Last Saturday I partied with half a million people. A great majority of young people in Sevilla, study abroad students, and more tourists from all over Spain and the rest of Europe converged in Cádiz for Carnaval.
Cádiz is world famous for the especially humorous angle it takes on Carnaval. Rather than glamorous renaissance costumes, most men are dressed as women and group costumes of Smurfs, cowboys, aliens, and even mops roam the streets.
Well, roam may be the wrong word. Bob and weave, more like it. The city is only home to 150,000 people so it’s difficult to move around in the plazas when they’re infested with 3 times that. But the swarm of crowds is what makes it Carnaval. Each person had on a more creative costume than the next. We saw pirates, gondoliers (to make fun of Carnaval taking place in Venice, Italy), and every other person was dressed like a chicken. Formal and informal groups sing in the streets about everything from the news, to politics, to drinking.
Our trip started on a bus from Sevilla at 9pm. It was supposed to depart earlier, but to kick the night off in style, our bus driver got a ticket before we even pulled out of Plaza de Cuba. We were going with a program that caters to study abroad students. They did a good job for 20 euros, but I must say they were a little misleading. Leading up to the day, they encouraged you to bring your own alcohol for the ride, but then made us store it until we arrived in Cádiz. We had to wait to “enjoy” our 59-cent boxes of wine—a little bit of a buzz kill.
Upon arriving in the city, we promptly lost part of our entourage. Nevertheless, we followed the droves of people to a large plaza. There was not really any music or dancing, but there was singing and drums and people jumping around. We decided to move on to outside of the cathedral. A five-minute walk that took four times as long fighting the crowds finally took us to the steps on the side of the cathedral.
Should I feel bad this is where we spent the rest of the night? Well, we were joined with thousands of others and it gave us a great view over the entire area. We met up with more people from our program and befriend two groups of very, um, outgoing, Spanish boys. I was glad for the chance to practice my Spanish.
We talked, laughed, and danced the rest of the night and early morning away. Clearly it’s a drinking holiday, but I was honestly surprised to see that the fiesta was very far from a sloppy Halloween rager in a college town. People are there for a good time, not to blackout. Around 5am we were all wearing out and turned to a street vendor for sustenance. The vendors were everywhere but we ran down the steps of the cathedral to one frying chorizo. I had the most delicious chorizo bocadillo I may ever eat in my life, but it could be that anything would be that good that late (or early?).
Too soon it was time to return to our bus stop, conveniently located beneath the huge light up signs that announced the side of the city celebrating. Everyone was zonked out on the ride home, but we made it back to Sevilla to see the sunrise.