Good Times at a Local German Karneval

Posted on February 6, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Winter in Germany

Our front door

We didn't end up going to the big Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) celebration in Cologne. It was cold and raining and one million people were expected to be drunk on the streets. We can see how it would be fun, but based on our experience of Oktoberfest (read: trying not to get puked on by Italians) we decided it probably wasn't worth it.

But we did attend our local village Karneval on Sunday! And apparently that's more "authentic" anyway - all German villages have a little parade and celebration and everyone participates and hangs out with their neighbors. It was a beautiful day and we had a really great time.

It was held the next street down towards the river from ours, which was awfully handy. We met up with our landlord and his family there, including Oma and Ompa (Udo's parents - we've met them before but have never learned their real names).

All of them were dressed up as clowns, except for Udo who came as a Mexican or Venezuelan crazy man. Since his wife is from Venezuela I assumed he was Venezuelan, and he confirmed he was, but on closer inspection he had a "Viva Mexico" ribbon so the jury's out.

Udo the landlord in a sombrero, Oma, Udo's little daughter, and his wife.

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Their little girl is really cute but also cries a whole lot, every day. And likes to yell, "Nein!!"


Ompa dancing to a marching band while a young fireman looks on.

Ompa actually speaks much better English than Udo, and we ended up hanging out with him most of the time and taking pictures of the rest of the family across the street. He was very friendly and chatty, and told me all about the Rhineland traditions and specialties, where his other kids and grandkids live, and why he loves the convenience of digital cameras. Interestingly, his appearance and mannerisms reminded me so much of my Grandma Bette, who just happens to have pure German blood coursing through her veins.

Occasionally Ompa got so excited about his topic that he lapsed into German, but fortunately I could usually catch the keywords and more or less follow along. And I was proud to be able to help him with the one word he couldn't translate into English: Kloster, which is part of my limited vocabulary since it means monastery. He was so thrilled I came up with it, and exclaimed "*Richtig, richtig*!"

David got to practice his German too. When Ompa told us this man's yellow heart said "Kiss me" in Rhineland dialect, David said, "Nein, danke!"

The parade consisted of several upbeat marching bands (among their tunes were the "Theme from the A-Team" and "Stand By Me") and a few vans from local clubs and businesses with costumed people walking behind or sitting on top and throwing out candy.

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Thankfully in these colder climes one does not have to lift up one's shirt to get the goods. Instead, both in Cologne and throughout the Rhineland (but nowhere else, Ompa tells me), you yell "Kamelle!" to get candy or other treats.

A big candy throw

Liquor on a string

We didn't bother with this at first since we were just there to watch and enjoy, but by the end of the parade Udo had pressed a candy bag into my hands and his wife Julia was encouraging us from across the street with much waving of her arms: "Kamelle, kamelle!" So I Kamelle-d with gusto and got some candy, a plastic piggy bank, and a sponge(?) for my efforts.


Virtually everyone at the parade was dressed up and we were sorry we hadn't at least picked up a wig or a hat for the occasion. There were several cowboys and Indians wandering around, which made us jealous - with a hat for David and a feather for me we could have represented our homeland! Other popular costumes were witches and pirates, and I saw one Harry Potter.

Dancing nun

Folks from the wild west

Afterwards they invited us to a party they were having downstairs, which judging by the number of doorbell rings was quite popular. But we opted out, and instead climbed under our down blankets to watch Michael Clayton. It was good.

Super Bowl and Super Tuesday

In other news (if you can call it that), we are still really following the election and we were all excited about Super Tuesday. But, again, it was really late before any results came in and it didn't end up being that exciting anyway since there were no major winners.

David was happy to find that the Super Bowl was on TV over here, but of course it started at about midnight. It was interesting to watch it with German announcers and no commercials. We managed to stay up until the Patriots' last touchdown and thought they had it made, but then we woke up and the Giants had won. Sheesh. Neither of us is much into football, but we were rooting for the Patriots because they would have made history.