“If you have business appointments in Cologne before the hot carnival season, you can pack your costume right away. Because everyone is taken here to celebrate. Carnival as pure Bleisure.”
Anja Eigen, owner of Eigen PR, blogger and guest author of Bleisure Traveller
“Because when the drums are beating”, we Cologners celebrate our fifth season, the carnival. It may irritate the odd visitor to Cologne to meet people in disguise in the middle of the street – on normal days – from November to Ash Wednesday, as if it were normal. It is normal! We Cologners then know that we are in the most beautiful time of the year, which reaches its peak on the days from Weiberfastnacht to Ash Wednesday. Because the fact that the people of Cologne love Cologne so much has less to do with the beauty of the city than with the attitude to life, the “Kölsche Jeföhl” (The Cologne Feeling), and that in turn has a lot to do with carnival. Carnival – that is the essence of Kölsche Jeföhl.
Business appointments until Wednesday, celebrate from Weiberfastnacht
Cologne is becoming more and more interesting as a Bleisure destination, and this could only be heard at a symposium. Their good attitude towards life is getting around. And if you want to understand what the Rhineland way of life is all about, the best thing is to come to the cathedral city during carnival time. But beware: No business appointments on Weiberfastnacht or Rosenmontag! There is no serious work in Cologne on these days, Shrove Monday is a public holiday. It is therefore advisable to set the date to the Wednesday before Weiberfastnacht in order to get into the carnival business for a few days afterwards.
By the way, I made my first attempts at immerse myself in the experience on a bleisure trip when I was still living in Munich at the time and had nothing to do with the Carnival or Munich Festival – and didn’t want to. But in Cologne, from the time of Weiberfastnacht to Rosenmontag, there are only two options: join in or go away, and I decided to get involved in the carnival.
I have been living here on the Rhine for 20 years now, met my husband at Carnival, gave birth to my children in the stronghold of Carnival, in the southern part of Cologne. And one thing is quite clear: “et Hätz bliev he in Kölle”, as Stefan Raab sings so beautifully with the Höhner. Carnival today is basically taking place with me.
Carnival is not carnival
When the editorial team of Bleisure Traveller asked me if I wanted to write an article about the Cologne carnival, I had to straighten up right away: Carnival is not just carnival! There are different types of carnival: the session carnival with carnival speeches and performances by the many Cologne bands – celebrated stars in their home country, who have up to 300 performances during the session, sometimes more than ten a day during the peak periods. Carnival, of course, also includes the carnival processions such as the big Shrove Monday procession known from radio and television and the many smaller ones in the districts that the Cologne people call “Veedel”. The people of Cologne love their school and Veedelzöch, who parade on Sunday from 11.11 a.m. from Südstadt through the city centre. Colorful costumes, wherever you look, made with love and creativity by schools and clubs, that makes our hearts beat faster.
And then there is the pub carnival, which I personally find the most beautiful. For the pub carnival you don’t need a lot of preparation: a pub-suitable disguise and an old jacket over it, which you can throw into the corner after waiting in the queue. Because inside you dance, sing, drink Kölsch and sometimes you can sway together to “En unserem Veedel”. Live and let live. Celebrate together.“Häste och kei Jeld, Dat es janz ejal, doch Drink mit un kümmmmer disch drum.” This is the pure kölsches Jeföhl and is sung about in the many beautiful carnival songs. Until everyone has understood it!
On Thursdays, on Wieverfastelovend, the pub carnival starts, by the way, and the day is one of the most popular pub carnival days in Cologne. If you want to party that day in one of the famous carnival pubs in the southern part of the city, such as Ubierschänke, Haus Müller or Chlodwigeck, you should queue up early in the morning on Thursday to get a standing/dancing/dark place inside. It will be tight! Also in the Belgian quarter or in Ehrenfeld, Sülz or Nippes there are fantastic carnival pubs like the Alcazar, the Unkelbach, the Gasthaus im Viertel. “Mit Vergnügen Köln” regularly publishes good addresses, from cool and hip to the more traditional addresses.
And for those who haven’t had enough on Tuesday and have been a bit overly strict, they should go out once more to get rid of their sins and misdemeanours with the other carnival sinners at the ritual of burning nubbles, a straw doll.
Diving into the carnival – very concretely …
First the hotel – two tips: The Lindner Hotel City Plaza celebrates Cologne on its themed floors, which are dedicated to the cathedral, 4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser and of course the Cologne Carnival (see photo below), designed with motifs by the streetart artist SeiLeise. The inner city location is the ideal starting point for discovery tours during carnival. The hotel manager is also a really yummy guy.
Not far from Lindner is the 25hours Hotel The Circle in the former Midcentury building of the Gerling insurance company. It plays wonderfully with the themes of the economic miracle and technical utopias of the 1950s and 1960s. As in many other cities, the hotel has become a hotspot with a fantastic view of our beloved cathedral.
My tip from here: Take the train into the south city to Chlodwigplatz and let yourself be carried away to one of the many pubs. Then don’t change the location anymore, because it’s hard to get back into somewhere else.
If the weather is fine, the atmosphere on the squares in the Südstadt is also great. And on Fridays, the bars are much more relaxed and no less beautiful. Yes, so you can party, dance and sway in Cologne until Wednesday until you don’t feel like it anymore.
Anja Eigen …
likes to sing herself in weeks before Carnival. Because if you already know the choruses of the well-known carnival songs, carnival is even more fun. Here is a selection as a quick course: https://www.dw.com/de/elf-k%C3%B6lsche-lieder-die-man-kennen-muss/a-18996159
Photos: Own, Lindner Hotel City Plaza