Wednesday, February 06, 2008
February 2, 2008
Mike and Maeve with a balloon hat.
We were in Cologne for Carnival weekend, and a friendly clown made Maeve a balloon hat while we were watching the Funkenbiwak. You can see the green Funken (soldiers) on the stage in the background of the picture. This event was at 10:30 in the morning on Saturday, and the red and green Funken paraded onto the stage, made political speeches about how the Neumarkt, where this event was held, should continue to be available to the people, sang songs about Cologne and Kolsh, the local variety of beer, showed off their Marie (a young female soldier) to the crowd, danced, and wiggled their tushes as they rode their "horses." It was hilarious, watching with hundreds of other people, almost all in costume, and most buying copious rounds of kolsch from the stands set up in the square. People sang along with the songs and swayed. Many people even had little knitted bags hanging around their necks, perfectly sized for holding a glass of kolsch.
We found a couple of good vegetarian restaurants our first day in Cologne, but most of the time the restaurants were closed for lunch and had Karnival parties at night which had DJs, lots of smoking and little food. Also, all the museums and churches were closed, so we got to see the Dom, Rathaus, and Gross St. Martin, one of the Romanesque churches, from the outside, but weren't able to do any serious cultural tourism. But there was plenty to do with the Karnival activities and walking around the city watching everybody dressed up and having a good time. On Saturday when we were walking around the pedestrianized area, businesses all along the parade route were closing shop for the evening and construction crews were everywhere. In some cases, they were putting up reviewing stands for the parades. In many cases, they were boarding up the storefront windows with plywood. We saw plenty of not quite sober people at the parade, and lots of candy and flowers were being thrown, but no property violence or even very rowdy behavior. I'm not quite sure why the stores boarded up.
On Sunday, we watched the children's and neighborhood parade, which was tons of people marching in costume and bands. Little kids were everywhere scooping up the candy and flowers. Everyone was in costume. Monday was the Rose Monday parade, which included a lot of Funken groups as well as other floats, bands, and marchers. Award winners from the children's parade also marched. Again, there was tons of candy and roses being thrown out. On Sunday, the groups were generally carrying their supplies with extras in baby carriages or pushable wagons. Monday was serious - floats were pulled by horses or tractors decorated with horses, and there were van and truckfulls of extra gummy bears, chocolates and flowers. Mike later found out that there were several tons of candy given away over the weekend. It was amazing. Maeve started out the parade sitting in my lap, but pretty soon realized the other kids were scrambling for candy and started making small forays into the street to pick up the goodies. Compared to the huge Thanksgiving day parade floats in the major parades in the states, the floats were generally small and most of the parade was made up of costumed marchers and bands. However, they are walking down small city streets, and some of the bigger floats on Monday really did take up most of the street, so policemen had to come through making sure everyone was off the street.
Monday we were invited to stand with a pig, two unicorns, and several other characters. This was very nice as it meant that Maeve didn't get crowded and we had a dry spot to store our backpacks. The unicorns were particulary well costumed and got lots of candy and kisses from marchers. You can see that everyone had empty bags around their necks, just waiting to fill them up with candy. This group had at least a couple of kegs with them, which seemed to be typical of many of the groups. We stored our backpacks under the keg table which kept them nice and dry through the rain. There were also plenty of places to buy beer and sausages and other street food set up around the parade route. We hung out on the parade route near the start - it was out of the center city and a little less crowded, plus the parade started earlier which worked well with Maeve's nap schedule. We watched the parade for an hour and a half or so, then headed back to the hotel for lunch and a nap.
After the parade, the city was a pit. On Sunday, we wandered around the pedestrianized area after Maeve's afternoon nap. Everyone was in costume, bars were full, and street vendors were everywhere. Around the city hall square, we saw clean up crews coming through. They consisted of several workers with big push brooms pushing trash into piles, several street cleaning trucks and one big vacuum truck. This truck had a tube maybe 1.5 feet in diameter that was connected to a huge vacuum and couldsuck up piles of trash, including whole wine bottles.
On Monday, Maeve got up early enough that we made it back out to the end of the parade route and watched a bit more near the Dom and main train station. The streets were packed. The apartments along the parade route were also packed, and people on the upper stories were raking in a lot. The larger floats had people throwing candy on level with the second floor anyway, and some were throwing to third floors and above. At the start, the street was narrower and the second floor people also had the advantage of often being over a sign or some type of overhang for the store on the first floor, and were ingeniously laying out blankets, baskets etc connected with strings so they could haul up the loot that was thrown to them but didn't quite make it.