Last weekend, we went to the birthplace of the lovely Eau de Cologne – known in Germany as Köln or in English – Cologne.
Cologne is one of Germany’s most beautiful cities, of which there are many. It’s a city packed with medieval architecture and Romanesque churches dominated by the Gothic spire of the 13th century cathedral known by the locals as the “Köln Dom.”
As intriguing as Cologne was, we were there for the purpose of celebrating the 10th year wedding anniversary of a family friend and as a result, a deep look into what makes Cologne tick will have to wait for another visit.
It has been at least 9 years since I’ve been to Cologne and my memories are hazy as the last thing I remember doing there was going from one bar to another, with an entourage of other managers from all around the country.
This time around, “The Music Producer” and “The Tall Young Gentleman” were in tow and the city of Cologne was in the throng of caaaaaaarnival fever. Not a carnival as is known in Anglo-American countries but “Carnival” – German style. Whoever says Germans don’t know how to enjoy themselves and let loose, has never been to Cologne, Düsseldorf, Munich or Berlin!
But what is this Carnival?
The Cologne Carnival is an important traditional festival that takes place every year, and is known as the “fifth season.” Every 12 months there are 3 people known as the “Dreigestirn” who are granted the titles of The Virgin – Jungfrau, the Prince – Prinz, and The Farmer – Bauer.
The Cologne Carnival prince is deemed to be the highest representative of the festivities, leading the main parades throughout the week. Traditionally, The Virgin – Jungfrau, is always a man in drag!
The Prince also known as His Madness or “Seine Tollität” symbolizes the carnival itself and usually wears some form of a crown with a peacock tail, a golden chain, a girdle with precious stones, white breeches, and a jacket. He also carries a sceptre in one hand and slapstick (the symbol of the fool) in the other hand.
The Virgin also known as Her Loveliness or “Ihre Lieblichkeit” symbolizes the patronizing mother Colonia and is traditionally played by a man who has no facial hair. The Cologne Virgin usually wears a mural crown and has a hand mirror (the symbol of vanity), and is normally dressed in Roman clothing representing the Roman empress Agrippina, who was born in the Roman city of Colonia.
The Farmer also known as His Heftiness or “Seine Deftigkeit” must be a man of stature. He expresses the boldness of the old privileged imperial city of Cologne and has a sword and a hand tool used for threshing grain (the symbol of loyalty and truth). He is also the keeper of the city and wears the city keys on his girdle (the symbol of the city militia).
The Cologne Carnival is first and foremost a festival of fancy dress.
Custom demands that the carnival season is declared opened at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th day of the 11th month (November). During Advent and the Christmas period the carnival is temporarily put on hold until January 6th but the real merry-making takes place on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. During this time, there are many balls, street festivals, celebrations, “crazy days,” wild parties on the streets, and parties in the public squares. During this period, closing times for restaurants, pubs, and clubs are ignored and establishments are allowed to open 24 hours a day!
This wonderful time all ends on Ash Wednesday.
However, the biggest highlight of the Cologne Carnival is Rose Monday or Rosenmontag which takes place two days before Ash Wednesday.
Rosenmontag is tomorrow!
Everybody makes an effort and is garbed in fancy dress costume and themed attire, or is masked, and you can pretty much wear whatever you like. When I attended 14 years ago, I went as some sort of cow. I had black and white make-up on, lots of glitter, a tail and a furry hat!
On Rosenmontag, there is a kilometre long procession that takes the Prince, the Farmer and the Virgin through the city. There is also the large official parade with elaborate colourful floats, and sweets are thrown from the floats to the public. These sweets are called “Kamelle.” Little bouquets of flowers are also given out – “Stüßjer”, and lots of little pecks of kisses are also given to one and all – Bützje.
In order to get the sweets, bon-bons and candy, you have to shout out “Kamelle” and “Kölle Alaaf!” which means “Long Live Cologne!” If you’re lucky, chocolate boxes, and bottles of Eau de Cologne are also thrown from the floats! We had a brilliant time.
This year there will be:
- 10,096 performing participants.
- 350 horse riders.
- 117 bands.
- 140 tonnes of sweets, bon-bons and candy.
- 700,000 bars of chocolate.
- 220,000 boxes of chocolate.
- 300,000 bunches of flowers.
- 74 decorated floats.
- 67 tractors.
- 50 trucks.
- 3,600 kg of paint used.
- 10 kg of glue.
- 500 sq meters of chipboard and plywood.
- 10 sq meters of plastic foam.
- €2.3 million or $3.1 million spent for the official parade ceremony.
Right now, the beautiful Cologne is the place to be.
This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.
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Have you been to Cologne? When was the last time you went to a Carnival? Do you like dressing up? Share your comments.
See you next week at the world’s biggest International Tourism Exchange platform – the ITB in my home, Berlin.
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