Part of my destinations in 2014 during my spring backpacking expedition did not include Germany. A good friend of mine had convinced me to go visit her in Luxembourg and I had planned a few extra days to visit that very nice and small country. I also planned on visiting other friends who are living and working there and I wanted to explore the possibility of me setting permanent shop in Luxembourg.
At the very last minute, however, as soon as I arrived in Lux city, my friend texted me and told me she was in Germany instead and to come over for carnival and there was plenty of alcohol.
So I went.
The train ride from Lux to Germany was fun and interesting, and after my transfer point somewhere In Germany, shit started to get real. The trains were full of people in costumes and passing by villages and small cities, everywhere you could see parades going on, and people in costumes, along with many drunken idiots, which never fail.
Upon arrival in Cologne, after sharing the train ride with more drunken people I had ever wanted to see in my life, the amount of humans that flooded the station was beyond overwhelming. Sure everyone was dressed up and in party mode, but once you see people drunk and being loud, you know there is going to be some sort of rowdiness. And there was, mostly in the form of guys screaming, pushing and shoving other people and throwing cans and glass bottles on the street or into the crowds.
The amount of shit I was hauling around with the luggage and camera gear had me in the worst possible mood. Add an entire city crammed inside a station doing stupid shit and my level of misanthropy skyrockets. At that moment it had me doubting why in the hell did I agree to come to Cologne for this foolishness. But I hadn’t seen my friend in ages so I shut the hell up.
The baggage lockers were actually automatized via kiosks where you pay up, drop your shit in a little elevator shaft thing and it is then sent along cavernous little tunnels on conveyor belts and laser guided GPS chips with security cameras for each piece of luggage and… (I’m making all that up, I don’t know really how all that works) securely placed in the bowels of the train station, somewhere. So that relieved some pressure from my shoulders and a cup of coffee next, helped to lessen a little my level of dislike for people in huge crowds.
A few minutes later and with just my camera gear, which by the way usually consists of more electronics than I could possibly have, I managed to meet my friend in the middle of all that craziness, along with a better disposition and determination to enjoy my short stay there.
The rest of the day was spent in good company with my friend’s friends and a ton of American expats. Drinking, partying and watching a lot of the madness going on in the different areas of the city where there was nothing but people in costumes. I was the only one dressed like a “normal” person, but that in itself made me look like a sore thumb. In order to remedy this, my friends decided to pimp me up as a girl, complete with fake eye lashes, eye liner, make up and all and a smurf hat, just to make sure I looked pretty enough and got some attention.
(Sorry about the picture layout, I’m still trying to figure this wordpress crap)
Complaining that I did not want to be out there looking like this was not getting me anywhere, as my friend vowed to drop me off in the gay area of the city, which was right next to where she lived. Walking past small groups of people did get me more than enough unwelcome looks. If it weren’t because I had women next to me, I would probably be approached and manhandled. In my tipsy state and level of exhaustion who knows, I may have liked it.
Next day was spent at the house of one of the couples that I met the day prior. They live right in the epicenter of where the carnival was taking place. With huge windows and plenty of food and drinks, we enjoyed all of the craziness that took place that day.
A lot of characters and floats were made very political and poked fun at the United States issue with Snowden, the NSA, Obama and in general how the United States is viewed in other parts of the world; quite deservedly so. Obviously it wasn’t American satirical expression only but from other countries as well and not only political. Ok maybe yes, mostly political. Upon reviewing some of my pictures, I did notice that pattern.
Carnival time is usually held in many places around the world at the same time, usually before Lent. However in Cologne, it officially starts the November before but the “crazy days” as it is called, don’t start until Thursday before ash Wednesday, which is when the street version of the carnival actually starts.
There is a sort of love-hate regional rivalry between Cologne and Dusseldorf for carnivals, soccer and booze. So each other try to pull off the best and biggest, loudest, rowdiest carnivals and the type of beer that they may drink. For what I was told, people in Cologne would make fun of you for ordering a certain kind of beer that you’d only drink in Dusseldorf. Not sure how true all of it is, but I hope to experience the Dusseldorf carnival next time I want to go and let women dress me up as a girl.
All in all it was a great experience. The drunkenness and the misbehavior reminded me of after party hours in New York city on a Saturday, multiplied by 1001 times
More images here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35364537@N07/sets/72157648394640928