Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The mystery is solved

Worked out the answer to yesterday's mystery yet? Any clue if I reminded you that today is Shrove Tuesday? Still no?

Well it all adds up to Carnival in Cologne - a massive 6 day long celebration, which happens every Shrovetide. Okay, the celebrations may not be as visually spectacular as the Mardi Gras in Rio, but they sure win in terms of length and kookiness.

Six weeks before Easter the Carnival kicks off with Women's Day. Seemingly a day when women are 'allowed' to get away with as much kissing of strangers as they can muster. And sometimes - so I've heard - it can move on to tongues. Eww. If a lady successfully kisses a man she is at liberty to cut his tie or his shoelace as proof. At the end of the day groups of women convene to see who has the most ties/laces and is the winner at being the most debauched. It seems that the lady who dropped this tie (Exhibit A) would have been disappointed with her tally. That is, if she could remember anything at all from the day...

For carnival is known for the copious amounts of alcohol imbibed. I took a walk with friends on the first day of carnival and we were gobsmacked by the numbers of people drinking on the streets (Exhibit B). Bottles were smashed all over the ground, making walking quite hazardous. By the early afternoon there were already people being stretchered away by the emergency services. Well, perhaps there was no shame in that, considering people had been waiting outside pubs at 6 in the morning, ready for early opening.

What's quite surprising is that the festival then carries on for many more days. There are parades, balls, parties, feasting...right up to Ash Wednesday. (Google Translate handily calls this 'Ashtray Wednesday' which is quite appropriate, given how much Germans enjoy smoking.)

Now, on to Exhibit C: Residents in fancy dress. To be a true carnival queen of Cologne you need to dress up. You don't need to stick to conventional themes like pirates, doctors, or fairies either. As long as you don't look ordinary then your effort will be well regarded. I saw someone who had tied a soft toy piglet on to his head, as a makeshift hat. Another person demonstrated creative use of modeling balloons. Someone had dressed up as a toilet. And so on... I do hope they don't wear the same costume every day though, as they could all end up smelling like a pub in the morning.

I have to say, it all requires a bit more commitment than making sure your larder includes enough flour, eggs and lemon juice to whip up a plate of pancakes! But, you know what? I quite fancy pancakes once in a while. Bring on the squeezy lemon!

1 comment:

Ali & Dave said...

Shrovetide/Woman's Day could be much improved if the ladies could demand to be fed pancakes by any man they see. Special hot plates and mixing bowls could be installed in places of work and in the street for on demand pancake making.. or maybe that's just my pregnancy hunger talking..