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Cologne Carnival: Eleven tips for beginners

Carnival starts in Cologne

It starts! The street carnival has started in Cologne. That means six days of non-stop partying. What do I wear, where do I have to go and how do I actually survive?

Carnival starts in Cologne (picture-alliance / Geisler-Fotopress / C. Hardt)

The first time back?

Don’t be afraid of strange jokes! Just follow the people, let them drift and above all join in. Say: If someone hooks in, sway along. If suddenly two hands are on your shoulders, you have probably just become part of a polonaise. It is very good! Even better: sing along – even if you can’t read the text straight away. Hey, you have six days to learn it!

Carnival starts in Cologne

Kissing allowed!

Don’t be alarmed: giving a kiss is a popular ceremonial throughout the carnival, but especially on Women’s Carnival. Whether on the cheek or on the mouth – a “Bützchen” is an expression of carnival joy and should not be confused with other desires. Knocking out a friendly boy is a mood killer.

Weiberfastnacht (picture-alliance / dpa / O. Berg)

Courage to a hat!

Boring sailor outfits, the Cologne native does not even bother with that. Real jackets can be recognized by imaginative, self-made costumes. There can be no such thing as “overdressed” at the carnival. The absolute minimum, that is Cologne consensus, is a hat. When it comes to design, your imagination can run away with you – the dollar the better.

Weiberfastnacht in Cologne (picture-alliance / dpa / R. Vennenbernd)

Costume cleverly!

Anything you like is allowed. A carnival costume is really good when it is suitable for a party. For outdoors – the word street carnival should be taken seriously – and for indoors, in the breweries and pubs. It is a perfect costume if it fulfills another important purpose: you have to be able to go to the toilet with little effort.

Weiberfastnacht, Cologne (picture-alliance / Fotostand / Metzemacher)

Listen up!

For the people of Cologne, the “Trömmelche” is the sound of the street carnival. Wherever the music groups and marching bands are, the mood is guaranteed. People dance spontaneously, sing and sway. Until the early morning. The good mood musicians come not only from Cologne and the surrounding area but from all over Europe, some for many, many years. So nothing like afterward!

Weiberfastnacht in Cologne (picture-alliance / dpa / R. Vennenbernd)

Buy tickets on time!

Weiberfastnacht: At 11:11 am, the street carnival is officially opened on the Altenmarkt in Cologne’s old town – with a bold stage program. All major Cologne carnival bands perform. So many want to be there that the area bursts at the seams from 9 a.m. Only those who have a ticket come in. Not for spontaneous carnivals. It doesn’t matter – because people celebrate elsewhere.

Weiberfastnacht in Cologne (picture-alliance / R. Goldmann)

Celebrate with measure!

Even on normal days, the Zülpicherstraße in the university district is a popular pub and nightlife area. From Weiberfastnacht it becomes a hotspot for alcohol excesses. Unfortunately. In Cologne’s eyes, the uninhibited mass drinking has nothing to do with the carnival. You are making a large circle around this street. Celebrate more relaxed, for example, on Severinstrasse.

Weiberfastnacht in Cologne (picture-alliance / dpa / H. Kaiser)

Crash well maintained!

If you want to experience the atmosphere the Cologne man loves, you can go to a pub or a brewery. It is worthwhile to leave the radius around Cologne Cathedral. Because without exception every part of the town is celebrated. Queuing is part of it and is usually fun because you can talk to other people on your own and practice some Cologne songs.

Rosenmontag in Koeln (picture-alliance / dpa themed service / H. Kaiser)

Kölsch etiquette

In the pubs there are only standing tables, if any, the rest is a dance floor. The kitchen stays cold, but the tap runs hot. What tourists always wonder about: the beer – the Kölsch – comes to the guest all by itself. You don’t order here, you cancel. Best of all: put the beer mat on the glass. The jackets in the photo here are all still thirsty.

Schull- and Veedelszoch Cologne (picture-alliance / dpa / dpaweb / R. Vennenbernd)

Which train do I take?

If you think there is only one carnival parade in Cologne, namely the Rose Monday procession, you are wrong. From Weiberfastnacht there are various moves in Cologne. Colorful, unusual costumes are the trademark of the “Schull- and Veedelzöch”. Only schools and clubs participate here, all costumes are homemade. The best groups will receive prizes and will be allowed to take part in the procession on the following Monday.

Cologne Carnival: The Nubbel is burned (picture-alliance / dpa / F. Gambarini)

Stay until the end!

The Nubbel is a straw doll that hangs on the facades of some pubs during Carnival. It is removed on Ash Wednesday night and “carried to the grave” in a procession. The carnival ends with the burning of Nubbel. Those who experience this ritual understand that the carnival is more than a party. It is a folk festival that magically connects people.

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