Holy Fasching Karneval: Part Two – Rosenmontag

| February 20, 2013

As I sit and listen to groups pass by en route to their Karneval parade spots, I have some time to jot down notes from yesterday’s festivities. First, let me say: never in my life have I seen people dress up in costumes for so many days in a row.  For nine days, people have been wandering around dressed in as much as full animal or clown costumes, to as low-key as an alien antenna headband or a floppy hat with flowers sticking out of it.  (Okay, as I type, I’m wearing a lime-green one myself).  And we’re not talking about college kids out to have a good time.  We’re talking little old couples wobbling down the road on a Sunday afternoon in goofy hats. And we followed an older woman in a clown costume around town.  She was not to be outdone by anyone with regular old clown hair.  She’d made her own hair.  Out of rigatoni.

For a week, Sequoia’s school was filled with costume-clad children.  It was not a requirement that they wear a costume…until Monday, that is.

IMG_3026Rosenmontag is party time.  The gym room was decorated, the Prinzenpaar was coming to visit, the kids were all decked out.

After dropping Sequoia off at school, I decided to take a walk into town to see what was going on.  I need to stop to grab cash, so I walked into the bank.  The employees were bedazzled in silver, glittery costumes.  They were blowing up balloons, and Highway to Hell was blaring.  It was 0830.

In the bakery, the ladies were wearing clown costumes minus the hair.  In the street, random liquor bottles littered window sills.  A college-aged kid passed me, red-eyed and wearing a giant bear suit.  It was 0900.

When I returned to pick up Sequoia, the gym was packed with many parents, most of whom were also dressed up.  I had worn a little witch’s hat just in case this happened, along with my Fastnacht scarf.  The Prinzenpaar was leading the kids through the school in a congo line.  Singing, dancing, eating, sweating.  Like a nightclub for kids.


As for this whole shebang, our house is in a great location for people-watching.  Not only do people who live near us walk past, but there’s also a parking lot down the road for those who drive in.  People drive by dressed as a cheetah or bike by dressed as a goofy sheikh.  Colonial garb.  Witches.  Costumes on, costumes in arm, a family of costumes draped over a stroller.  All week long, we watched and listened to people of all ages, at all hours: walking, hobbling, singing, ringing bells, laughing and otherwise enjoying themselves up and down the sidewalk.  Every now and then, we have to remove a plastic shot glass from our wall, but it’s a small price to pay to participate in the holiday.

Paul wasn’t feeling well on Rosenmontag, so I walked into town alone in the early evening, just to see what was going on.  We’d already noticed (admittedly with concern) that some of the businesses boarded their windows at night, so I wasn’t sure what to expect–but we definitely wanted to know what the atmosphere was in town.  As soon as I rounded our bend and approached the restaurant by our house, I came upon two crazily-dressed guys playing tennis in the street.  The street was not closed.

When I arrived in the Marktplatz, it was but a small crowd that I first encountered.  I thought, huh, this isn’t bad.  Children of all ages were running around.  Not all of the beer and liquor kiosks were open yet, but some, along with the food kiosks, were.  The restaurants were hopping, but everything else was closed.  The shops that were most boarded up?  The butcher, the bakery, and the pharmacy (the pharmacy had metal gates).  Not boarded up: children’s clothing, yarn store, tailor, bookstore… You get the picture.  There’s little concern that a drunken mob is going to want to knit a sweater and read, but the danger of them getting toasted and wanting some cough medicine, a croissant, and a big, fat pig does exist.

I could hear different music coming from the next block, albeit faint with the loud music of the Marktplatz in my ear.  I thought I saw something that looked kid-related, so I decided to check it out.  Maybe I’d text Paul to bring Sequoia out to me.

I arrived to find a float with a circus band on it.  A woman with a riding crop was spanking a man walking by.

I’d seriously misjudged that one.

This was the Rosenmontag early evening scene of my typically sleepy town of Dieburg:

IMG_3039 IMG_1603IMG_1605

…before it got crowded.  Apparently at about 9:00, you can’t walk.  Perhaps the group of drummers (yes, bass drums) (being led, oh my God, by my landlord in a costume!) that was now walking by on the Marktplatz only plays until a certain time, as the town is soon to become packed.  The cellar doors open and people go underground and party.  I don’t really know what that entails because I wasn’t about to jump headfirst into Rosenmontag without Paul.  Here’s an older picture of the kind of cellar doors that open:


Now, the cellar doors in this particular picture are already open on weekends–they belong to a restaurant that sits above.  However, I saw cellars that I’d never noticed before; some with their doors already open and some with their doors being prepared for opening.  I also saw businesses that were not restaurants, now being used as party zones.  I peeked into the bank.  It was now being used as a disco.  One cellar with a bar inside, for the convenience of those who did not want to walk down the stairs, had a folding table outside the door where two young guys were selling liquor.  One of the young men saw me and put on a show–a staggering drunk–to attract my business.  I bought basically a shot of a screwdriver, so perhaps a teaspoon of Fanta with a drop of Vodka?  Pacing myself.  It was my first (and last) drink of the evening.

Paul texted to see what I was up to.  As I was replying, I heard something rather loud behind me.  I immediately jumped into a storefront doorway to escape a float that was rounding the bend.  It turns out the circus band was on a float that, well, floats around town.  People were singing and dancing and drinking, giddy and red-eyed, following it until it stopped not too far ahead of me.  I stayed on the doorstep and observed as everyone danced and sang along with the band.  I soon bumped into my neighbors, who, along with their 2-year-old atop her father’s shoulders, were taking in the sights of Rosenmontag before it got too crazy.  They were the ones to fill me in on the fact that at 9:00 the town would be packed and all the cellar doors would open.  They said that one year, a friend from England was visiting and didn’t know that it was the week of Fasnacht.  One day, he said, “I think I just saw a man walk down the street dressed as a rabbit.”  Yup, that’s about right.


I walked home after the floating float started to pull away, sorry that Paul had missed Rosenmontag but glad we were taking it slow.  We dull, costumeless Americans are too old to be suddenly immersed into 2 weeks of debauchery.  We need to be eased into such things.

People back home worry about crazy, drunken crowds.

It’s not as much a concern when it’s an annual event in a region where you grow up with this custom.  People were walking around town with their babies on their shoulders, toddlers in strollers, and young children running circles around the fountain in the marktplatz.  It’s what you grow up with: two weeks of insanity that doesn’t result in the town being burned to the ground, followed by 6 weeks of recovery known as Lent.

(started 10 Feb 2013)

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Category: 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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