Yet, the real highlight of the weekend was experiencing a true German Karneval celebration. Karneval precedes Lent and is the German equivalent of Mardi Gras, with the same level of public intoxication but with costumes instead of beads and nudity. Case in point: monkeys distributing bananas and booze.
The most interesting/amusing/disturbing part of the experience was the evening event, which consisted of countless middle-aged, small-town Germans clad in a wide assortment of costumes and gathered in an explosion of flower power.
If you can't imagine what that looks like, let me show you (bonus point for finding the gnomes, my personal favorite of the evening):
Once all had gathered and admired each other's apparel, the program began. This consisted of various groups marching to the stage (accompanied by the band's marching song) as we all stood up and clapped, the group presenting some sort of dance/skit/speech, and then marching from the stage (accompanied by the same song) as we yet again stood up and clapped.
And if this wasn't enough slightly creepy ritual, I found myself joining in (I'd like to see you resist this type of group conformity and peer pressure)on the
This fanfare continued for more than four hours.
This may all seem rather excessive and ridiculous, but there were some very important persons to honor:
George Washington wanna-bes
The Shriner-types who organised the whole event
More majorettes that I've seen in my lifetime
The Karneval King and Queen!
The women drumming on giant exercise balls
The lingerie-clad, pole-dancing crowd pleasers
The teen girls disturbingly clad in hooker outfits and performing virtual strip-teases
The teen girls even more disturbingly clad in matching wigs and ruffled underpants and performing the can-can.
There was, of course, much more to see, but my camera couldn't handle all the excitement.
While the whole event was quite bizarre and left me with burning eyes and smoke-scented clothing, I am grateful for the rare glimpse of instinctive German behavior in its natural habitat.