I was only back in London for a few days before flying out once again, this time to Cologne where I would once again be meeting up with German K and Hong Kong P for some much needed girl time.
An added surprise for all of us was hearing from Finnish Irish T and her making quick plans to join us in Germany, even through a broken wrist that happened the day before her flight! We all expressed our awe and how impressed we all were. It's not just anyone who travels despite having a full cast and sling. Especially knowing there would be crowds around. Drunken crowds.
The first day was just the three of us - German K, Finnish Irish T, and me. We had plans to meet up with British D and German T, who were also supposed to fly in and enjoy the karneval festivities. Unfortunately German T got waylaid by work and we didn't end up meeting up with him at all. I guess I'll have to make more of an effort to see him next time I'm in Helsinki.
We made it into town in the early afternoon, enjoying a part of town that was not so center that it was overcrowded. Just pleasantly crowded.
After meeting up with British D we chatted for a bit, were given big bottles of the special Cologne karenval beer, and decided to get in line for the pub everyone was already in.
This line ended up going nowhere but we got a great chance to people watch.
People really go all out with their costumes in many cases. The general idea is to scare away the bad spirits for the new year so you can start the year afresh.
The practical side of it is people may spend a lot on their costumes, but it's understood that eventually you'll be so drunk that you'll lose all your loose props. So people didn't spend so much money on those, rather the clothes they would (hopefully) return home with on their backs.
I decided in my packing stages that this would be a good opportunity to spread some hilarious cheer - I packed my entire remaining supply of sticky fuzzy mustaches and passed them out to children who looked like they could use some help with a mustache.
The first kid I gave one to was a boy dressed as a cowboy/sheriff. He didn't speak English (as a lot of the Germans seem not to, or refuse to), and when I held up the mustache to my face to mime what it was for, he laughed and took it, thanking me in German (I know enough German for that at least). I later saw him with it on, begging his mom to take lots of pictures of him. Love it.
After the line stayed stagnant for over an hour we decided it was time to move on. We'd seen British D and that was good enough for the day. Plus it was starting to rain.
We took shelter in a nearby kiosk, wanting hot drinks and a place to stand while the rain came down. There I had my first cup of coffee in probably 10 years; I've been avoiding it altogether because I can't drink caffeine. As the medications come down and my interest in living normal life again expands, I've been trying little things to test my boundaries. Score 1 for coffee - no effect. Its warming effect was wonderful and I understood once again why people drink it (among other reasons).
While we were standing there German K chatted happily with the store owners, not wanting it to be unfriendly that we were using their store as a place of shelter and only buying few things - three cups of coffee, a bag of chips. In their exchange the owner tried to set German K up for marriage with his cousin, the young man manning the cashier. He said she would be covered in gold and there would be 300 guests at their illustrious wedding. It was hilarious. For grabbing something hot to drink, getting a marriage proposal at the same time isn't a bad deal.
She decided it would be her Plan B, just in case. ;)
As the rain didn't really let up we decided we had lingered long enough and rushed out to the nearest tram stop to get us home. It took us another 3 transfers, but eventually we were close enough to catch a cab home.
There we had a wonderful dinner with German K's parents of pizza, pasta, salad, and all of the noshables that are served at breakfast, plus more.
I've not eaten so heartily in a long time.