16 December 2018. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name of Charles Dickens? The story of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers and, of course, A Christmas Carol novella. So, when a lot of characters from his work coming to life in a two-day festival, you just have to be there.
“There” is a town called Deventer, which is situated in the Overijssel province. The Dickens festival is always held in the winter, close to Christmas, and this year it fell on the weekend of 15-16 December.
We, tíc members, decided to go there, to check the atmosphere, try to name all the characters and to soak in the Christmas spirit of an English Victorian village.
The morning welcomed us with a white sheet of snow all over the Netherlands. It was cold, dark and mysterious, but we were ready for adventures, which began almost immediately.
Our train stopped midway and could not continue to the final destination, so we stopped in the small town of Oss to wait for another one to come for rescue. Foggy Oss welcomed us with hot drinks (thanks to Kiosk and NS) and we happily chatted with each other. The waiting time flew by and 30 minutes later we were sitting in the train on our way to a fairytale.
We knew, that there might be a waiting line of up to 60 minutes at the entrance to the old town of Deventer, but the hope was still within us. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when we saw a bunch of people going in the same direction. The hope for a short waiting time evaporated. Thankfully, the clever people of Deventer helped us to overcome this small obstacle by dipping us gently in old days town mood.
Just as we got out of the central station, we found a photo booth in a shape of an old photo camera that was offering photography services. The fashion of the 19th century also came alive here. Women with puffed dresses, long sleeves, V-shaped bodices, and men with cutaway coats, straight trousers and high hats, we could see it all. The waiting time flew fast because we could drink Glühwein or hot chocolate, eat some hot waffles, and just enjoy the music of the orchestra playing next to us. But be aware, thieves are on a constant alert, and they will rob you shamelessly. If you don’t want to drink, then buy a newsletter from a paper boy, and read while you are waiting, because a guard with sharp spears will not let you in.
Finally, we made it to the entrance. A huge statue of Charles Dickens, made of lights, welcomed us into the wonderful and harsh world of his stories.
It seems that time just stopped here. The old city of Deventer was dressed in Christmas trees and festive lights, rich couples promenading next to us. Folk were doing their daily activities: cleaning, laundry and grazing sheep. Merchants were selling fruits, vegetables, warm chestnuts, waffles, cakes, artisan bread, smoked meat and fish from, oh so many, carts. Chimney sweepers were doing their dirty chores. The city was loud and alive.
We witnessed a fire, a robbery, a drunken brawl, a ghost predicting the future (or putting a curse on us, it was in Dutch). Oliver Twist was there too, telling us all about his adventures. The village police were trying to keep everything in order, but little children, begging for money, and drunk vagabonds, trying to pick up a fight with every passer-by, made our walk through the old town very realistic, fun and unexpected.
But not only were the streets full of tales, people opened their windows for us, and inside we saw tea parties, a real trial, and regular people just playing board games in Victorian living rooms.
It was cold outside, so the Dickens pub (pool salon during “regular” days) took us into its warm arms and gave us a hiatus to rest and eat before we continued the journey.
A lot of antique shops, different boutiques, Dickens museum, wood sawing, playground for little children and Scottish marching band made our day diverse.
Almost at the end of our day, we visited a church on the Bergkerkplein where we witnessed a children’s play, recreating scenes from A Christmas Carol novella.
We finished the day at the Christmas market of modern Deventer with some poffertjes.
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