Storming the Rathaus + Keeping Up with the Karnevalians

Now that we’ve thrown in the towels (and ties!) on our first Karneval in Dusseldorf, it’s time to recap (more like recover!) on these last five days.

I’m STILL trying to wrap my head around all of this! Still in a bit of an altbier ‘n’ bubbly fog, but come ON! How many times in your life are you able to don a pink bob and “double-fist” in City Hall?

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So what IS Karneval?

For starters, imagine Halloween, St. Paddy’s Day and Mardi Gras (minus the nudity*) teaming up, pumping themselves with steroids and throwing a massive, FIVE-day costume bender brimming with confetti, booze, Karneval songs on repeat, more booze, the mayor playing along, old folks throwing down everywhere and a politically incorrect parade (with plenty of candy for the kids and/or greedy adults like me) to polish it all off.

*After seeing what an openly naked bunch the Germans really are (Americans, if you’ve been to locker rooms or saunas here, you know what I’m talking about!), it’s surprising there’s no public nudity in the midst of the Dusseldorf debauchery. For the record, I am not complaining about this missing element.

People of all ages and walks of life come out of the woodwork, AND those seemingly having the best time in their BEST-dressed attire are, well, usually some of the OLDEST!

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P.S. The woman to my left later GAVE me her medal. That is apparently a BIG deal. I will cherish it forever!! It’s a “Markt Frauen” (Market Women) medal from 1998. I LOVED talking to these ladies, or, well, trying to. Slight German-English barrier…but clinking, smiling, hugging and laughing are surely universal!

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Upon further investigation and scrolling through pics of years past, pretty sure this guy was Hoppeditz at one time.

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THESE ladies. Loved them. Dusseldorf natives.

I can’t say enough about the older and elderly folks I see walking around town, fully participating in these annual celebrations and functioning in ways that aren’t common in the States.

Europeans are outliving a lot of us, so it’s time we take some notes.

OK. So, what’s the HISTORY of Karneval? I’ve been reading up to give you a proper download.

Every year on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m. (coinciding with St. Martin’s Day), the Hoppeditz (AKA the jester carnival mascot) wakes up, drops out of a mustard pot (Hello! The Dorf is famous for its mustard!), playfully roasts the mayor on the market square, then, Karneval begins. I still can’t figure out where the jester originated or what this has to do with St. Martin’s Day, but, hey! He starts the party, and that’s all anyone cares about.

With the exception of the Karneval Verein, the carnival club/planning committee that meets, DRINKS and sings regularly in silly hats, not much happens between November and the start of the pre-Lent partying. Everyone else is too busy guzzling hot gluhwein (dangerously delicious spiced wine), noshing on piles of kartoffelpuffer (really, really greasy potato pancakes dipped in apple sauce) and celebrating Christmas harder than their children to even THINK about Karneval!

Although, in December, I do recall spotting sprinklings of old men in animal onesies and medieval gear smoking outside a brauhaus or two.

Then, after everyone and their mother, brother and lover blasts their own fireworks into every corner of the Dorf, the only medicine for their New Year’s hangovers and post-Christmas blues? KARNEVAL!

>>> Whoever told me Germans are fun-haters was totally wrong.

>>> Forget retiring in Florida, people. All the fun’s in Dusseldorf!

From here on out, perhaps the best way to explain the rituals and customs of Karneval is to recount my personal experiences…in pictures, of course.

HERE GOES!

It all kicks off on Altweiberfastnacht (Women’s Day/Women’s Carnival), the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This is the day when “all the women can assume control,” cut ties and shoelaces off of men and apparently even kiss any man they want. (I didn’t see much random lip-locking. Luckily, everyone in City Hall was goin’ for cheeks.)

So, at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, my scissors, champagne and I were ready to rock. I thought the tram ride down to the Altstadt would be a bit awkward, but some other costumes were surprisingly in my view. Phew!

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Thanks to a gracious invite to join the American Women’s Club in their annual “Storm the Rathaus” festivities, I met my fellow “Heartbreakers” in front of City Hall.

As you can see, we were some of the first women to line up in the “holding pen.” They only allow a limited number of ladies through the doors each year, so you best get there early! It was COLD standing there till 11:11 a.m., but there’s nothin’ a little spiked coffee and champagne can’t fix. Am I right or am I right?

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After a while, crowds started filling the square…

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Then, things started rolling. Per tradition, the mayor came out and chatted with the ladies!!!

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Then, we sandwiched the mayor…

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Then, I turned around and saw these bitchin’ witches.

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Meanwhile, a news guy planted himself right by us, so I had no choice but to video-bomb him. If you want to see me on live TV (HAHA, what?!), mosey over to 13:30.

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Our group got interviewed a number of times!! Note to self: “Spreche Sie English?” does NOT get you interviewed, so I just stuck to video-bombing. LOL!

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Per more tradition, the mayor hopped on the mic from the City Hall balcony and rattled off all kinds of charming comments to get us ladies riled up.

“Women, you should be home cooking kartoffel for your husbands!!”  

It was all in German, of course, so, that was entertaining…

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If you look really closely for the most confused looking woman in the crowd, you’ll see me.

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At about 11:09 a.m., I joined in on an aggressive chant in German. I turned to a girl next me and asked, “WHAT are we chanting?” She laughed and said, “Let us IN! Let us IN!”

At 11:11 a.m., they counted down and opened the DOORS!!!

Want to see the footage? Scroll down to the first video. Recognize anyone at 1:30? Eh?? Eh??

Here’s a fun view from inside. I loved how we matched the decor!

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THEN, I cut my first tie!!!!!! What a good sport this man was. Notice how he’s wearing TONS of ties? Ha! He was popular.

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Awww…a post-tie-cut kiss!

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There were media people everrrywhere, and most of them were in costumes, too. Amazing.

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The PRINCE! We got a picture with the PRINCE!

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Ohhhh…and now for my favorite. guys. ever. As soon as these Dusseldorf natives knew I was from Colorado, they were pretty pumped.

“We smoke marijuana every day, so we can’t wait to get to Denver!! We saw on TV that there’s a type of weed out there called ‘into the couch.’ When you smoke it, you go INTO THE COUCH. Bahahaha!”

So, I made them pretend to be smoking with me…

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The crowds in the Rathaus were INSANE!! Don’t worry. This woman really doesn’t have two heads…

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These guys were guarding some VIP room. I tried to squeeze in. They weren’t impressed with my antics.

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This guy said, “Now I’m married,” then, put on his golf glove that clearly covered his wedding ring and said, “Now I’m single.” OH BOY…

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Total debauchery, I tell you!! I thought we were going to bust into City Hall and see people carrying on business as usual, working at desks, yada yada yada. NOPE. OPEN BAR for EVERYONE!

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Hey, House Hunters International fans! Recognize the gal on the right?? The Wilhelm episode? Eh? Eh?

When it came time to leave, the crowds had grown even bigger!!

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HELAU!

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Then, came Friday.

What happened on Friday?

Couldn’t tell ya. We were hiding out, cooking chili and NOT keeping up with the Karnevalians! I have a pretty good guess of what it involved though. Costumes? Check. Booze? Check.

Thennn, came Saturday. Earlier in the week, David asked me to buy (or in his words, scoop up) the most ridiculous Karneval costumes I could find. I believe I accomplished the task. Am I right or am I right??

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Poor David was having a severe identity crisis that night.

“Am I a dog? Am I a bunny? Or am I a hare?”

“What does a bunny sound like?”

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We couldn’t have asked for a better group to celebrate this first Karneval with. We are so blessed and grateful to have met such great people out here!!

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Awww! {xoxo} So happy Deloitte connected us with these two!

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LOL! David was having a ball photo-bombing all the lovers.

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Then, he was taken in by a family of pink pigs…or cows…or whatever they were. “Goodbye, honey! Good luck in your new life!”

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We tried to go home. We really did. But next thing we knew, we were “shuffling” on cobble stone with full beers in our hands (THAT takes talent, P.S.) and cheering on Michael Jackson.

One of my favorite nights, ever! Hands down!

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THEN, it was Sunday. OOF! Can you say Sunday FUNday?! Hundreds of thousands of…you guessed it…MORE COSTUMED PEOPLE gathered along the Konigsallee and Old Town again.

I love this pic of David and his German coworker…especially everything happening behind them. Nuns, superheroes, you know…typical Sunday.

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Haha…I don’t know what it was about this man, but I just had to capture him and this awkward exchange.

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LEGO conga line!!

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Hmmm…some people put more effort into their outfits than others, and I’m pretty sure he stole my robe.

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“It would be ridiculous NOT to have a Killepitsch dance mob right here!”

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When in doubt, just put on a mustache!

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Whoa. Dang. McCormick, is that you?

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THEN, came ROSE MONDAY!! 

If stores boarding their windows isn’t a telling sign that Karneval gets KRAZY, I don’t know what is!

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Just when you thought everyone had had their fill after four days, they came back for more. I think 1 in 4 men was wearing an animal suit. I had no idea I was dressing David in such trendy attire.

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Just a couple of old boys waitin’ for a parade…

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I LOVE HIM.

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I REALLY, REALLY LOVE HIM.

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And THEM.

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And these little cuties!

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Whoa. That’s one jester you don’t want to mess with…

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Don’t you just love her and her best view in town?

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The KALM before the KRAZY! Local news reported that one million people gathered in the DORF for Rosenmontag!

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Gotta love how this important guy is just taking down a cigarette.

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The first group of the carnival!!! I’d say we got a pretty good spot, yeah?

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“Helau!!!” “HELAU!!” “Helau!” “HELAU!!!”

Loads of candy, caramels, taffy and flowers were flying out of these floats. It was like trick-or-treating backwards. I even got a hold of a mini mascara and tiny toy car!

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Then came all the political floats…

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You can get a load of all the floats here.

It was a serious ghost town in other parts of the city yesterday! Clearly, everyone was pulled to the parade!

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Well, Karneval, you were amazing.

I GUESS I’ll hang up this chicken suit once and for all.

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Until next year!!

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