American Expats Experience German Karneval

Seachest hiding the generator for the speaker system

Well folks, this weekend was definitely one for the record books.  Friday after work, we boarded a train and headed north to Südlohn, a small town almost in the Netherlands, to participate in a weekend of Karneval festivities with some new German friends. The first parade was on Saturday and they continued through Monday.  One of Aaron's coworkers and his friends built probably the most elaborate floats I've ever seen. They had hundreds of pallets donated and they built a pirate ship, called the Dying Flutchman, and everyone dressed accordingly.  Thankfully, the weather was nice, but a little on the chilly side.

Saturday morning, our friend Matthias picked us up from our hotel and we headed over to his house, where the finishing touches were being put on the ship.  This was a 9 AM.  And that is also, when we started with the beers.  Around 10, the parade float was hauled into town, where we started drinking at the bar.  The party then continued as we moved from the bar to the next town over where the parade was supposed to take place.  To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. There were probably 40 floats in all, most of them just as elaborate as the pirate ship, and there were thousands of Germans dressed in costume.  Each float had a sound system and they were all blasting music.  The parade started at 1:30 or so, so we had a couple hours to continue the party before hand.  I think I saw an entire pallet of beer get loaded on to the parade float.  Thankfully, they had brought sausages and bread for lunch.

And then the parade started.  I was surprised to see so many people in costume!  Even adults.  Everyone was dressed up!  The costumes were seriously creative too.  There were marching bands, lots of parade floats, even more candy, and, of course, lots of beer.  There were seas of people and I had forgotten how much fun it is to throw candy from a float.  They even built, and used, a candy canon that could launch bon bons 40 feet.  It was awesome!  There's no way I can completely describe the experience, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.  

Sunday continued with another parade, this one was even bigger!  Probably twice as many people were here than at the one the day before.  And in typical European fashion, we circled through the city, along ancient cobblestone streets, and around a beautiful old church.  The awe of the juxtaposition of modern life on an ancient backdrop is seldom lost on me.

one of the karneval OFFICIALS. They had some pretty sweet hats!

Each night, after the parades were done, the group headed back to the bar for more Karneval celebrations. Our hotel was directly above the bar, which is dangerous.  On Saturday night we went up to change, and literally passed out before the sun set.  I guess we couldn't keep up.  Our college selves would be so ashamed.  I blame the lack of food through out the day.  But we did managed to redeem ourselves, somewhat,  on Sunday and at least stayed up until dark.

Monday, or Rosenmontag as it's called here, had more parades.  But our train left at 1:30, so we didn't do the parade.  That didn't stop us from having a final parting beer with our new German friends though!  In all, it was a great weekend!  We got to practice our German (which is still bad, but improving) and meet some really cool people.  Hopefully we didn't give them a bad impression of Americans :)  Click through the gallery below to see pictures from the float, the crowd and some pretty awesome costumes!

Anyone else celebrating Karneval this weekend?  Mardi Gras?  Fat Tuesday?