Friday, March 3, 2017


 On November 11, Karneval season begins in Cologne and all over North Rhine Westphalia. There are celebrations in cities all over the state with the largest in Cologne. This season lasts until Lent begins, which this year meant until the end of February. Everything culminates in a huge Karneval celebration the weekend before Lent that's basically a cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras, but on an even larger scale. It's one big party, where people dress up in costumes, drink from dawn to dawn, and just have a big time with friends and family. On Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), there are big parades to end the Karneval celebrations. There's one in Muenster and I think many cities have them as well, but the big ones is in Cologne, so we decided last minute to head down there and see what the fuss was about. We left pretty early on Monday morning, and for some reason my brain would not shut down the night before so I pulled an all-nighter on accident, but this was still pretty fun.

Stores were boarded up and closed along the parade route (which was basically all the stores), swarms of people were everywhere, and we were among the odd men out because we weren't dressed up at all. A few days before, we'd considered going to Karneval and allllmost bought some cheap masquerade masks but didn't, and we sort of wish we had!

We moved around a few times, but here are some parade things we saw. For the first hour or so, I'm not sure there was a parade or if we were just witnessing random groups walking along. They were very dressed up, but they came in groups sporadically with lengthy intervals. I think the actual parade started pretty far from where we were and just took its time getting to us.

These people weren't part of a parade... just really dressed up.

There were quite a few political statements and even when we couldn't understand them all, we knew they weren't exactly pro-Trump. This sign says "There is no such thing as Climate Change"

And that's Hilary Clinton's face.

Once the main parade started, there weren't any gaps. There were lots of marching bands, large floats, and groups of people walking. They threw so much candy at the crowd (and at those watching from windows and balconies) and handed out flowers at times. I got hit in the face many times by candy raining from the sky. We knew about this, so we'd brought a bag to hold all of the treats. They were throwing big candy bars, lots of gummy candy, and some full boxes of chocolates among other things. Everyone was screaming "Koelle Alaaf!" or "Camelle!" (which means candy) and having a good time.

And true to form, the Germans know how to party. It seemed that everyone was having beer or shots or wine or all three and no one batted an eye at the fact that it was 10 in the morning. I'm sure the crowd got rowdy from all that at some point, but everyone I saw was jovial and happy, which has pretty much been the case with German drinking from what I've seen. Even those marching in the parade or on the floats had flasks or even full bottles of whatever and were taking sips as they rained down candy from above.

I loved this little baby popcorn costume. Very creative. The people watching here was really excellent.

And a picture with the Kolner Dom as we wove our way through crowded streets to the train station.

We made a stop in Essen to go to Primark (the one in Cologne was closed) and when we got out it was pouring rain. It was a rainy walk to the train and then when we got off in Muenster it was a rainy and cold walk home and then a block from our house, the paper shopping bag broke from the rain and we had to carry our things home. It wasn't a lengthy walk from that point, thankfully, but we felt like wet rats and shivered our way home.

Here's our haul. Most of it is mystery candy and probably a lot of it is milk chocolate which I don't love, but it's very much a fun adventure to try, and it was really fun to attend the parade and yell for candy and get it. We're both very glad we made it to Karneval and got to add another very German experience to our year here.

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