Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Karneval loot

The next day or so was mostly sleeping and eating a lot. We didn't go out again until Saturday, when we were rousted from our beds relatively early (read: sometime before 2pm) and made to dress in our costumes again (I'd basically been in it everyday anyway, but this time it was absolutely required).

After our enormously satisfying breakfast (this set of food items came out for our group at least 2-3 times a day...I never got sick of it), we walked as a group down the street and waited at a family friends' house for the parade to start. Everyone was outside their house that day, eating and drinking with friends and family, waiting for the parade festivities to begin.

An hour or two later the parade started and we were instructed by German K's mom and dad to yell "Kamelle" and "Strüßcher" for candy and flowers, respectively.

And sure enough, as the marching bands went by and there were myriads of people on homemade floats and marching with their organizations, they threw stuff at us.

It was interesting to see but there was a lot of variety in these items - candy, chips, cookies and cakes, toys, entire boxes of chocolates, tissue packs, even kitchen utensils. I had to duck a few times from getting beamed in the head with some sort of treat. It was pretty awesome. Our group filled a reusable grocery bag full of loot.

German K, no stranger to this tradition, told us that when she and her brother were kids they'd look forward to all the different parades during karneval because it allowed you to get your entire year's worth of sweets all at once.

Being used to this type of strategy, she encouraged (that's the nice word for it) us to get as many items as possible.

Now, many of these items hit the ground because they're too difficult to grab out of the air (especially the smaller things like single wrapped gumballs or small chocolates), so you have to go around picking up the undamaged ones for the group collective. Hong Kong P, being the shortest of us all, was up in the front of the crowd trying to get first dibs on anything that fell. She later explained to me that she was literally stealing candy from babies. It was hilarious.

A photo of some of our loot. I think you can get a good idea of the type of stuff we were given. We divided it all up later on and left plenty for German K's parents.

I should mention now that being in the parade, whether your community one or in the larger ones that circulated around town (several days in a row, it's not just a single day for parades), is a great honor for the German people of Cologne. You have to pay to apply for a position to be in it, then for the more eagerly sought positions, such as the Prince, Virgin, or Farmer, you have to apply and be selected by a committee then pay to be in it then pay for all the sweets you throw out. It comes out to vast sums of money. Many battle to pay for this honor.

After eating yet another hearty meal of homemade German potato salad (this started to creep out after German K's dad made it the night before and came out with the breakfast goodies), we set out to meet German K's friends for a real carneval experience with people our age:

Which means it took place in a bar.

This definitely required costumes, and we were still in full regalia from the parade a few hours before.

This part of the celebration meant drinking lots of beer. Kolsh, to be exact - the official beer of Cologne. Delicious and crisply cold in the tiny glasses made just for it.

We sang and danced as a group, everyone except us expats knowing the lyrics to all the songs. Apparently there is official karneval music, and German K's dad, being a huge one for celebration, had been blaring the songs at us since we first arrived. Usually quite loudly because his hearing has started to go. So we recognized most of them, and were even able to sing some of the main verses and chorus.

All in all it was a fun night. The celebrations of karneval are pretty extensive and if we were more up for it (e.g. one of us didn't have a broken wrist and the rest of us were instead not exhausted from normal work), I don't think we would have done it any differently, haha.

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