I am a little late in posting this, but it has been a very busy week for us. Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) is the day before Shrove Tuesday and the last official day to party before lent… and Germans take full advantage! And I mean everyone takes advantage ALL weekend long. On Sunday we were playing with Brock in the living room and saw the 70 or 80 year couple who lives across the street come out in full body tiger suits! Kind of like footy-pjamas with a hood and face paint. At this point we knew the rumors were true and these last few days of Fasching or the Karneval season were going to be fun. By the way, Fasching dates back to pre-Roman times as a time for fun in a not-so-fun world.
All over the country villages host balls, parades, festivals, and child-friendly events. Our village had a town musical late at night and a festival for children on Monday. Heidelberg (one of our favorite places) hosted a vampire ball among its events, and Baumholder had a parade that ended with shots of alcohol being passed out.
The top three parades in Germany are hosted in Düsseldorf, Cologne (Köln), and Mainz! Mainz is only an hour away so we figured we would jump right into a fun, cultural event. We had planned to go to this parade for weeks and as the day got closer, and we heard more of how crazy it would be, we thought about it. On one side it would be the best way to experience rosenmontag, on the other we wanted to make sure Brock would be safe. We heard that a huge party erupts as the parade ends so we decided to go, but leave before it got to be too much.
Mainz was very well prepared for the event. Many of the roads were closed so it took a while to find a place to park. We ended up on the other side of the River Rhine, and just walked over the bridge to the zentrum to find a viewpoint of the parade.
As we drove around the outer edge of the city all we could see were HOARDS of people in costume headed towards the zentrum! And when I say costume I do not mean a hat, I mean full body suits. We saw many clowns, animals, and jesters and not one “sexy” costume. Everyone, babies to the elderly, were decked out in great costumes prepped for fun! I was shopping for a few things on Saturday and realized we needed costumes so I grabbed some hats. I wasn’t sure if the rumors were true and I also didn’t want to spend a lot, but once we saw everyone else we felt severely underdressed. I just wore a big hat that I put a flower on (I know, it should have been a bird lol) and Fil didn’t want to wear his Jamaican hat with dreads so Brock did and it was a hit! Many people took his picture, some asked first, and some didn’t. And many others started singing Bob Marley songs and cracked up!
The parade takes several hours, is 7kilometers long, and is the most fun parade I have ever been to! We got lucky and walked right up the grand stand where the television cameras and announcers were. Also nearby was a “food court” we each got currywurst which is somewhat like a cut up bratwurst smothered in a tomato/chili sauce and a vodka punch :). Now we were really feeling festive! We found a spot with only one person ahead of us which was quite a feat since some parts were 10 people thick and waited. While the parade started at 11:11 (I’m not sure why the strange time, but all the parades started at 11 past an hour) it was about an hour and a half till it got to where we were.
While we waited everyone was drinking and singing along to the music being pumped out by the polizei (doing their job but also enjoying the festivities) van and then all of a sudden we heard people yelling “HELAU” (rhymes with yellow). As the parade goes by you yell helau and the marchers toss you treats—candy, popcorn, and small toys. The marchers are possibly more excited and yell helau with vigor! Most of the time it is similar to a soccer announcer, HEEELLLLLLLLAAAAAAAUUUUU!!!!! Some people had it written on their face which is actually how I learned it is “helau” and not just “hallo”—German for hello.
We watched the parade for about 2 hours before calling it quits and in that time we saw countless marching bands, floats, and clubs marching. Most of the participants were in groups for clubs— sporting, crafting, veterans, farming, piracy, witchcraft (all men), music clubs and even a group of cave-people and their matching costumes were out of this world! I feel like some of these costumes would be worn on guards at the Vatican or Buckingham palace! They were made of colorful wool with shiny brass buttons and often times wigs. I couldn’t believe it, but the cave-people group was wearing real furs that barely covered their private areas and left much of their bodies exposed to the cold!
As they marched, or rode past, they yelled helau, threw treats, and waived flags over the crowds. The marching bands played music and were perfectly in-step. Some of the clubs that were marching had existed for hundreds of years! The club that organizes the parade had these great “big head” marchers. I read that these large heads weigh 50 pounds.
After 2 hours we were really feeling the cold and the crowd was starting to get a little rowdy so we tried to see the rest of Mainz. On the list of things I wanted to see were the Kaiserdom which is an stunning cathedral and the Gutenberg Museum, both of which were closed. The parade went right past the Kaiserdom though so Fil got a few pictures of the outside.
The Gutenberg museum was actually closed all weekend for Fasching but we may have to go back to see it. Mainz is where inventor Johannes Genfleisch zum Gutenberg created the Gutenberg press and printed the first bible in 1454. The museum was opened in 1900 and has a reproduction of his workshop and has multiple publications including a Gutenberg bible. We walked through an archway in the building around to the courtyard to see some statues and Fil snapped this picture of the ceiling of the pass-through.
On the way back we stopped on Ramstein for dinner because we just felt like eating American food. Brock is now big enough to sit up on his own and in shopping carts and high chairs at restaurants, can you believe it! He now really loves going to the store so he can have a ride in the cart. At home he eats like a champ. I make his food and so far he just loves to eat everything. At breakfast he has oatmeal with fruit, and at dinner he will eat around 8 oz of vegetables! He absolutely loves sweet potatoes and a mixture of beets and pears.
On Thursday night we were officially hailed into Fil’s new brigade. I was pinned and they talked about Fil’s career and education. His commander flies Piper airplanes and was pretty excited that we went to Lock Haven– home of Piper. He said he used to fly up there to visit the Piper museum.
We still do not have internet at the house but as long as the technician shows up, we will be hooked up on the 26th! With our plan we also got a home phone with unlimited calling to the USA so we can call you as much as you (or we) want!
Now that fasching is over, the next holiday season is Easter. The Easter markets, ostermarkt, are comparable to the Christmas markets and they feature beautifully painted eggs. I have at least 3 on the list that I want to go to. They open soon and run through lent. If you haven’t figured it out, Germans love to celebrate everything! Christian holidays, historical days, foods, and of course beer!
Finally, I have decided where I want to go for my birthday trip :). I have decided that the hills will be alive as we visit Salzburg, Austria and all the Sound of Music and Von Trapp family sites! I can’t wait for our internet to get hooked up so I can start planning!