Holy Fasching Karneval: Part Three: Karneval Dienstag

| March 26, 2013

It’s been a while since Karneval, so I have to consult my notes, which are written in pen and pencil, straight and crooked…pretty much how this Karneval went.

A few hours before the parade was to start at 13:33, we began to hear the thumping of drums, then loud music, and eventually the chatter of voices as people passed by the house.  First, it was groups of people in costume, walking toward the house where their group was to wait in line until the parade started; then it was people finding a spot to stand on the sidewalk.  Many of those people were also in costume.  Some of these were elaborate, and some were as lazy (yet awesome) as a bathrobe and shower cap.  Totally considering for next year.


On our corner, across the street from the house, stood a port-a-potty.  When it was placed the day before, I knew Karneval had gotten very real.  And it ain’t like Karnival wasn’t already real.

IMG_0971 First thing in the morning, Paul had gone to the bakery to get fasnacht donuts.  It was a bit of a disappointment when he returned with regular old Berliners.  In Pennsylvania, fasnachts are something entirely different.  These new-to-me German donuts were lacking a very important ingredient: Lard.  But a few hours later, a man wheeled a giant wagon right past my open window yelling, “BRETZEL!”  Let me tell you: When this girl sees a man go past with a wagon full of soft pretzels covered in chocolate, this girl can run.  I will say, though, that these are better warm than cold.

We had set ourselves up in the perfect spot: a front row seat to the parade from our front living room window.  One window was completely opened so that we didn’t miss a thing; however, our legs were up against the radiator, so the cold air didn’t bother us a bit. In fact, that cold air was chilling our beer on the outside window sills.


We all donned our funny hats and had ourselves some Karneval spirit up in here.  When the parade kicked off, we.were.ready.

Now, I don’t drink very often, and when I do these days, it’s one–max, two.  So you give me a few good German beers, and I’m lit.  I’m going outside.  I’m dancing.  I’m laughing.  I’m speaking some really bad German with strangers.  They’re laughing.  Gut times.

I was genuinely surprised when one of the first floats was a full-blown float.

The town is very creative when it comes to getting floats down its narrow streets.  Tractors, little cars, even a golf cart.  And trucks were skinny.

That’s not to say that all the parade was made up of elaborate floats.  And as always, it’s all about the ’80’s.  It wouldn’t be a parade without the Muppets.  Or the Smurfs.  Or Star Wars.  Or the Fraggles.

Halfway through came our landlords’ group of…..American Indians.  Families, clubs, performers, etc., form groups in the parade.  Apparently the town has a cutoff or there would be a neverending parade.  There were 150 groups.  Oh, did I mention, our little town of 6,000 draws a crowd of 17,000 for the parade?  SERIOUSLY.  Anyway, we loved the tradition: these groups are pulling their kids along!  And it’s expected.  If you’re part of the family, you WILL be in the parade.  I learned this quickly.  When I asked my landlord if her 3-year-old niece, who is in Sequoia’s kindergarten, had a good place from which to watch the parade, she looked at me as if I were from another planet.  “She must walk in the parade!”  Wagons, strollers, and other creative methods transported the youngest.

There were creative ways of transporting other precious cargo, as well.  My two favorite:

A parade is a great place to be when you’re a fan of marching bands.  And as I’m standing there, bom-bom-bomming, I suddenly find myself playing air cymbals, perfectly and with great flair.  Right then and there, a repressed memory surfaces: I played the cymbals during basic training in the Air Force.  I feel like those weeks of training prepared me not only to march on that field in front of all those people during that graduation ceremony in the 90’s, but also to march down the sidewalk crashing my hands in the air during Karneval in Germany.  It was a proud moment.

It’s not long after these moments of glory, that I picked a gummi worm up off the driveway and ate it.

Candy was being tossed left and right.  An ambitious kid even beaned some at our window.  Not that I caught it.  People on floats leaned over and poured liquor into shot glasses and handed them out.  Airplane sized liquor bottles were being tossed.  Paul was coming off of a cold, so he stayed inside, but once Sequoia and I were outside, his hands became the lift: Sequoia would run fistfuls of candy from the street to the window and reach up to Paul, who would pile it on the inside windowsill.

At one point, Sequoia ran inside and back out, accidentally letting Flash out.  Fortunately I closed the pedestrian gate in time, but he stood at the gate barking like crazy until I got him rounded up.  The parade-goers joked that he was barking “Äla!”, which everyone was yelling.  Just as I caught him, a group of vintage diner waitress skated up.  The music blared what?  “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.”


Do you know what the very last “float” is in a Karneval parade?  The street sweeper.  Immediately.  And then, me.  I followed for a little bit, wandering into town.  Past the kids playing trash hockey.  I had plans to check out the indoor festivities following the parade, but the parade was going on for a longer time than I could wait.  All said and done, this American can hang ’til…5:30.

As for shouting “Äla!”, my neighbor recounted last year’s event for her and her daughter.  Her daughter was one, with a vocabulary of “Mama” and a few others.  But at the end of Karneval, she had added “Äla!”.

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Category: Germany, In Germany A Broad blog, karilogue top bar, Karneval, Karneval, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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