Why visit Cologne? Most travelers to Germany choose better-known cities such as Berlin or Munich over this city on the Rhine. But three words can sum up why you shouldn’t just give Cologne a pass- Carnival, Carnival, Carnival. Maybe you think nothing can top Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans or perhaps you’ve bought into the cultural stereotypes of Germans as a stoic, rule-following people and doubt their merry-making abilities. All the more reason you ought to experience Carnival-Cologne style. Here are the top ten reasons why Carnival in Cologne should not be missed:
1. It is hard to miss. Carnival season opens in November and lasts through Ash Wednesday* with only brief breaks for Advent* and Christmas. Forget that weak one night only celebration stuff- this party lasts for months. Another cool fact: the “fifth season” as it is called locally is declared open at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of November.
2. The most intense week of celebration occurs between the Thursday-Women’s Carnival Day- before Rosemontag (Rose or Running Monday) and Ash Wednesday and is known as “Crazy Days.” Revelers dress up and party in the streets.
3. The virgin, the prince known as Seine Tollitдt, ‘His Craziness’ and the farmer are the official masters of ceremony for Carnival. The virgin is always a man dressed up as a woman. Who doesn’t want to go to party run by that trio?
4. It is one of the largest street festivals in Europe. More than one million people turn out every year for the Rosemontag parade. Enough said.
5. You will be greeted at the festival with “Kolle Alaaf!”, a Kolsch phrase that means “Cologne alive!”
6. You can justify your trip as “educational.” It combines celebration and history. Carnival has been celebrated in Cologne since 1314 and the same committee has been organizing the festivities since 1823.
7. There is fun for the whole family- floats, puppets, music and costumes! Who doesn’t love giant street floats and huge puppets?! There are 50 processions just leading up the huge Rosemontag parade where you can get your fill of all of them.
8. Weiberfastnacht, women’s carnival night, is the Thursday before Rosenmontag. On this night women are allowed to kiss any man they want and for some reason unknown to me- cut off the tie of any man they want to. The best of both worlds- love and spite.
9. It is kind of like a peace parade. Carnival celebrations commemorate the historic resistance of the people of Cologne against the Prussian regime. In the Rosenmontag parade the ‘royal guard’ stuffs flowers into rifles to symbolize this era.
10. Competition- next year you can attend Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Venice and decide who does it best.
If you are going to go to Carnival in Cologne, make sure you book your hotel early. This is a big celebration in the city and many of the hotels book up pretty quickly, especially the ones close to the city center. Cologne has good hotels so you don’t want to be out in far away from the action!