WHEW! Crazy week.
Actually, that statement needs more emphasis in order to correctly convey the emotions with which I am thinking/typing.
That’s a little better. I would use all caps and underline if my degree in graphics didn’t protest those two attributes so strongly in my head. (WHEW! is taken out of the equation when speaking of my hatred of all caps because it is more like a sound than a word, which somehow makes it ok to be in all caps.)
So, in case you didn’t get it, I had a crazy week. Hence the long pause between blog posts.
I live in the New Orleans of Europe for Karneval (Mardi Gras), and Karneval really started (=became insane) last Thursday. For Karneval here in Germany, they dress up just as we Americans do for Halloween. They have the same basic traditional costumes: pirates, police, nurses, hippies, the occasional Lady Gaga or Charlie Sheen. My friend from Spain, Alita, and I chose to join in the mayhem by dressing up on Thursday as “Ampel-Mädchens”. You know the red-light for pedestrians that dictates whether you can cross the street or not? Here in Germany, there is a little green guy for “walk” that is in a mid-walk pose and a little red guy for “do not walk” that is standing in a strict hands-by-sides-feet-together position. I was the green guy and Alita was the red guy. Basically, we dressed in head-to-toe green and red, respectively, and carried whistles around our necks to “direct” people, which seriously came in handy.
Thursday in Köln (the center of all Karneval-Mayhem)
Thursday (along with Rose Monday) is one of the best days for Karneval in Köln. I had heard a lot about it and was honestly a little frightened. From what I had heard through the mouths of German friends, there seemed to be a large chance that I would be shoved to the ground and trampled by the large amount of people, then robbed and thrown in the Rhine for good measure. Only then would I know that I had truly experienced Karneval. Although the tales were daunting, I decided to face my fears and experience this epic European ritual.
Alas, I did not end up trampled or in the Rhine, but I would say I truly had a great Karneval experience on Thursday. I felt very German indeed afterwards. We started off on the train to Köln (about a 45-minute ride) at about 12pm. We were already running late, as most people arrive around 9 or 10 in the morning. The train was packed with people, many of them sporting belts with little mini bottles of liquor strapped in securely to pockets that surround the belt. Nifty. We lucked out and scored actual seats next to some Construction-costume-clad gentlemen that already smelled heavy of the whiskey. They pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels out of their satchel and politely offered us a drink, which we turned down. We had already bought a couple of bottles of wine and were planning to drink them in class, straight from the bottle until we could locate some cups. I did tell the guy that I lived last year in Kentucky, where Jack Daniels originates. He was very impressed by this knowledge. We also got to use our whistles for the first time, as a witch passed by us and fell flat on her face in the aisle. Unfortunately, one of her mini-liquor bottles fell out of her nifty belt, and when she didn’t respond to us trying to tell her, Alita blew her whistle and got the attention of everyone in our train-car. We then politely informed the lady that she had dropped one of her mini-liquor bottles, and she promptly rescued it. Score one for the whistles!
We were not really sure as to our plan once we arrived in Köln, so Alita rang up a few connections she has in the city and we set off to the student area of Köln in order to meet them. They told us to look for a bunch of sailors and a Haribo bear. Seriously? Like they thought that would be easy. We never found them. Way too many people. Instead, we walked around, danced to the music on the streets, met a lot of nice people, and ended up in a classic german discothek, dancing the night away and witnessing a lot of interesting occurrences.
My costume…we aren't in Köln at this point, so that is why there are zero people.
Some dancing in the streets...
Saturday in Düsseldorf
Another au-pair friend, Jordan, who is also from America, arrived at my house on Friday to celebrate Karneval with Alita and me. We decided to venture into Düsseldorf on Saturday to shake things up a bit. Plus, I just like Düsseldorf better than Köln (but don’t tell my Köln friends…they’re rival cities). This time, all three of us dressed up as Flamenco dancers with some costumes that Alita had brought with her from Spain. And in Düsseldorf, it was a lot of the same activites in Köln, but on a much smaller scale because Saturday is not a big day for Karneval. Most people are still sleeping off their hangovers from Thursday. There were still a lot of people, though, and we spent the night walking around the Altstadt, watching people and again, dancing to the music in the streets.
My favorite new song is one that is popular here during Karneval… if you know Portuguese, I’m sorry for the crude lyrics…
So, Saturday was definitely fun, but not the best day of Karneval. Although we did meet 2 Americans, which is always a rare, exciting thing. Unfortunately, they were with an extremely creepy guy, so we had to ditch them. Sorry.
Monday in Köln (wieder)
Like I said, Monday is also one of the best days for Karneval. After Thursday, I kind of knew what to expect and wasn’t too worried this time. Alita and I dressed up as Flamenco dancers again and arrived around 2 to watch the parade. And boy was it a parade. We stood and watched the parade for about 1.5 hours, catching candy and being shoved with the other 1.2 million people that were in Köln that day. We became pros at catching candy. I really couldn’t see anything that went on with the parade…I just looked toward the sky and waited for candy to rain down from it. In all honesty, I usually freaked out and threw my hands over my head while Alita knelt on the ground and grabbed as much as she could. She was the pro. After about 2 hours, I decided to ask the lady behind me, who seemed to know a lot about the parade, how long it was. “Well,” she said, “we are on about float 20 and there are 110.” That was after 2 hours, folks! Float 20! A couple of minutes later, I got hit in the head by a hard, cold Snickers (thrown from a very high float) and it hurt so bad I had to try really hard not to cry. So Alita and I decided to go get something to eat then go meet her friends in the student area where we were on Thursday. This time, we successfully found her friends, located somewhere warm to hang out, and had a blast again. I think my favorite part was just watching all of the people…
We saw a guy dressed as a smurf, decked with a blue face and all. Unfortunately for the girl he was swapping spit with, her face was now in turn blue. Quite a sight and quite hilarious. I so badly wanted a picture, but was too chicken to try…even though I’m pretty sure they would not have noticed. I’m sorry I do not have a photo to share with you. All I can do is give you a bit of advice: if you are going to make out with a stranger, make sure that their face is not painted at the time.
While watching the parade, and were looking towards the sky for more flying candy, we saw some objects that looked rather large and were not shaped like a Twix bar. One of the mysterious objects landed exactly in Alita’s outstretched hands at about the same time that we realized that they were sausages. Sausages, people! Being thrown from a float? I want chocolate! Even worse, after inspecting the label, they were blutwursts…blood sausages. I make it a rule not to eat any food with blood in it. You can ask my mom, I’ve been picking veins out of my chicken fingers since I could feed myself. We did have a good laugh, though. We were definitely in Germany.
After catching the Blutwurst.
This is probably the only time in my life that I will be in Germany in February, so I feel really lucky that I was able to experience Mardi Gras the German way. It’s definitely an interesting, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am glad I pursued and survived. In fact, that’s been a popular question that I’ve received after Karneval… “So you survived?”