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Carnival in Cologne: crazy days


In March, when Cologne and Bonn city centers are full of life-sized pink fluffy bunnies, toadstools and devils instead of busy office workers or strolling shopping divas, it´s that time of year again.
It´s the "fifth season" as pre-Lent carnival festivities are known in Rhineland, where the tradition still has a strong foothold.
The street festivals turn the two cities on their heads and traditionally start on Weiberfastnacht (Womens Carnival Day), which takes place on the Thursday before Rosenmontag (Shrove Monday).

As a resident you have the choice of either fleeing town or letting the "normal" madness of these mega-events take hold of you and partying fo all your worth.
When you put on your fancy-dress costume things start happening during the street parades known as "Zoch."

These include the "Jeisterzoch" (ghost parade) on Carnival Saturday, which has a political satire focus, as well as smaller parades in almost all the city districts.
The main "Zoch" is the real highlight of the street carnivals – the traditional Shrove Monday procession with its eye-catching and often provocative floats.
The parade in the carnival stronghold of Cologne starts at Chlodwigplatz and slowly shuffles 6.5 km through the city center.

This doyen of all carnival celebrations can boast many superlatives. In 1823, when the parade first started, just 15 groups in fancy dress took part. Now Germany´s bigget carnival parade is watched by over 1 million spectators and more than 150 tons of goodies (sweets, flowers and small stuffed dolls) are showered from the floats over the revellers, who enthusiastically shout "Kölle Alaaf!" (Cologne Alive!).
That actually means Cologne above all others.

Of course, Bonn people think the same way and the words "Bonn Alaaf!" resound in the old town and throughout the whole city, which is in celebration fever, with the Shrove Monday procession through the center as the absolute highlight of this "Fiesta Bonnensia."

On Shrove Tuesday, when the crazy days end with the symbolic burning of the carnival spirit and the last revellers remove their carnival masks, many Cologne and Bonn people almost go into mourning, but this actually doesn´t last long because the bulging events calendars of both cities herald the next highlight – and, to be honest, who can live permanently in a state of revelry?


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