Sunday, March 05, 2006

Karneval & Prague

The lack of updates has been due to the fact that I was in Düsseldorf and Köln (aka Cologne in English) for Karneval and then in Prague. Ethel, my friend/supervisor from my internship at Fuse, arrived in Berlin last Friday, and on Saturday we flew to Düsseldorf for Karneval. Why Düsseldorf, of all cities, you ask? Christian had invited me (or us) to celebrate Karneval there with him and his friends since it's his hometown. I figured it would be a great experience, especially with a local. He and Pablo repeatedly told me that I had no idea what to expect and they were completely right.

After walking around the city, Ethel and I met up with Christian and his friends and went to their local pub, Schaukel Stühlchen. Everyone, from old couples to teenagers, was on the street dancing outside the pub to music blasting from speakers when we went in. We spent most of the night there, where Ethel and I (and everyone else) drank a lot of the local Schlösser Alt bier, although I had been warned to not drink it. (My verdict: Not bad.) The music was a mix between traditional German Karneval songs (which Christian and his friends all knew and sang along to), 80s pop songs, current dance hits, and indie rock. After a considerable time at Schaukel Stühlchen, Christian, his friend Sven, Ethel, and I went dancing at a club called Stone, where the music was mostly indie rock and German pop. We danced through the night until we got kicked out at about 4:30/5 a.m. and Ethel and I took a cab back to our hostel and tried not to wake up the other people in the room. It was a bit difficult for me because I was on the top bunk, and after having a lot to drink, let's just say it wasn't an easy task climbing up.

Sunday we woke up at 9 a.m. and working on four hours of sleep, Ethel and I took a local train to Köln to see the Karneval festivities there. I would just like to say that the cathedral (Kölner Dom) is probably the most impressive cathedral I've ever seen. Besides that, the festivities were quite obvious with costumed people lining up on the street to watch the parade. The parade basically was all the schoolkids dressed up marching around and it felt like it lasted forever. Ethel and I got tired of watching and were cold, so wandered the city in search of anything but the parade. That mission seemed to have failed, mostly because everything was closed. We did, however, sit in a Burger King drinking tea (since it was about the only place open) observing some teenagers drunk to the point of passing out. This was about 4 in the afternoon. Because we had partied late into the night before, we couldn't bring ourselves to drink the local beer, Kölsch, nor really party. We went back to Düsseldorf and went to sleep relatively early in order to be ready for Rosenmontag.

Rosenmontag is apparently the biggest day of Karneval and we spent it in Düsseldorf. We met up with Christian and his friends again to watch (yet another) parade. However, this parade was much better than the one we had seen in Köln because it was just float after float. Much like Jackie and Doug observed with their Karneval experiences, it seemed to be a day of not being politically correct. Then again, people were dressed up as Mexicans and Indians that would've given Middlebury College a heart attack. There was even one float of "Africans," a.k.a. Germans dressed up as Africans and wearing blackface. I was slightly shocked, but got over it relatively quickly. (There is, afterall, no real word for "PC" in German, except for "PC.")

Watching the parade was an experience in itself. Everyone was drinking beer, whether they had bought it from a stand or had brought it in a wagon, bag, etc. The floats that went by ranged from political humor (making fun of Dubyah or Angie), to local humor (which Ethel and I didn't get), to just plain fun. There were also several marching bands that made me really excited. By the end of the parade, everyone was ready to hit up the bars, and so, we did. We went back to Schaukel Stühlchen and continued to drink and party from about 4 pm to 9 pm or so. It was pretty much like Saturday night except for the fact that more beer was consumed at an earlier hour.

We left the bar to go to a club where there were not that many people there. It actually didn't matter at that point because everyone was pretty much drunk and having a good time regardless. At one point, a whole drum line came into the club and played some traditional German Karneval songs. It was a very good night and was especially great because we got to do as the locals did. My conclusion is that Germans really know how to party and we need to bring Karneval to the U.S. However, it would probably never work, just because there's such a stigma against drinking and we are always concerned about being PC.

On Wednesday, Ethel and I flew from Köln/Bonn airport to Prague. I'm not going to spend much time detailing what went down in Prague, because frankly, not much happened. We actually wanted to try to change our train tickets to come back a day earlier, but unfortunately, it wasn't possible. Prague is a beautiful city, unlike many German cities, since it was basically untouched during the World Wars. It is definitely beautiful in the sense of being a romantic European city and it made me miss having someone with me to just walk through the streets admiring it.
The people we met at the hostel all said the same exact thing: Once you see one thing in Prague, you've basically seen everything. In my opinion, this is true. A good metaphor: Prague is the beautiful woman with no personality. Berlin is the average-looking woman with tons of personality. We explored Prague Castle, saw the Franz Kafka and Toy Museums, and an Alfons Mucha gallery. (Not the museum) To make a long story short, I appreciate Berlin even more now and I'm glad to be back.

Ethel left this morning and I have five days to myself before Alexandra comes to visit me here in Berlin. We'll probably stay here in Berlin and then a week after she arrives, I leave for Japan (when she goes home). More adventures to come.

You can see pictures from Karneval here, but I warn you, there are many drunken photos.
You can see pictures from Prague here.


Joel W. said...

Awesome!! Great pics. I looked at several of your pics on flickr cause I wanted to see more floats from Karneval. Really cool. That would be soooo much fun to experience. It makes me want to go to Europe and journey around. I'm sure once we get some bills paid off and money saved up, my wife and I will DEFINITELY venture out there. Hillarious drunk pics, too. haha Keep the updates coming. I love it.

Dug said...

Haha, we should start some sort of mission...bring back Carnival! We could call it Mardi Gras, too, so people'd know what we were talking about. Next year, maybe...I know a lot of us kids abroad experiencing it this year would be game to coordinate it.

PS - my code word eerily resembles another word...
"vagmvn" I just saw the "vag.n." at first. OK, I'm officially done now.

aurora_de_5a7 said...

Wow I can't believe its only been a week since that has happened. And I think I'm still tired. I had such a great time thanks for everything! Sannie you rule!

Jackie said...

Awwwww!!! I agree with Doug... we DEFINITELY need to have a Carnival party next year. Way to celebrate it like a local. Give Christian my love!

Russel said...

When I visited Prague I didn't quite know what to expect. I had assumed to see a lot of faceless concrete buildings, and time worn faces on the local population. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. Prague is at a crossroads between old and new, constraint and freedom. It has an incredible history of conquest, peace, and domination. The Czech Republic has seen many changes in the last few decades and it is nice to see that Prague hasn't lost any of its charm. This was my first trip to this capital city. I was able to see really interesting architecture, listen to very talented musicians and see works of art in many different forms. If you haven't been to Prague yet it should be on your list for places to visit in Europe. It's also popular in Europe as a cheap place to go, book hotels in Prague and get drunk, especially for stag nights and the like! Though I didn't have the opportunity to visit many places that surround Prague, there was enough to find to do in the city itself for the 4 days that I was there.

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