VILLACH/RIJEKA, Austria/Croatia, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Dancing flamingos, roaring Viking warriors, singing Super Mario characters... Tens of thousands joined the carnival parade in southern Austria's border city of Villach on Saturday to showcase their fancy makeup and costumes and celebrate the traditional festival.
This year's "Carnival Saturday" parade in Villach coincided with the first day of the Chinese New Year. Many participants and organizers, on the sidelines of the parade, extended their festive greetings to Chinese people and looked forward to seeing more Chinese visitors joining the parade next year.
On Saturday afternoon, the grand parade, featuring dozens of colorful floats and some 100 groups, made its way through Villach's inner city. Many groups showered the spectators with candies and confetti from atop the floats and handed out mulled wine, a local specialty, to the audience.
The unique feature of the Villach carnival parade was the "Lei Lei" greetings, which were shouted at the top of their voices by the parade groups, spectators, and masters of ceremonies throughout the parade.
"Lei Lei" is a traditional carnival greeting used by Villach locals specifically for carnival Saturday to send festive greetings and add to the festive atmosphere, although its origin and exact meaning remain largely unknown, according to Silvia Wirnsberger, director of business at Region Villach Tourismus GmbH, a local tourism development company.
Wirnsberger told Xinhua on the parade's sidelines that she recently learned that the "Lei Lei" greeting sounds very similar to "Lai Lai" in Chinese, which means "Come Come."
"This actually adds a new layer of meaning to our 'Lei Lei' greeting in Villach, because we welcome Chinese people to come to Villach, join the carnival parade and also enjoy the beautiful natural scenery here," She said. "I wish everyone in China a happy Chinese New Year!"
In the city of Rijeka, the third-largest city in Croatia, more than 100,000 visitors from Croatia and abroad flocked to the streets on Sunday to watch the carnival parade, which showcased some 10,000 paraders from many countries, including from China.
Rimac Hrvoje, a visitor from Croatia's capital Zagreb, said he was surprised to see for the first time the on-the-spot traditional Chinese dragon dance at the carnival parade. Hrvoje said that he once watched the lion dance on TV and Sunday's experience helped him to know more about the Chinese culture, of which the dragon dance is one symbol.
Rijeka has enjoyed great relations with China, and has established a sister city relationship with three Chinese cities, namely, Dalian, Ningbo and Qingdao. Petar Skarpa, director of the Rijeka Tourist Board, said that the presence of the Chinese team at the carnival "will strengthen that cooperation."
Skarpa extended his welcome to Chinese tourists to visit Rijeka. "Chinese tourists are always welcomed in Rijeka. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were plenty of Chinese tourists in Rijeka and in the northern Adriatic region and I hope that now Chinese tourists will come back in even greater numbers," he said. ■