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Cologne Carnival

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Every year Cologne holds a big carnival in the days up to the start of Lent. There are two big parades, lots of partying, lots of drinking beer and everyone is in fancy dress. We flew in on Friday morning with our costumes packed. Even the cabin crew on the plane were in fancy dress.

The cathedral was the first objective. This is a fantastic gothic structure and the two towers were the tallest buildings in Europe for a while. Climbing them gives a good view but it is hard work. Outside is covered in incredible detail with hundreds of statues and sculptures. Inside is equally as impressive with the high ceiling in the main part. This is complemented by all the stained glass in the windows around the cathedral.

At night everyone comes out in fancy dress and parties hard. The local drink is Kolsch, a hopped form of bear, and everyone drinks a lot of it. We found this place, Kleine Koln, for a good night out. It felt like most of Cologne was here with us. The way the beer is transported is remarkable and very little is spilt.

Saturday is the Funken Biwak. Two groups of soldiers take turns to disobey the orders of their officers. The are the Rote Funken and, shown here, the Blau Funken. Each group is on stage for about half an hour while they disobey orders. There is also some singing of the popular carnival songs and lots of cries of "Kolle Alaaf". Of course, plenty of Kolsch was also drunk. Saturday night was more partying with everybody in fancy dress, some of the costumes were spectacular. We even saw Darth Vader and Boba Fett. On Sunday they held the schools parade. We went down to the centre to watch it. All the schools had put a lot of effort in. The costumes were very good and the school bands played the familiar tracks very well.

Monday is the main day with Rosenmontag and this features the main carnival. The style is similar to Sunday, only better with more people, better floats and costumes and more sweets thrown. The Blau Funken were first through. The crowd started shouting "caramello" and the Blau Funken responded by throwing loads of sweets into the crowd. The children went wild chasing after them.

The floats had a varied content, some of it was quite political. There were caricatures of the main politicians and some other swipes at people. I am not sure what this is about but I liked the picture. By now the sweet throwing was quite exciting, being hit on the head by a bar of chocolate can hurt.

Some of the floats were a bit obscure but still fun and worth photographing. This blue worm thing was one particular example that we liked. The crowd were still going strong with the young scrabbling for sweets and the older ones drinking beer. The Kolsch was really flowing by now. It was a spectacular and colourful scene.

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