Helau! Today is the start of Karnival and from what I have heard the trains are already full of drunk people in costumes. It is the official time for German's to be fun and crazy!
Karnival starts the Thursday before Ash Wednesday with the Mohnen. The festivities begin with the women of the city lining up to storm the Rathaus~or City Hall~early in the morning and cutting off all of the ties of the city officials, the ladies can also plant a big kiss on any man that they would like! There is usually copious amounts of alcohol involved in this act...before, during and after said storming! Kinda sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen...oh wait that's my American side coming through.
The parties continue all weekend with parades, normal people dressed as animals, clowns and all kinds of crazy things. Men and boys wear old ties so that they can be cut off, and children will stand on either side of your road and pull a string to stop your car. Once you stop, the want candy or money and are not thrilled if you aren't prepared! Yea, that one really freaked me out the first time four kids in costume jumped out from behind the trees and knocked on my car window!
The main parades and parties supposedly happen on Rosenmontag~or Rose Monday~but honestly I think that the parties this day are of the same "strength" as the parties all weekend! Many businesses are closed on Rosenmontag. Perhaps this is every one's excuse to stay home to recover so they can start over again???
If you happen to make it to Tuesday and your head and stomach are still in one piece, it is Shrove Tuesday. This is the day for costume balls and private parties, a bit more low key as we head towards the end of the celebrations.
And then it is over...Ash Wednesday marks the end of Karnival and is celebrated at home with one taking Asprin and placing an ice pack on one's head...not really, but it is said that this final day is celebrated quietly at home. Except, that is for the children who are still trying to cause chaos with their rope! Oh yes, and the traditional burning of the "Hoppeditz" a jester that stands in front of the City Hall. When they are done, they are really done!
Cologne, or Koln as the German's call it is said to have the most famous Karnival in the area, but if you are in the Dusseldorf area during this festive time it is very much worth spending time downtown for their celebrations. Dusseldorf natives are quick to tell you that their Karnival is bigger!
During Karnival, you get to see a "less serious" side of the German people, get to cut a few ties, kiss a few people, and it's just another excuse to enjoy the great German beer, so have fun and enjoy!