Europe's Party of all Parties Revelers Flock to the Streets to Celebrate Carnival

All over the continent, Europeans are celebrating one of the year's biggest events: Carnival. From Germany to Croatia, and at places in-between, party-goers are dressing up and going out. SPIEGEL ONLINE takes a look at some of the continent's Carnival highlights.

REUTERS

Carnival, that annual, crazy event full of parties, parades and music is fully underway in cities across Europe. And while some cities, such as Berlin, have already celebrated with their own Carnival parades, there are plenty of events still on the horizon.

Dating to medieval times, Carnival is celebrated primarily in Catholic countries as a symbolic renewal of life before Lent. In Germany, it is traditionally a much-loved event in the Rhineland cities of Düsseldorf and Cologne. But those who've had enough of chilly German weather can head to sunnier locales in Spain or Italy. Want to keep things cool? Countries like Switzerland and France have their own versions, too.

Here's what revelers are planning throughout Europe:

France: Twenty tons of confetti, more than 100,000 flowers and a million people can be found in Nice at the most important Carnival celebration on the Côte d'Azur.

"It's a festival of colors," said Thomas Schmidt, from the French tourism office. The celebration isn't as interactive as in Germany, but it's more imaginative. "People watch and admire - but from a distance," Schmidt said. "It's a very different feeling."

There are 180 bizarre paper mâché heads, colorful flower parades, music groups and street artists to be seen at this festival that runs from Feb. 18 until Fat Tuesday, March 8.

Italy: Venice's Carnival is among Europe's most enchanting and magical. "Imaginative cosumes, Venetian masks and opulent balls in the palaces are typical," said Christine Hübner, from Italy's tourism board.

The 10-day-long event started this year on Feb. 26 with a parade and the famed "Flight of the Angel," in which a well-known person in full costume slides down from the Basilica bell tower with a rope into St. Mark's square. His or her identity is never known in advance.

Spain: You won't find Europe's biggest Carnival celebration in Cologne. Instead, it's on Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands, where temperatures are expected to be a relatively balmy 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Carnival celebration there lasts about a month, and can attract more than a million visitors. It begins on Feb. 15 with the introduction of candidates for Carnival Queen. Another popular event takes place on March 11 in Puerto de La Cruz, when men in drag run a marathon while wearing high heels and flamboyant costumes.

Photo Gallery

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Photo Gallery: Carnival Revelers Take to the Street
Croatia: The country's biggest Carnival celebration can be found in Rijeka, where more than 250,000 people are expected for this year's celebrations.

"The mood is much more relaxed than in Germany," said Mirna Bender from Croatia's tourism board.

"In comparison to Cologne, there are fewer drunk people," she said.

The high point is a massive parade on March 6 when everyone heads to the streets, including people wearing fancily decorated animal masks.

Switzerland: Switzerland's most famous Carnival celebration, known as the "Basler Fasnacht," happens in the country's capital city of Basel and attracts about 200,000 visitors.

But they need to wake up early so they don't miss the festivities.

As the bell strikes 4 a.m. at St. Martin's Church on March 14, the Monday after Ash Wednesday, all the lights in the city are turned off and the people sing the melody of the Morgenstraichs as drums and piccolos play, and as they march in a torchlit parade.

The event ends three days later on March 17.

-- mdm with wires

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