come along with the black rider

Despite the weather’s continued lack of cooperation, the how-much-firewood-is-left-in-the-shed countdown to spring is over. The shed is empty, but the nights are still cold. So today I’ll be the one at the table saw behind the pile of pallets.

Should I be so bold as to venture down the hill and into the city today, I would find a costumed, drunken hoard. Though Fastnacht (what you probably know as Mardi Gras) officially starts on November 11th at 11 o’clock in Germany, Rose Monday is the starting flag for the officially sanctioned mass letting down of hair, donning of costumes, and public consumption of alcohol.

Not liking crowds, clowns, high cover charges, or obscenely drunken strangers, it ranks as my least favorite German tradition of all time. Though I admit that if I could hover around the city in a little bubble watching it all from on high, I would. What better place to witness all the best of human depravity?

Last week I, oblivious foreigner that I am, accidentally wandered right into the thick of Altweiber (this is the part of Fastnacht when women run around with big scissors cutting off men’s ties). Buses weren’t running as usual, and the market place was full of stands selling food and beer, of brightly colored carnival-style rides with blinking lights and loud pop music. My initial instinct was to turn around and retreat back from whence I’d come, but the streets were relatively quiet—most of the costumed folk had already drunken themselves into a stupor or been filed into one of the discos that had been set up in the city center for the occasion. On the bus ride home I sat between a sailor and a kangaroo.

Last year, after an afternoon of wheat beer taste-testing, I found myself on my way into the heart of Fastnacht with a drunken hoard of my own. The bus delivered us into a city so full, so ruckus, so colorful, and so thoroughly covered in trash that I didn’t recognize places I visit regularly.

It’ll take a lot of beer to get me into the city tonight, but the odds are higher than usual: there will be an Arabian Nights theme party in our house and our friends’ samba band is playing in the city. So, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be back tomorrow, not with stories of firewood and dumpster diving, but of circus clowns and Pfand (bottle return deposit) collectors, of samba music, Deutsche Schlager, and scheduled insanity.

0 Comments on “come along with the black rider

  1. Altweiber (this is the part of Fastnacht when women run around with big scissors cutting off men’s ties).

    I wonder whether this is the source of Americans being cautioned to never run with scissors???

  2. I dislike Fasching intensely (too much crowds, too many drunk people, too much puke), but my Samba band played in the U-Bahn station and it was amazing. Usually, not many people dare to dance, but on Rosenmontag we actually had a party going on with everybody from teenage boys to middle-aged couple dancing and having a good time. It was very amazing and, I think, very un-German behavior.

  3. I am intensely anti-social but strangely enough experiencing Fasching in Köln and Weihnachstmärkte are high on my list of things to do… maybe it’s the cultural aspect of it all (we’re kind of lacking in Canada) that’s appealing.

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