Six Days of Drinking

Thursday opened the Karneval celebration proper in Cologne. Several of my coworkers took Thursday and Friday off, either to spend more time celebrating or to run away from the city-wide party. So things were really busy while we struggled to make up for the missing people, so it was pretty much all work and no play. Nonetheless, everybody was dressed up, and we had beer and snacks during our midday meeting.

Work ended early so we could all go out drinking in the afternoon. I didn’t have any drinking buddies to join, so I wandered around the center of town and took some pictures of things I saw. It was a bizarre thought to realize that of Cologne’s million inhabitants, a similarly-sized population was probably roaming the streets in disheveled costumes and saturated with beer.

These guys were among a number of groups with impressive costumes. My guess is that many of those groups were habitual ren faire frequenters with real costumes.
People partying at the feet of the saints.
Celebrants at my train station.

I was amused by the number of people dressed in lederhosen with peaked caps… in other words, Germans dressed as Germans. There were also a surprising (for me) number of cross-dressing people. Guys dressed as nuns seemed a popular choice. I wonder if this becomes dangerous for the guys once everyone has their beer goggles on, and they’re wearing a skirts?

My birthday was on Friday, and there were flowers waiting for me when I got to work! ^_^ I suspect it was a good thing I avoided partying Thursday night… at least one person at the office showed up late and looked no better for his night out.

I had tasty cake Friday night – apparently marbled cake is the traditional choice for birthdays in Germany. And I’m going to the opera at the end of the month to see Berthold Brecht’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”! I’m pretty excited.

The weather over the weekend was pretty lovely, sunny and relatively warm, so I walked around Nippes some where it was less heavily partied, and observed the celebrants. Monday work was canceled, because no one was interested in working with so much partying going on, and anyway since our office is smack in the middle of town near the parade route and the train station was Costumed Drunk Central, it would have been a disaster trying to get to the office anyway.

After some convincing, Patrick was willing to help me do some celebrating on Monday, to make sure I didn’t miss the party completely. We watched the parade for a while on TV (we figured it really wouldn’t have been worth getting up early and cold and standing in the crowds of drunk people for hours to get some caramels) and then later went to Zülpicher Street to find out what anarchy was being wreaked on the student district.

And boy was there anarchy there. Neither of us really felt like going into the strobe-lit bars playing techno, so we bought some beer from a kiosk and wandered around on the street. I’d been warned against the popular “miXery” brand, but there was no way I could get through that much pure beer, and that was the only kind of flavored beer available. I don’t use the phrase much, but I think this would be an appropriate place to describe it as “tasting like ass.” The can claimed it was “Bier + Cola + X”, and we figured that was probably the mystery “X” flavor – it’s actually “ass flavor.”

Anyway, the anarchy. I wish I had had my camera – it seriously looked like apocalypse-movie-style looting was going to take place any minute. The street was full of trash and barf and drunken people stumbling around and reveling. Many of the buildings were graffiti’d and/or in poor repair. Apparently the scene was worse in previous years because this year they forbid glass in major partying areas, but the occasional tinkle and crash added to the ambiance. It was definitely a sight I did not expect to see in my life.

I’m just as happy to remember the traditional pub full of dancing people singing to the “spießig” Karneval music that I experienced back in November. A much friendlier atmosphere than the anarchy at Zülpicher.

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