Leon stocked up on ammunition. Two cartridge belts cross on his chest, and he wears camouflage clothes - in the brown-beige-green pattern that soldiers wear. If you take a closer look, however, you can see that there is no ammunition in the belts that you can shoot - just pour it into yourself. There are many small liquor bottles.
Leon says his plan for today is "drink alcohol and have fun". It's Thursday, shortly before 10 a.m. in Cologne. He noticed that his soldier costume was conspicuous in these times. But: "It actually has no background," he said. "I haven't found anything better."
Peace demonstration instead of Rose Monday procession 2022
As a brown-beige splash of color, the young man is somewhat symbolic of the colorful overall picture that is called Women's Carnival and marks the beginning of the street carnival. Almost exactly a year ago there had been celebrations at the same place with a sometimes melancholy undertone. At the time, Putin had just attacked Ukraine. Radio stations stopped playing mood music. Instead of the planned Shrove Monday procession, there was a large peace demonstration in Cologne.
In 2023, on the other hand, "jeck as usual" is obviously back in fashion. Although not much has changed in the world situation. The organized carnival has come back to itself. The focus in Cologne is on the celebration of 200 years of carnival. Local politics dealt with security in advance - with that within the borders of Cologne, less with that of Europe.
Mayor gets an overview
A big topic was how the huge rush in the Zülpicher district - the party hotspot of the younger generation - can be managed. Extensive blocking measures are therefore in place. At noon, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, scrambles - disguised - up a kind of watchtower to get an overview of the wild goings-on. Her analysis then focuses on folkloric aspects. "These are the same songs that we also sing in the session carnival and at private carnival celebrations, which are also accepted by the young people," she says.
A few hours earlier, Reker had said at a reception that she was of the opinion "that we can and should celebrate" - even if it was "difficult" in view of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey and the war in Ukraine. The Cologne triumvirate - prince, farmer and maiden - also blurs the impression that the people of Cologne don't care what happens elsewhere. The thoughts are also with the people in the Ukraine, emphasizes André Fahnenbruck, who mimes the virgin as a man. The day before they had visited an aid organization for Ukraine. "That grounded us very much."
Queues in front of carnival pubs early in the morning
The first queues form in front of the relevant carnival pubs as early as 8:00 a.m. Cologne's old town is also slowly filling up. About ten women have positioned themselves there in pink flamingo fur costumes around a well-stocked handcart with a mounted counter. They came from Rüdesheim - as they have done for 20 years, they say.
"We are really happy that we can finally celebrate carnival properly again," says Susanne, one of them. During the Corona years, she "cried on the sofa" on Weiberfastnacht and watched old carnival programs in the media library. There will be no more corona requirements in 2023.
Stefan and his friends also want to really get going on Weiberfastnacht - although the general world situation is currently rather depressing, as he says. "But it's no use to anyone if we don't celebrate because of it. The war doesn't stop there."