The Fifth Season

When I, on a trip like my last, get to gather so many exciting impressions, I almost inevitably lag behind with my written reflection on them. In my head, I still want to address more D.C. museums, our birthday party with strangers, Times Square, the High Line, the New York Public Library, and the view from the new World Trade Center, the tragic Ground Zero museum and Ellis Island, an exceptional historical site.

We’ll see when I get to that because not only am I struggling with jetlag, it’s also carnival. Which as I’ve learned means exceptional circumstances under which some common rules don’t apply (one example is that the train staff is exceptionally nice and gives you candy). Carnival is one of the most celebrated events in Germany and where I currently live is home to all the carnival strongholds. It’s a whole science, this carnival business that they call the Fifth Season and that you either have to be born/raised into or master with alcohol and high spirits. Carnival is also highly political: the parade floats usually have clear political messages. And yes, we saw a few Trumps.


William, who has celebrated Cologne Carnival more often than me, came to Germany dressed up as a cactus to party / Gerrit’s costume was interpreted differently depending on who he talked to with guesses ranging from “Irish person” to “Diamond” / my friend Maike was a squirrel and occassionally would offer people a (real!) peanut on the dancefloor

As I had decided to really give this local celebration a chance and go all in this year, I familiarized myself with the songs (all sung in local dialect), got myself a costume in Manhattan, and took three days off work. That was a wise decision because I came home this morning at 7:30 a.m. after ending up at a drum and bass party in Cologne-Deutz (read: the middle of nowhere). I despise electronic music – but many personal traits and behavioral repertoires are overriden by the carnival season which is a time of wild celebration…

On day two (carnival partying goes from Thursday to Tuesday but I only managed to go out two days), Gerrit, Anna‘s big brother and one of my favorite people in the universe, came to join me and my friends, later uniting us with his friends (that’s how the drum and bass happened.) I was absolutely thrilled to have him there (well, sometimes he’d disappear to a pizza place for 90 minutes without me noticing until he was back because I was so caught up in the moment). The next day my friends informed me via text message about how he’s such a great guy. Totally agree. We spent the Sunday sleeping, eating and taking a walk to expose ourselves to daylight and now he’s back to Cologne to continue the party. Hur orkar dagens ungdomar? Meanwhile, I’m still occupied trying to remove all the confetti in my hair. And in my clothes. And in my bed. And in my sink.


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