Carnival in Koln
by Lostthought on May 16, 2011
For the past few months, my company has been sending me to France for work. Though I don't have as much free time as I would like, I occasionally get to take a weekend trip and get away from my business personality. I've been recently spending my free time with a group of Brazilians. If you've ever met people from Brazil, though they may deny it, they are constantly looking for the next party, especially during Carnival. So when Carnival came around this year, staying in Rouen, France, sitting at a bar, and talking was not an option. If we couldn't be at the real thing, we were going to find the European equivalent, and Koln (or Cologne as we call it), Germany has claimed that title.
Koln is about a five-hour speed race from Rouen. I say speed race, because everyone in Germany drives like they are attempting to outrun light. You get to see firsthand the true power of a German sports car while driving on these roads, and my Citroen rental just wasn’t up for the task. Once we arrived in Koln and walked into the heart of the city, the Brazilians began their Portuguese raid on every woman who was within shouting distance. I couldn't understand a word of it, but just by the sleazy way they said it, I knew they were definitely words encouraging women's rights. GOSTOSA!!!
Carnival in Koln is basically a week-long drink fest with most companies giving time off so employees can enjoy the festivities. We arrived at about 2pm on a Saturday and had a hard time finding a sober person in the city, which suited my accomplices, as they would fit in perfectly. There were people of all ages, sizes, and shapes, dressed as everything from Eskimos to naughty nurses.
We were obviously standing out in our street clothes and needed to get into character and quickly. We stopped at the first costume stand we could find. Well, it was the first costume stand after the mushroom, bratwurst, steak, and beer stands. We were going to get into character, we just had to be in the proper mindset first. And within 30 minutes of arriving, my friends were well on their way to a proper "mindset" (aka drunken stupor).
While staying in France you get used to the 7 Euro beer, so you might as well enjoy the 2 Euro Kolsh while you can. And boy were they enjoyed. After a thorough discussion of which outfit made us look the most ridiculous, we donned our chicken hat, grasshopper hat, and Bob Marley wig. We were now at one with the people and could continue enjoying their festival in the proper attire.
Here is my golden piece of advice. Germany in March is frigid, and it doesn't help when you're walking around with an ice cold beer in your hand. And though I don’t drink, I like to consider myself an enabler to my friends' alcoholism, and a cold hand will only prevent them from drinking more and making fools of themselves to every girl who walks by. This is not an option as that is where most of my sober enjoyment comes from. So I take them into the nearest Starbucks and convince them that buying thermoses to keep their beers cold and hands warm is a brilliant idea, which in all actuality, it was. Everyone we talked to afterwards agreed, and oddly enough, these guys were able to use the thermoses as a convenient conversation piece with the 50 or so remaining girls they had yet to assault (though some they harassed more than once).
Allow me to let you in on a fool-proof way to start a conversation with random, beautiful German women (blond hair, blue eyes apparently is a requirement for citizenship). Simply ask them to help you with your German and repeat these words “Ein bier, zwei bier, drei bier” (one beer, two beers, three beers). I watched in amazement as these simple words began a 20-minute long conversation on the existentialism of our current political upbringing. Okay, maybe it was just 20 minutes of learning new German words, but heck, whatever works, right?
We continued our bar hopping around the downtown area, meeting people from all over Germany and Europe. There were hundreds of thousands of people enjoying the event, and everyone had a good time and were super-friendly. If they aren’t at first, buy them a Kolsh and you'll be their new found best friend. The bars are crammed with people drinking, dancing, and singing at the top of their lungs. One song that you are going to hear in every bar you walk into is “Viva Colonia.” It’s very popular during Carnival and pretty much is just saying enjoy life and let the drinks flow, hence the reason for its popularity during this time. Join right in, sing to your heart’s content, and don’t worry about the words; when everyone else is singing it correctly, your mumbling won’t matter.
The next day, have a walk around town to enjoy the beautiful churches and historical sites that make Americans love Europe. Make sure to stay till the parade, as apparently people of Koln decide that they can wash away last night's debauchery with a lovely parade. Watch as bands, community groups, and schools parade around town in homemade outfits, tossing candy and flowers to the hungover people in the crowd. I’ll steal a phrase from one of my friends after an interesting night in Costa Rica, “This good, clean wholesome fun almost makes up for everything I did last night.”