It's carnival season around the world and many people's eyes turn to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, home to the largest celebration in the world. But the country of Samba, football, the Girl from Ipanema and carnival isn't the only place to put on a good show! You may not know it, but the Eastern Europeans know how to throw a good party too! Let's take a look at one of the lesser-known places where you can enjoy this special time of year.
A Rich Tradition Comes to Life
The Prague Carnival is an exotic and mysterious celebration of Bohemian culture. It’s the time when the winding streets of the Czech capital are filled with music, dancing, and masked revelers. There’s an electric atmosphere all over the thousand-year-old city and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans (but with a 750-year history), the Prague Carnival is a time of merriment, a tribute to Czech heritage and an affirmation of life. It also connects Prague and the Czech Republic to the rest of Europe, where similar events are simultaneously taking place.
Carnival Time in Europe
It’s the end of February and spring is fast approaching all over Europe. That means the return of the sun and its promise of renewal. It also means the return of carnival time to many countries on the continent. And just like in Prague, carnival time is when people in these countries really let loose and get down to the business of living.
Typically held just before the fasting time of Lent, these carnivals include vibrant costumes, parades, and an almost hedonistic joy. Donning bizarre masks and dancing in the streets, the celebrants indulge in all the meals that are forbidden during Lent.
Historically, carnival time is when social roles are reversed and the rules for normal behavior are suspended. The original reason for the carnivals was to drive out the frigid spirits of winter and allow summer to return. The original purpose may have been lost to time, but that doesn’t keep people from celebrating and really getting wild! And nowhere is this truer than in Prague.
Prague is the Ideal Carnival Setting
The unique character of the Prague Carnival comes from the city itself. Filled with complex baroque architecture, spired Gothic cathedrals, and towering castles, Prague is a fascinating and mysterious city. Home at one time or another to figures as diverse as Franz Kafka, Antonin Dvorak, and Albert Einstein, it has long been one of the scientific and cultural centers of the world.
Prague also has a rich history. The Prague carnival is a way that citizens and visitors can access this intriguing history. It takes them back to the Middle Ages and the birth of the ancient city. Everything about the carnival is a tribute to the Prague legacy and Czech national pride.
Prague’s popularity is proof of its venerated status. It is one of the most visited cities in all of Europe, with over 6 million tourists arriving annually. And although the Prague Carnival happens before the warm weather really starts, it remains a very popular attraction.
A Description of the Prague Carnival
The carnival program is magnificent every year. It plays out in the streets, the public squares, and in every imaginable venue all over the city. It includes live performances by acrobats, musicians, and clowns, as well as a sampling of delectable Czech street food. There is also a masquerade ball for children and a contest for best costume.
The settings for the carnival are many and varied. It takes place in an array of venues all over the city, with much of the action occurring spontaneously. The celebration bubbles up in public squares, museums, and theaters. It also passes through some of Prague’s many imposing palaces, including a baroque masked ball at the gorgeous Clam-Gallas Place.
At the center of all this whirling action is the masquerade parade. A true spectacle, the parade is a scintillating display of pomp, showmanship, and creativity. It features jugglers, traditional music, and a wild mix of comic and grotesque masks. The parade marches through the cobblestones of Prague like a single living thing, before ending in the maze-like streets downtown.
The Prague Carnival is just as dazzling for the spectators as it is for the masked participants. International visitors are welcomed warmly and given an authentic taste of historic Bohemian culture. Enthusiastic spectators can join in by leasing a costume. But whether they’re costumed or not, spectators are quickly drawn into the manic flow of the proceedings.
The experience is pleasantly dizzying and provocative, with far too much happening for the mind to take in completely. But this does nothing to take away from the celebratory tone and the cheer of the Prague residents. Overall, the Prague Carnival is an intensely rewarding experience, with twists, turns, and surprises around every Gothic corner.
An Experience To Cherish Forever
There is certainly a bit of culture shock involved in experiencing the Prague Carnival. Fortunately, this is easily overcome and soon plays a big part in all the fun. Eventually, spectators are completely immersed in this otherworldly experience and emerge from it with a lifetime of incredible memories.
Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Prague doesn’t stay in Prague. Visitors return from the carnival exhilarated and transformed, with stories they can’t keep to themselves. They resume their normal lives but are forever changed, with a beautiful tapestry of memories and a new perspective.
About the Author:
Kirk Markey is a dog lover and a content writer for Nostop Content.