For the past 21 years, Deventer, Netherlands has played host to the Charles Dickens Festival.
It's held on the last weekend before Christmas (Saturday and Sunday). About 1,50,000 people come from all over Europe dressed as Dickensian characters. You can spot Pip, Estella, Magwitch, Oliver Twist, Scrooge..all the characters Dickens created amongst the crowd.
The narrow town alleys leading to the central plaza are lined with booksellers selling first editions of Charles Dickens Books! In Europe, it's one of those rare occasions when you won't find french fries. What you'd find instead is hawkers selling boiled peanuts, roasted marshmallows, steamed potatoes with salad, wood fired bread and similar food as described in Charles Dickens books. Church bells ring every hour calling out to visitors to come and be part of their special traditional choir services.
What's unique about this festival is that Deventer being a small town in Netherlands, which otherwise enjoys an anonymous existence all year, has thrice the number of visitors come in just for the weekend to be a part of the Charles Dickens Festival. The city residents don't mind the crowds or their streets lined up with cars. In fact they integrate with the crowd and join in with the festivities. Some families from Deventer have costumes, ostentatious hats with plumes, corsets and bonnets stitched months in advance in anticipation of the festival. Some residents volunteer along with the city council and local police to help organize the festival and manage the crowds.
Being December, the weather is cold, very cold. Take your pick from home brewed chocolate or traditional glühwein. For a day, after a few cups of glühwein, don't be surprised if you start believing you've traveled two centuries back in time and hear yourself speaking Dickensian's English.
Days: Last weekend before Christmas (Saturday- Sunday)
Time: 9:30- 17:00
Traditional Glühwein recipe :-)
- 2-3 litres red wine
- 2 cups castor sugar
- 6 - 8 Cinnamon sticks
- 4-5 Whole cloves
- 2-3 oranges
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 cups of brandy (optional)
1. Pour red wine into a large pot and let it simmer on the stove on very low heat. Don't let the wine boil, just simmer.
2. Just when the wine is warmed up, add orange slices
3. Add cloves
4. Break Cinnamon sticks and add
5. Add brandy (optional)
6. Add orange juice
7. Add sugar
8. Stir the mixture and let it simmer for 5-7 mins
9. Once it's cooled down, warm it again on low heat for 5-10mins.
10. Repeat the warm and cool process for 30 minutes so all spices are soaked in.
11. No matter water, just don't let it boil.
12. Serve hot!