This in from my uncle who, along with my aunt, is living on Koln, Germany for the year while my cousin studies German philosophy. I like the last two lines especially:
Yesterday [November 11th] it was St. Martin’s Day, the “official” opening of the Karneval in Köln. The two days before that, children dress up, knock on friends’ doors, sing a few pretty local songs and then hope for sweet gifts in return. On the day itself – the 11th day of the 11th month – everyone between the ages of 16 and about 40 or more gets dressed up as Friars, Dairy Maids, Nuns, Hansel & Gretel, soldiers, cowboys, Cardinals, pirates, historical figures, or what have you, many in the most outlandish costumes imaginable. And then they all get drunk in the streets together! It begins in Heumarkt Platz with entertainment and speeches on a stage that’s impossible to see because it’s so surrounded with jammed-up crowds of costumed partygoers. Susan and I saw it firsthand but took our neighbors’ advice to clear out from there long before the afternoon. At exactly 11 minutes past 11, they shout and yell and cheer to mark the significant moment. What’s the significance? Hmmm…
But that’s just the more formal beginning. Throughout the afternoon and evening, at various spots all around the city, people gather outside pubs, discos, kiosks, etc. (all still in their wild costumes) and drink themselves silly. The rain didn’t seem to hamper them very much at all. To meet Brandon, Anna & Taran for dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant down Zulpicherstrasse toward the University, Susan and I made our way through the crowds who filled the 4 blocks of Zulpicher (now blocked off to auto traffic) and couldn’t believe how many empty beer bottles had been piled up on the sidewalk and massed along the curbs or some even just tossed into the street! The Germans don’t let go very often. When they do, it’s pretty crazy.
Incidentally, the cropped photo at the top of Rattle My Cage is from a February 2006 Karneval Celebration at NYC’s very own Zum Schneider. Highly recommended — well, at least during Karneval. They do a cabaret show. Last year: The Schmuppets take Manhattan or The Schmuppet Movie. You get the idea.