so the story i’d heard was that on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11am, the people of köln each year celebrate the official opening of carnival. i’d heard that there was to be a stage set up with performers and basically just people celebrating on the streets of cologne. i knew that carnival meant people dressed up but i certainly didn’t expect the extent of people’s enthusiasm for this day!
the day begun for us meeting at the hauptbahnhof ready to get the train to köln. it arrived and already was packed to the brim with carnival goers, with 98% of them decked head to toe in costume. we ran to the last compartment of the train where there was a bit more room, and made it in just before the doors closed… only to realize my friend aoife was still to come behind me!! we tried to open the doors but they were already locked shut, we could not get out and aoife couldn’t get in. there were many “nooooooo’s” shouted by us inside the train and i’ll never forget the hilarity that ensued when the train departed and aoife was left there!! we got off at the next stop and waited for her, and by 10.30am we were happily reunited and soon on the next train to cologne, but it was a crack up way to start the day.
so we didn’t quite make it there by the 11:11am start, but as it turned out it wasn’t a problem. the hauptbahnhof was packed with people and as we stepped outside onto the crowded square, we quickly realised the extent of what carnival means to the kölner people, and how underdressed for the occasion we were. i’d never seen so many drunk people (young and old alike) so early in the morning, and the amount of broken glass and stickiness beneath our feet was kind of gross. there are no liquor bans here in germany so people are free to drink when and where they wish – trains, buses, city streets etc. as aoife quite nicely put it, it’s the one day of the year when you can go into a café dressed in a chicken suit and no one bats a feckin eyelid haha.
we wandered through the streets for a good few hours, admiring or laughing at people’s outifts and their growing enthusiasm as they joined together in song, dance and drunkenness. or we especially enjoyed watching people nonchalantly go about their business in some ridiculous outfit! it’s a sight i won’t forget for a long while. below are some photos of the day…