Upon searching for the correct spelling of Kruikenzeikerstad I stumbled across oncyclopedia.com [sic] and laughed so much that all original plans for this article fluttered out of the window like a Carnaval-goer’s pretentions. I shall further translate and elaborate in due course, but for now:
Tilburg is a city in the lost Brabant in Netherlands. The city is known as Kruikenzeikerstad because the residents piss in jars.
Willem II Tilburg founded in 1809 under the conditions that a football club was named after him. At the end of that century, the number kruikenzeikers exploded so that there are some puddles around Oisterwijk formed.
Dictator Cees de Sloper was around 1965 Tilburg reign of the dictator. He demolished half the town, and since then the city because of his ugliness more zeken transferred. However, this dictator all pitchers piss industry driven with a heavy hand. Since then, for example, a Stink Bomb Factory established the population of ants to protect clean air of typical diseases.”
My perception of the internet has shot up exponentially after reading this translation. Admittedly I am confused as to what zeken is, and what ants were doing at a Stink Bomb Factory, and how that is relevant to the current status of Tilburg’s Carnaval or this article, but the description certainly has a charm about it. [A quick aside: the translation of Stink Bomb Factory reminds me somewhat of an expression a French-speaking, Lyon-dwelling friend passed on to me recently. That a “sex buddy” in French is commonly referred to as a “Regular Ass Plan”. I liked that too.]
So, my weekend. As this is the real story. For five days a year Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands constitutionally becomes Kruikenzeikerstad, which translates as City of the Jug-Pissers. Years ago the textile mill ran out of ammonia to clean their cloth, so enlisted the help of the community who splashed and spurted their frothing, dehydrated piddle into thousands of jars of micturate. It saved the industry, and is celebrated along with Carnavals across the south of Holland every year just before Lent with five days of fancy dress partying, countless plastic cups of beer, a carnival parade, and shots of a local liqueur called Schrobbeler accompanied by choruses of “Alaaf!”
I arrive on the Friday night to greet Tilburg-born friend Maarten and his assembly of Vintage Circus-dressed fellow Carnaval-goers. Houdini looks like a scuba-diving bondage-hungry Arab sultan; snake charmer man and ballerina natter over their beers; while knife-thrower dude attempts to swallow polystyrene without gagging and chundering at such an early stage in proceedings.
In town, the streets are jammed with fancy dress revellers. A floating Captain of the Costa Concordia joins a large group of fully-opened-tent-wearing drunkards calling themselves “Occupy Kruikenzeikerstad”. One group parties around a giant inflatable penis with their absent friend’s face at the bell-end, intermittently taking photos of him to show him how much of a penis he is for not being there. In a thronging beer club we congo-line around bars and tables and Batman in a Batmo-wheelchair, singing such Carnaval classics as “you look better when I’m drinking, so fill me up”, “kissing is cool” and “I’ve got a pancake in my underpants”.
That’s, “kreeg een pannekoek in mijn onderbroek”.
I am dressed as a clown, totally exhilarated and wide-eyed and happy and drunk. The night tears on.
The following morning Maarten wakes everyone up for Schrobbeler, breakfast and party games at 11am. Although hellish after four hours of sleep as he spanks me with his Houdini chains and threatens to splat a pannekoek in my face, this enables us to celebrate the Kruikenzeiker in true Carnaval fashion.
At the train station the Prince of Kruikenzeikerstad and his eleven “elders” in Smurf-like hats are played onto a stage by a brass band before the assembled melee parades a figurine of the Kruikenzeiker (a man pissing into a jug) to the city’s central square, where it replaces the town statue. So begins the start of Kruikenzeikerstad. The temporary end of Tilburg. We now belong to The City of Jug-Pissers. We dance, we sing, we joke. We end up in a club like the night before, partying like it’s the night before, drinking like it’s the night before. Outside the light blinds our eyes. We thought it was the night before. There are no pretensions here – everyone is in fancy dress, everyone is happy, everyone is drunk. This is the most unbelievable party around.
We stumble through the market and shopping centre to get back to Maarten’s for dinner. Some people still live in Tilburg, selling their pannekoek and waffles and donuts like it’s any other Saturday. We pile into a video rental store, babbling and laughing, to rent BEERFEST. This happens every year. Maarten still has not bought the DVD that is so crucial to the next phase. We return to his unbelievably hospitable parents’ house and a delicious dinner before playing the film. Clowns and masters of ceremonies and bears and knife-throwers pass out, but by the end of the movie we are chugging beer and Schrobbeler and yelling “Alaaf!” in the spirit of the times.
Soon we are back out in town, joining the even bigger throngs once more, drinking and dancing and climaxing to a heightened level of high jinks. It is much the same as the other times, but just as fun. The night tears on into Sunday.
Although different, Sunday is, er, well it’s still totally barmy. There is still beer and Schrobbeler and fancy dress, but the kids are out, the sun is peeking through grey clouds and the central streets are paraded down by groups of musicians, dancers, floats and cartoon cars. This is the carnival part that feels familiar, except that all the onlookers are in fancy dress. A five year-old boy dressed as a Peruvian pan flute musician climbs up a spaceship gang plank surrounded by astronauts and is encapsulated in the shuttle. It is a feast for bleary eyes, the music blares, the people sing, and the thought of returning to work is far from our minds.
Kruikenzeikerstad is an unusual but rewarding weekend holiday destination, whether you simply piss in jugs or you are a pitchers piss income capitalist I highly recommend it.
By Tom Huntingford (@huntingfordtom)