Kölle Alaaf! – Impressions of my first Carnival in Cologne


I’ve never climbed Mount Everest. But I feel for Hillary and Norgay’s toes.

Carnival in Cologne is the biggest (or at least one of the biggest) in Germany. This year I was one of 2 million spectators of the parade that lasted for five and a half hours and stretched out for seven and a half km.

I was staying with my friend’s dad (and my friend of course) near Cologne. We got up at 20 to six to get ready. I dressed up as robber’s bride (with a dagger :D). Someone even took our picture at the station (where the big Cologne cathedral is) for the radio-website in Cologne.

My friend taught me the words I needed to keep in vocabulary for the day:

I might have told you that you say “Helau” in Dreieich, where I live, at Carnival. So they go: “Götzeha!” (local dialact for Götzenhain, which is a part of Dreieich) and the people go: “Helau!”

In Cologne, you say Alaaf. No, I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what Helau means either. So whenever anyone went: “Kölle!” (Local dialect for Köln, which is Cologne in German) you’d go: “Alaaf!”

It’s quite simple.

But there’s more. There were three more words I needed to define what I wanted the people from the parade to throw in my direction.

If you want a flower, you shout: “Strüssje!” It comes from the German word “Strauss” which means flower bouquet.

If you want sweets, you shout: “Kamelle!” I don’t know where that comes from, to be honest. I’m guessing it has something to do with caramel.

And if you want a kiss, you call out: “Bützje!” This, I think, comes from “Bussi” which is colloquial for a Kiss. I never called out “Bützje”.

In fact, I said “Kamelle” and “Strüssje” so many times throughout the parade I’d forgotten what exactly I was saying. In the end “Kamelle” was “Kamala” and “Strüssje” turned into “Staussje”. I had to keep listening to everyone else to remind myself of how to pronounce it.

However, we found a place near a café. Well, it used to be a café, now it’s a burger bar, but they sell coffee, so I guess it counts.

And I was incredibly thankful for the café/burger bar. They weren’t very friendly and glared at us if we didn’t order anything. But it helped to go in there once in a while to defrost our feet. I would secretly take of my shoes and knead my feet until I go past the tingling in my toes. The highest temperatures were around three degrees Celsius – warmer than today at least.


Now, what did I see? Ah, well. I saw that people are crazy – in a really good way. I encountered (these are the people who just stood there to watch the parade) a prisoner near a rooftop, some smurfs, a drunk penguin, bears, tigers, lions, men and women (switched up), monks, Jedi warriers, owls, a confusing amount of police men, FBI agents, SWAT team members, vermin extinguishers. The best costume I saw was bearded Snow White. It was a guy wearing the Snow White costume from the Disney movie with a bow on his head, but with a fully grown black beard and a beer in his hand. 😀

The parade itself was very amusing too. They had music with drums, trumpets, whistles, flutes and so on. The themes on the parade wagons were very up to date in fact. There was the environment, there was the tax scandal with Germany and Switzerland, there were carts for empowerment of the individual, all the latest political issues too. It’s so surprising that it was all so up to date because they start planning one year ahead. Basically they’ll start planning the next parade in about a weeks time.
They had horses too – but that’s not something I support. The whole thing was incredibly loud with the music and the crowd shouting out there sugary demands. The horses must have been given something before the parade to calm th

em down. I got a bit worried when they

kept stopping in front of us. Let’s just say the street started out being grey. When all the horses had passed it looked very, very brown.

Conveniently I’ve gathered a list of dangers that could occur during Carnival, the parade especially:

One danger of course, even when wearing four layers like me, is to get too cold; secondly you could get squashed by all the people trying to gather as much candy as possible. Then, as I’d said, you could theoretically be stood on a horse or you could simply be standing in the wrong place and at the wrong time when the dear horse decides to lift its tale and make the road a little browner.

Another danger I sadly had to deal with personally is being hit with frozen chocolate bars, then having that chocolate snatched away from some kid on a sugar-kick, almost pushing you over in a hurry. It’s painful.

I myself focused on getting flowers (Strüssje), because I like flowers and I remember feeling very sick after last year’s Carnival in Dreieich. One flower I got given by giving one of the princes (the last club to enter the parade as the grande finale) a kiss on the cheek. Incase you’re shaking your head right now, I won’t do everything for flowers or sweeties.

In the first half of those five and a half hours there was this guy who always stood very far into the street, demanding Sweeties, never flowers. He annoyed everyone by even pushing the little children back. I decided later he was homeless. He wasn’t dressed up, he was missing a few teeth (I’m sure eating chocolate will improve that ^^) and he was acting quite desperate. When his bag was full, he left. I understand that it’s free food, not the healthiest of most nutritious, but food.

                image    When he had gone there were little children at the front, absolutely desperate for sweet stuff. They even picked up the food that had fallen in the horse poo, almost throwing themselves in front of the parade wagons. One woman (yes, a grown-up woman) snatched some biscuits out of my hand. She showed up towards the end, texting on her phone most of the time, but then getting all excited when Prince Ralf III. showed up on his grad wagon as if he were a real prince.

They created silver and blue confetti rain at the beginning when the parade was opened with trumpets and it ended with gold confetti rain when the prince (the princes) passed.

After the parade had finished at our end (we were close to the beginning) we grabbed a bite to eat. My friend’s dad enjoyed dancing in the streets. They had a formation of drummers in the middle with people, all dressed up, dancing all around. He

said that the party in the streets lasts until late at night (early in the morning) and that sometimes there are a hundred drummers in one spot drumming all night.

Maybe another time I’ll skip the parade and join the street party. I may be young, but I’m not able to do both.

We were absolutely dead after the parade. Soon after we got the train back and had ourselves a cup of tea and well – anything that didn’t require us using our feet.

On the way back we met some weird people. I realize that Carnival is full of weird people – but now I mean weird in a creepy way. There was a guy who went up to my friend as she was just walking along and said: “Hello”

Spontaneously my friend said “Hello” too, wondering what was next.

“You have to be careful, ok?”

Then he walked on and left us puzzled and laughing.

Here’s a picture of what we gathered as a group of three people. Not bad, I’d say.

The next weird guy was clearly awfully drunk. He simply stared at us across the escalator. He was about five cm away from us, staring right at us.

In the station I saw a bear making out with a bee. Generally, there was a lot of love in the air. If it wasn’t the love for alcohol, it was the love for your partners tongue. In the train there were two couples alone making out as if their lives depended on it. My friend and her sat right opposite to a couple confessing their love to each other –  a lot. I, on the other hand, sat opposite to a mouse and a wolf. The mouse was quite good-looking, to be honest.

Generally we weren’t all that lucky with trains on our trip. First, on the way  there on Sunday, someone decided to commit suicide near our stop and so we were redirected to another stop near-by. The trip took us about two hours instead of 45 minutes. But at least we got to enjoy the pretty scenery along the beautiful Rhein.
And then when we were heading back after the parade the train was redirected to platform one when we were on platform ten. They didn’t make the train wait and we, along with a lot of other people, missed it. We got the next train from platform ten again.

To finish off; here’s a fun fact (unless your anti-social and homophobic and therefore an idiot): Cologne is the most gay and lesbian friendly city in Germany.


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