Well, last year some people may remember that I dropped in on the carnival in Dunkerque for the first time and was very intrigued by it. The full report from 2010 can be found on the France board. Last year I just attended a neighborhood event, but I decided I needed to crank it up a notch and see the main downtown affair this year.
It was already not as simple to find a parking space as last year, but I just parked at a nearby shopping mall which had not yet filled up.
Although the main event would not be for several hours, there were already hundreds of people wandering around in costume. It was a bit chilly, but there was no snow on the ground like last year.
Once I could finally see the carnival poster, I saw that it was written in ch'ti dialect rather than in French.
Asteur c'est l'heure du klipper!
Like many people, I wasn't sure exactly where to go, but the tourist office was open even though it was Sunday. Actually, I had printed up the route map for the wrong day! The tourist office is in the bottom of some sort of tower vestige.
The beer pavilions were ready and waiting. It was only about 10 a.m. at that time, but they were not lacking for business.
Everything was priced at 2€, I noticed, at all of these places -- beer, orange juice, soda, pastis -- except for champagne which went for 5€.
There was a big square where people were gathering.
Lots of joyous drumming and singing, trombones and trumpets. Everybody knows the words to all of the songs except me.
There are even some vuvuzelas from South Africa China. Such items were invented for carnival use.
Are we having fun? Yes, we are. I enjoy watching people having fun in ways of which I am incapable. And of course, I have to back away from scary clowns. Actually, so many of the people look like clowns that I have to back away from just about everybody.
This was really brought home to me, though, during one encounter. I was suddenly bumped into rather abruptly, and a young man apologized to me profusely, even though he was not the person who had done the bumping. "Excuse us," he said. "We have a handicapped person." It looked like he might have been the older brother. The handicapped person in question was a young man perhaps about 21 years old hanging on to his mother. The young man wasn't physically handicapped but was autistic or suffered from Asperger's. I looked at the group and wished I would have known what to say, since I know all about disabled people and how difficult it is to go out with them sometimes. The young man suddenly grabbed my arm for a moment. His brother started asking forgiveness again, "Oh, I'm so sorry, he has never done that before!" The young man buried his head in his mother's shoulder and was crying his eyes out. He almost had to bend in half because he was so much taller than his mother, but I could tell that she was very used to having a shoulder wet with tears.
Anyway, they moved along, the young man still crying on the shoulder, and I felt so sorry for them -- trying to appreciate the most festive day of the year, hoping that the younger son would get something good out of the music and the colours and the ambient happiness, and discovering that once again, it was a case of fear and sensory overload.
I love how the participants really get involved with these festivals. You see so much color and artistic talent.
It was sad to read about the autistic/asperger son. We have a niece with asperger's. You noticed because you are knowledgeable and sensitive. Most people do not react kindly to my niece, it is shocking and hurts me when she hears the comments people will make. She is so creative and so intelligent, I am so very proud of her. She had to be home schooled for a time and had some difficult periods but she is now one unit away from obtaining her high school diploma with honors.
Thank you for the wonderful colorful photos of this event Kerouac! Cheers, Mich
It was time for a break from the carnival anyway, and I knew by then at what time I had to be back for major "events" so I went farther afield, notably in the direction of the port.
I took this photo for the 'chimneys' thread in the Image Bank, but I might as well leave it here.
The main church of Dunkerque (I'm not sure if it qualifies as a cathedral) has kept its war wounds for all to see.
I'm pretty sure that the church was a total ruin after the war, since there are no bullet holes on the upper areas, which were all completely rebuilt.
After a brief search, it appears that there was much more damage to the church in WW1 than in WW2, even though the city was pretty much razed in WW2. However, after WW2, I read that "only the façade and the outer walls were intact." In fact it was not completely restored until 2001-2006.
Erasing the scars of war takes longer than most people think.
Since I have an personal aversion to costumes and disguises, I have great difficulty imagining the pleasure that people get out of doing all this stuff, and my incomprehension feeds my fascination. But in the middle of the big square where most of the people were gathered at the moment, there was a statue of the town hero, Jean Bart. When you examine his apparel, it seems as though in the 17th century, people were dressed up as though it was carnival time every day.
He was a sailor who distinguished himself fighting the British and the Dutch (even though he was born Dutch and his real name was Jan Baert). He was also freakishly tall for the time -- 2.04 meters. This statue survived WW2 even though 70% of the city was razed. His tomb is in the church.
Actually, when you are not in costume and drunk, after a certain amount of time, you start wondering what you are doing here. I think this is probably true of most carnival locations, since I know from experience that it is true of New Orleans. Don't get me wrong, though -- this does not at all prevent things from being interesting. You just wonder why you find them interesting.
Somebody was firing a giant confetti cannon into the air. I needed to get a closer look.
The time had come to go to the big event at City Hall -- the traditional Dunkerque herring toss, even though the herrings are now wrapped in plastic and have perhaps lost some of the excitement of the tossing of past years.
I had been in front of city hall earlier to be able to compare the photos with and without the crowds.
At the windows and balconies of the town hall, dignitaries and other notables waited for the event to begin.
A sentence I thought I'd never say, much less mean: "I must go to Carnival in the northernmost tip of France."
Who can't love people who fire cannons loaded with big disc confetti? Wow -- they do carnival with a vengeance there.
You caught the most wonderful crowd scenes, Kerouac, plus random portraits & vignettes. I don't have your aversion to costume, but wearing one makes me very nervous, so I especially admire how you caught the fun and exuberance. And yeah, being sober in that kind of crowd can leave one feeling bemused, if not isolated, but you obviously went with the flow quite nicely.
Yes, those are real fish, and traditionally you are supposed to eat them as soon as you catch one. Most of the young men actually do so, ripping into them with their teeth and not minding the bones.
Actually, I did get into a spot of trouble at the end. While non costumed people are accepted around the edges of the crowd at city hall, I encountered (at least feigned) hostility as I went deeper into the crowd with my camera. "He's not wearing a costume!" somebody shouted and suddenly I had hands all over me, pulling at my jacket. I got out of there fast!
People should know that the carnival season starts in January and lasts 3 months. Every weekend you can find something and many weekdays too. The costumes are the same in all the cities except for the official processions.