Today was the big parade in Aachen. We learned our lesson from yesterday’s parade in Würselen that it might take awhile for the parade to get to the center of town. Clare did some research on the parade route, and it kicked off near the East cemetery at 11:11, so we figured if we got downtown near Elisenbrunnen around noon that should be okay. We got on the bus around 11:30, and it was already very full when we got on. We managed to squeeze a few more people in along the way, but not many. We got to the central bus station a little after noon, and the parade still hadn’t gotten that far yet.
While the floats mostly hand out candy, some also handed out other stuff like coupons, small bottles of liquor, or perfume and cologne samples. Spencer got a Puma cologne sample and liked it so much that he wanted to go to the drug store today to buy some. We decided to do that while waiting for the parade. It turns out they were closed for Karneval. Then it started to rain, so we ended up going to the Curry Palast for some lunch. By the time we were finishing lunch, the parade was finally getting to us, and the rain was letting up. So we were able to enjoy the parade for an hour or two. We got back on the bus around 2:30, which was not nearly as crowded as on the way there.
At dinner I asked the kids what they liked better – Halloween or Karneval – both said Karneval – lasts longer, more candy. I think you can consider us all Karneval Jecken now.
Last night I slept terribly because it was very windy, and there was some really annoying clattering sound every so often which would wake me up just as I was about to dose off. Clare actually went out on the balcony in the middle of the night to try to figure it out but was unsuccessful in the dark. This morning I looked again, and discovered it was a loose vertical shingle right by our bedroom. I started wondering how I could fix it, and Clare suggested bubble gum. So I decided to give it a try. I chewed up a bunch, put it onto a fly swatter attached taped to a broom stick, and used another broom to kind of hammer it in. So far it seems to be working. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
Karneval is a big deal in the Rhine region around Aachen. We have been looking forward to it for quite some time, peppering co-workers with all sorts of questions about what kind of costumes to wear, where are the best parades etc. It turns out that most of the people we asked actually don’t like Karneval much. Many people described it just as drunken debauchery. Nevertheless, we decided to try it out for ourselves.
Thursday is known as Fat Thursday, which means eating lots of Berliner – jelly filled doughnuts. At 11:11 at my workplace there was a whole buffet of them. The kids got out of school at 11:11 after a bunch of partying at school, with no homework for the break. At 11:11 the women of the town typically take over the city hall. There is also a tradition of the women cutting off the ties of the men. Meg made me a paper tie just for the occasion. Interestingly enough, no one at work cut off my tie, so Clare did that evening.
Friday we took a day off from Karneval. Saturday we went to the Neanderthal museum which is near Düsseldorf. We enjoyed learning about our closely related ancestors near where their fossils were first discovered. Afterwards we went to Düsseldorf to check out the Karneval scene there and get some Asian food (Düsseldorf has a large Asian population). We enjoyed seeing all the different costumes. We did see some drunken unruliness, but not too much.
Sunday we went to the parade in Würselen. It’s nice that we can just walk there. The parade started at 12:30, but we met some friends and neighbors near the end of the parade, so it didn’t actually reach there until almost 2 p.m. There were quite a few nice floats pulled by large tractors, lots of candy, and several bands. It was very nice.
Oh, and “alaaf” is what you say around Karneval time. It is sort of a greeting, plus also just a fun thing to say when you are at the parade and want to get some candy hurled to you. That is, unless you’re from Düsseldorf, where they say “helau”. And of course Düsseldorf and Köln are rivals, so you shouldn’t say “helau” in Köln, or “alaaf” in Düsseldorf. One of our neighbors had constructed a little mobile party wagon, with a place for several cases of beer, a built-in bottle opener, and a boombox for playing party music. And it also had a sticker with “helau” crossed out on it.