Madeira is a small group of islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean and is one of the autonomous regions of Portugal. Of the several islands and islets there are only two, the Madeira island and the Porto Santo Island, which are inhabitable. Its climate, with a mix of Mediterranean and tropical characteristics make it an ideal breeding ground for vastly different flora and fauna. A year-round resort and eco-tourism destination, Madeira is what happens when Mother Nature works in her most joyous mood. A mosaic of every color in the artist’s palate, this World Natural Heritage Site as deemed by UNESCO, is a visual riot with the blue sea, green forests, black volcanic mountains and multicolored flowers abounding. It is even more so during the Madeira Carnival and Flower Festival.
The Madeira Carnival
Definitely one of the best European street parties, the streets of the capital city of Funchal seems to jump to life. Parades, floats, costumes, food, drink, music- this carnival has everything. The carnival opens on a Saturday and that is the day the biggest parade takes to the streets. This parade is called the Allegoric Parade and requires intensive preparation. Samba bands blast live music into the streets. Thousands of people dress up in all types of costumes ranging from the simply extravagant to downright eccentric. The rest of the weekend sees the parties continuing non-stop from sun-up to sun-down and then again till the next morning dawns for the next three days until Shrove Tuesday. Restaurants and bars are open till later and often feature special live bands. The final parade, called trapalhão, is cheekier than the opening one. Costumes are often caricatures, making good natured fun of local politicians, famous people and the popular scandals associated with them. Then there are some that are clearly the result of an imagination running high and free. The fun starts almost a month before the actual carnival when all participating carnival troupes file into the little city and put up ad-hoc performances at various hotels.
The Madeira Flower Festival
While spring all over the world is the most beautiful of seasons, in Madeira it takes on an entirely new dimension. As much a feast for the olfactory senses as it is for the visual, the Madeira Flower Festival is a great crowd puller for locals and tourists alike. This time the parade has floats made almost entirely out of flowers. Groups dancing to new choreography every year seem to have jumped out of the pages of a fairy tale. A comparatively recent, but very meaningful, addition to this festival is the ‘Wall of Hope.’ At the Colégio Square children place single flowers or large bouquets to build a large wall of flowers. Flower carpets on the streets, flower displays in shop windows, a flower exhibition at the Ateneu Comercial the little island transforms entirely into a floating garden.
During the Madeira Carnival and Flower Festival the variegated carpet of colors that nature spreads out in Madeira seems all the more vibrant.
Photo of carnival parade in Funchal, Madeira, originally posted by goforchris