Siebengebirge in the distance instead of the Alps in front of the door, driveway to the A3 instead of the gateway to the world: Cologne actually makes it difficult for us Cologne residents to brag about our own homeland. Contrary to the popular lines by Cat Ballou, there are accordingly a few words that "can say what I feel like when I think of Kölle". "Dirty", "obstructed" and "ugly" for example. And yet I am as attached to this attempt by a big city as Hans-Georg Maassen is to his CDU membership (Tätäää, tätäää, tätäää). Dear local patriot than nationalist, that's for sure. And at no time are the people of Cologne prouder of something for which we can do little or nothing than at carnival. Time for a declaration of love.
Two years ago I wrote a similar, but far more bad-tempered text here. The fifth season was in the second lockdown, the mood was lower than the Rhine level in the hot summer (read the text here). All the more this city longs for ecstasy, for a return to the normal abnormal.
Anyone who has never participated in carnival may not understand this. As well as? This festival is not rational. It's loud, dirty and quite frankly: a bit embarrassing. But over the past 200 years, we Cologne residents have mastered the art of drowning the slightest hint of (foreign) shame with liters of beer and a good dose of self-mockery these days. By the way: Yes, Kölsch is beer. No, Kölsch is not just Kölsch. And complaining about "test tubes" belongs in the old joke bin just as much as questioning the existence of Bielefeld. For a hangover in the morning, volume in the evening is unimportant.
We Cologne locals pride ourselves on our open-heartedness and never tire of propagating the cheerful Rhenish nature far beyond the city limits. But of course Cologne society is neither classless nor unprejudiced. It is true that the chance of striking up a conversation with strangers in the pub is certainly higher here than in Germany and exorbitantly higher than the average in northern Germany. Despite this, bankers rarely clink glasses with the parcel carrier here, as they do in Berlin. Just not at carnival.
In this wonderfully crazy time there are no bankers and parcel carriers. There are Indians and cowboys, Jedis and magicians, princes and peasants. Carnival does not make people equal. But the differences that separate them in everyday life are harder to spot under inches of make-up, furry overalls and absurd hats. Musically, too, the festival means everyone is equally good/bad. Whether you're ready for a dram, you're Marie's husband for one night or Barbarossaplatz has overslept: In the fifth season of the year, Cologne's pubs only serve what still tastes good after 15 Kölsch beers. This is equally beginner- and alcohol-friendly. Carnival as a short break for the mind. Things are less harmonious with the little revelers. Have you ever seen children at the carnival parade? Just this much: There is little to feel about "mer muss och jünne künne". If Boris Pistorius had ever witnessed this annual battle for the best camels, we could skip the conscription debate.
Before I forget: a few words about transparency. I am writing these lines, dear reader, anticipating euphoria, but stone sober on the day before Weiberfastnacht. If you read this text on Thursday, I'll be standing on Chlodwigplatz with a maximum of half a tear in my eye and at least one per mille in my blood, bawling "because I'm just a Cologne boy". If you're looking for me in the crowd, you'll need patience. I'm disguising myself as a leopard and may be late. Nevertheless, I dare to make a prophecy at this point in a completely non-journalistic way: It's great. No, the hustle and bustle doesn't make sense. But honestly, don't we all deserve a little bullshit now and then? Maybe now more than ever.
PS Greetings to Dusseldorf too. It's probably okay with you too.