Tirol"

"Good to know, so I know what to skip next time".

Later that night, I got acquainted with two of the Dutch traits, which had been somehow brought to my attention by others, but I had never had the chance to see them live. Until that night...

The first one was that the Dutch are cheap, parsimonious, stingy. Now, let me cast some insight light in this matter, for it is important. I come from an Eastern European country. Over there, at that time, having a beer in a pub or buying it in the supermarket was about the same, financially speaking. Some fancy bars would add about 20%, but they were heavily punished by all loyal consumers who obstinately avoided them. Imagine my unpleasant  surprise when I realise that the price of pub beer would be about the same as the meal for half a day. And when I say beer, do not think big. It's not a pint, not half a litre, not even a third of a litre, it's something the Dutch call "fluitje" (little whistle), 200 ml. For that price you'd buy a crate in the supermarket.

This being said, I expected to see groups of people sharing a fluitje or drinking beer with some versions of an eye dropper or so. That would have perfectly made sense. Instead, I saw them gulping the glasses with no sign of getting worried that the bill would be higher than the medium wage in Romania. So THIS is stinginess in Holland, shit, I'd never integrate.

"Phuuu, this music is better", I felt compelled to confess to my friends, getting another beer down the throat, "thanks God they changed it. What's this now?"

"Anton aus Tirol".


Where was I? Ok, the second trait was that the Dutch are cold, maybe not as cold as the Germans, but cold. And cheap, but that we covered already. I saw that instantly, from the very moment I got into the pub. They heard us talk English and decided to make their coldness clear:

"Heeeeey, my friend, where are you from? Nice costume by the way, cheers!"

You remember I said I didn't wear one. I pretended I didn't get the remark. Instead, I decided to tell him I'm Romanian, to check his xenophobic reaction. I'm sure he'd take his coldness with him and leave. The bastard!

"I'm from Romania", I replied in a terse voice.

"Wooow, cool! What are you drinking? It's on me, come on! Happy Carnival! By the way, do you celebrate this in Romania?"

"No, we don't have it in our tradition".

"Cheers! How do you like it? "

"I love it actually, it's nice. And this music is very good, so full of life and merriment. What song is this?"

"Anton aus Tirol"

It was a wonderful evening. At the crack of dawn I took my bike and went home. To my delight, the somewhat twisted wheel of my bike straightened miraculously back. Just when I thought that I was the lucky owner of a self-healing bike, the chain fell off. Not a problem, in no time I managed to fix it, and that with my bare hands. Not bad after a night of partying.

I woke up in the afternoon and I had to go through the door sideways so my head would follow me as well. I looked in the mirror and tried very hard to remember if I was a chimney sweeper the night before, as my face was stained completely. Or maybe I was a steam locomotive driver? After a good coffee I still didn't get what happened to my face, but I found out who I was at the party, gee, how could I have forgotten? I was Anton!


  1. I swear, I will never misjudge people again :D

  2. I've learned to be cautious, especially when it comes to generalising. Although it's so tempting :))