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.
This is a week that the Rhineland in which I have stranded has been anticipating. Between this Thursday morning and Ash Wednesday, the region is transformed by daily partying complete with costumes, copious amounts of alcohol and parades.
Today, on Weiberfastnacht [Women’s Day], the Carnival starts. Cologne and Düsseldorf happen to be two very famous centers of this party. It is a time of wild celebrations with parades and costume balls and hand-made costumes, and pranks of all sorts. Even though it is not a public holiday, you have to expect all kinds of interruptions of public life today, doctors’ practices close, not all shops are open and craftsmen don’t answer the phone. You see people dressed as chicken or proudly walking in the fool’s cap, restaurants announcing their menus with paper streamer decoration, and everyone is in such a – Helau! – good mood.
And then there’s me. I had early on understood that in terms of Dizzle Carnival, there is only two options: fight or flight. As I wanted to show a will for integration, I decided not to flee the town. (I used to be very good at integrating into the weirdest traditions in Sweden, just ask the people who celebrated Valborg with me in Uppsala.)
I was born on Carnival Monday, after all. I was even planning to make a costume and go to Cologne. But then the Berlin event at work took up all of my energy to an extent that made me sick with a cold from Monday on. With the Dizzle-typical constant rain falling outside, I can’t get myself to be all cheerful and I am reluctant to put my health to the test. (Why did people settle here in the first place? It rains 300 of 365 days?!) All technical things at our office also decided to go on Carnival break so I spent most of the day trying to fix the internet or the printer.
So it will a curtate Carnival for me, if any at all. Let’s hope for a steadier health and humor next year.