So... Cologne and Carnival huh? Oh, the anticipation had been so great. Turns out that Carnival isn't quite what the tourist site would have you believe. Granted we didn't really coordinate our trip particularly well - we turned up for the weekend not realising that the biggest parades happen on Thursday and Monday. Still I was expecting a bit more of a celebratory atmosphere and a little less "keg party".
On Friday night it was pretty clear that the name of the game was to drink as much beer as possible, as quickly as possible and hopefully along the way meet a lucky lady or fella, who might also have drunk as much as you, and be happy to walk you home. Needless to say we opted for a delicious tapas meal at a local Spanish pub instead. Saturday night was much the same, although we did manage to find a cute Brauhaus where we ate some hearty sausages served with potato and cabbage (what else?!?) and Matthias sampled some of the local beer, Kolsch. The Beer Hall also provided ample people-watching opportunities and
I managed to take this shaky, but "of the moment" video on my phone. You get the idea - lots of singing, music, drinking and general mayhem. Edit: no video folks - I can't work out how to get it from my phone to the computer. sorry.
Finally on Sunday, on our way back to the train station, I began to get a taste of the excitment. There were literally thousands of people streaming out of the station and up the Cathedral stairs in anticipation of the Schools' Parade. That 80% of the crowd were drinking heavily at 10am in the morning really seemed a bit of a moot point. It almost seemed a shame to be leaving just as the crowd was begining to swell. Almost. Wooden boards covering most of the shop windows in the inner-city did make me pause and reflect that maybe, just maybe, this drunken crowd was an accident waiting to happen.
The Cathedral was also closed. We snuck in on Sunday when the Mass was on to quickly have a look at the beautiful stainglass windows and the towering ceilings, but even the Church is wary of Cologne's crowds during Faschingferien and closes it's doors and bolts it's gates until the revellers go home on Wednesday.