6 of Europe’s Finest Carnivals

Mardi Gras is a little over a week away, so we can only hope that you are already hard at work on your costume for the celebration on February 13, Carnival season is well and truly raging all over Europe, and explosions of colour can be found in every corner of our delicious continent. Here are some of our favourites, although be prepared to start drinking well before lunchtime if you choose to visit.

Cerknica, Slovenia

Throughout the rest of the year, Cerknica is a sleepy Slovenian village just trying to make its own way. The madness is saved up and dolled out on Fat Thursday, when the town is taken over by the so-called Butalci. First the locals must deal with the witch, before a variety of characters both amusing and terrifying patrol the centre of town, as revellers indulge in all manner of debauchery. If you think Slovenia is a peaceful, quiet country, you’ve not been to Cerknica for carnival.

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne’s Fasnacht celebration starts early (5:00 to be exact), but we definitely recommend wiping the sleep from your eyes and getting out there for the beginning. You don’t want to miss Bruder Fritschi opening proceedings with the Urknall (loud bang) and Fötzeliräge (confetti rain). The celebration ends with plenty of live music and lanterns, a comforting end to an unusual festival.

Rijeka, Croatia

Croatia’s biggest carnival, the celebration that takes place in Rijeka is unlike any other in the nation. The carnival has always taken on greater importance here than in the rest of Croatia, and the festival was traditionally attended by the highest strands of Habsburg society. The entire town is taken over by Meštar Toni at this time, with the arrival of the Zvončari the main event. Don’t let your kids see them though, unless you want the little ones to be awake for the foreseeable future.

Venice, Italy

It almost goes without saying really. If Venice holds a particular version of any celebration, Venice should be included on a list about it. The carnival is no different. Venetian masks are famous all over the globe, and the most intricate of designs are saved for this Springtime celebration. The award for most beautiful mask is one of the most important of the carnival, showcasing the Venetian attention to detail that is savoured across the world.

Rumšiškės, Lithuania

You can be forgiven for not being overly familiar with the little town of Rumšiškės, some 12 miles east of the historic city of Kaunas. The Užgavėnės festival is one of the oldest of its kind however, as Lithuanians come together to drive winter away once and for all (until next year). An effigy of winter is burnt as theatrical figures fight away the barren cold. Did we mention the pancakes? Plenty of them going around as well.

Athens, Greece

Apokries centres around celebrations in honour of the God of wine and joy, so do we really need to say anything else? Debauchery is the name of the game in the Greek capital in the lead up to the 40-day fast, as visitors and locals alike take every opportunity to put their feet up and indulge. Home parties take over, before everyone descends on the atmospheric bars to bring the festival to a heady high.

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