Ecstasy and astonishment: German Karneval kicks off

Ecstasy and astonishment: German Karneval kicks off
The Karneval imp Hoppeditz makes his annual speech at the Düsseldorf celebrations. Photo: DPA
Carnival season kicked off with a bang across Germany on Friday. For some the mad chaos is an absolute highlight, but for others it's a strange and foreign world.

In Cologne, the capital of Germany's Karnevals, hard-core fans collide with unsuspecting tourists. Waltraud Bartz has endless energy. For hours the 65-year-old sways and chatters in Cologne’s Heumarkt, the centre of Friday's celebrations.

Karneval season gets under way on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month every year, and lasts through until the beginning of lent.

“I’ve been here since half past seven. I was desperate to get into the first row,” Bartz says, laughing. It's paid off – the pensioner, who attends Karneval every year, has bagged herself a great view of the stage.

IN PICS: first day of Karneval across Germany

For Shigeki Miyawaki on the other hand, it’s complete chance that he’s in the square. With a camera around his neck, he stands in front of the city's famous cathedral looking a bit helpless while colourful revellers stream past.

“I had no idea,” the Japanese visitor explains. “I heard yesterday evening that there was a kind of festival. I wanted to see the cathedral and the old town but I guess I can forget that.”

35-year-old Diana is a die-hard Karneval go-er. For weeks she’s been preparing her costumes with her friends. Now all 14 of them are dressed as peacocks.

Other regulars are dressed in groups as cookie monsters, astronauts and FBI agents.

Down the road in neighbouring Düsseldorf, it’s not so coordinated. People are mainly dressed in feathers and caps instead.

The market square bristles with Karneval revellers, here to listen to the imp Hoppeditz’s speech, one of the traditions of Düsseldorf’s celebrations.

Those in Cologne and Düsseldorf manage to stay dry, but the Mainz chaos continues through the drizzle regardless. This year for the first time, the Mainz Karneval will be celebrated into the evening, with the first woman’s Karneval band.

For Waltraud Bartz going home early is out of the question. She keeps on swaying at the front and shows no signs of slowing. Later a quick bite to eat but then “onto the party ship. We’ll keep on partying there.”

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