Carnival season, called Karneval, Fastnacht, or Fasching in Germany, has come to an end. This year, I spent Saturday – Monday of “The Fifth Season” celebrating this grand occasion in Cologne, Germany. In fact, the first carnival parade in the world took place in Köln in 1832 [source] and Cologne’s celebration is still the biggest in Germany. After attending Mardi Gras, I would say it is similar in the concept of drinking at all hours of the day, crowded streets, and overly friendly people, but it also had a little Halloween vibe with all of the Halloween type costumes and candy.
Dressing in Costume
A big part of the carnival tradition is dressing up. Initially, I thought people would just dress up for the parade, but everyone was dressed up all weekend, no matter what time of day. When we got into the city, people continually asked where our costumes were and we ended up returning to the hostel to get into character. All over the city, you will find people dressed as pirates,
Indians Native Americans, giraffes, sailors, cowboys, and more. It was chilly, so I thought the animal onesies were certainly the smartest choice. We dressed up as characters from the game Guess Who? and it was also a pretty good plan since we could layer up in whatever clothes we wanted and add accessories. The frames were a bit of an issue at the crowded bars, but they held up well.
Rose Monday Parade
The big event is the carnival parade, which occurs on Rose Monday, which over 1 million spectators attend each year. The parade kicked off at 11 am and seriously trucked on until 4 pm. At the parade, there are many groups filling several floats, marching bands, and men, women, and children in costume. They throw candy, and not just any candy, but often huge chocolate bars and flowers. These flowers often don’t come without a kiss on the cheek from one of the gentleman in the parade.
Tip: we arrived for the parade at about 1030 am and had a great view and front row spots at the parade on Schildergasse near the Krebsgasse intersection.
Things to Expect
- Throughout the weekend, you will hear shouts of Kölle Alaaf!, a phrase means “Cologne above all!” You will first hear cries of Kölle and the crowd will respond by shouting Allaf! and throwing one hand up in the air.
- People will kiss you. This will happen countless times. Just accept it. However, if some random Turkish man unzips your jacket to rub his scruff on your face and kiss your neck, you can then draw the line with a big fat NEIN.
- It is cold. Layer up and then stuff heat packs in your pants. Ok, I didn’t do this, but I should have – SO DAMN COLD!
- Don’t plan to do much of the traditional Cologne sight seeing, the cathedral and most museums shut down for days during the carnival festivities.
- This song is the anthem of the weekend. Learn it. Live it. Love it.
Have you ever visited Cologne?