Many cities in Europe are worth visiting. Countless cities have a beautiful old town, a lively cafe culture or some famous landmarks. Although they are worth visiting any time of the year, an event can just add a little extra. Valencia has Las Fallas, Amsterdam has King’s Day and Munich the Oktoberfest. When winter is being replaced by spring it’s Venice’s turn to celebrate Carnival.
Carnival is celebrated in Catholic regions all over the world. I joined the carnival parties in several cities in The Netherlands before and a few days after my trip to Venice I got to experience Carnival in Rijeka, Croatia. All these carnival parties were exuberant and it seemed like every local spent all their time on the streets. The main activity was drinking and the only thing that seemed to matter was getting drunk and picking up a one night stand for a few days in a row.
But Carnival in Venice is rather a classy party. The people are behaving properly and hardly anyone is consuming alcohol on the streets. While it seems to be a challenge to wear the weirdest costume in other cities and with streets filled with Disney characters, you won’t find any of this in Venice. It’s rather common to see people wearing elaborate costumes with a mask that fits to their costume.
The Carnival of Venice lasts 18 days with the most activities happening on the last weekend. Although I arrived on the last Thursday of the event, I couldn’t recognize the big event that was supposed to be going on. The only indication that it was the time of carnival were the tourists that wore their cheap masks from the local souvenir stands. Also, when I went out exploring on Friday, no masks were visible. Only in the evening some costumed people gathered at St. Mark’s square, played some music and were happy to be photographed by the tourist. After a while they marched through the streets back to their hotel and were eventually followed by a crowd. Near Rialto some DJs entertained a crowd of approx 100 youngsters. Although I knew masquerade balls are organized at a price I couldn’t afford, I expected to be able to see more on the streets.
It took me 3 seconds to see it was all different on the very next day. When I walked out of my hostel I saw several people dressed up. The whole city was full of people wearing the traditional costumes and even more tourists taking pictures of them. Basically they were just posing all the time and regularly some tourist decided to photo bomb. This is what I had been waiting for the last 2 days. One was even more beautifully dressed than the other. They obviously liked to show off, and I liked to watch them posing. There was a big number of masked people to be entertained for several hours on the main streets of Venice. After all there’s only little things as enjoyable as watching people.
I had never seen a city so busy as this day in Venice. It was the first time that I saw a traffic jam by pedestrians. The mass of people that walked down the narrow streets of Venice caused obstructions in the city. Often, it took more than 10 minutes to walk 50 meters. At several points voluntary security guards had to close some streets. It was really tiring and around 3 pm I decided I had seen enough and needed some rest. I noticed I became a bit grumpy because of the massive crowd.
After all I really loved it. I knew Carnival of Venice is famous for its masquerades, but I didn’t know what I could expect as tourist on a budget. It’s a pleasure to watch all the beautiful costumes and most of the people are happy to show you theirs. In fact they even wait for you to take a picture if you want to, before they continue walking. Normally it’s easy for me to get annoyed when there’s too many tourists, but this time it was definitely worth it!