Saturday, March 6, 2010

Politik des Kölner Karnevals

[ Politics of the Cologne Carnival ]

Whereas my photos may be a bit obnoxious, I didn't leave the adventurous party hopping in Cologne without some new perspectives on German culture and especially political humor. There were many sights to see everywhere, and quite a bit of history to understand why this particular German city still holds on to its old Catholic traditions of Mardi Gras and presents one of the largest week long party events in Europe. As one journalist described his travels through Cologne

" Carnival is an unlikely cultural artifact: a week-long alcohol-infused costume party that traces its roots to medieval Catholic society and functions as an annual bucket of confetti dropped over Germany's long, gray winter. Like New Orleans' Mardi Gras, Carnival functioned as an organized release of steam before the onset of the traditional Catholic period of asceticism, Lent. "

Since I wanted at least one post to divide my "first day of work" post coming directly after this - just hours after returning from Cologne - instead of being side by side with photos of my strutting around the Cathedral square with a diamond studded belt and golden hair, I felt my curiosities and perceptions of the politics of the Karneval Parades to be an appropriate transition.

[ As mentioned before, the Germans almost feel as if Obama is a politician in their country - they speak of him fondly, and they critique him rigorously, and this can be seen in some of these floats ]

[ Italian Prime Minister - infamous for saying that President Obama "has a nice tan" - is well known for being kind of a player - The Germans have no problem pointing out his constant publicity with young, attractive women. ]

The parades surrounding Karneval are different - they aren't lined with feather-ruffled bakini clad models like in Rio, or bead throwing rendezvous of New Orleans. It definitely isn't exactly the family oriented Thanksgiving day parade either.

The parade is a hodgepodge of everything that makes the Cologne Karneval eclectic and unique - wild costumes, lots of cross dressing [ the Princess of Karneval is traditionally always a man in drag - the tradition only halted during the Nazi regime ! ] and the winding streets lined with bleachers and spectators fueled and buzzing by Kölsch beer. The floats themselves may be the most surprising - and also the best connection into Kölner [ and even overall German ] humor and a love for irony and political satire. The floats were no stranger to cartoon characterizations of political figures bearing bare bottoms and breasts, and ultimately very provocative messages that made a very political punch.

[ Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi, well, presented as having connections with the mafia...]

[ yes, that is Angela Merkel naked ]

Cologne is not the only city that creates large politically charged floats for large parades and parties - other cities in Germany create their own parties too, including nearby cities of Düsseldorf and Mainz. On TV, much like Oktoberfest, the events are followed with full coverage, as well as television presentations of kitschy singing and dancing that traditionally goes with the festival.

[ " Help, now we are completely brainless " - Critic on die Linke Partei ]

[ Iranian President Ahmadinejad bringing a Trojan horse to Obama, stereotypically clad as a cowboy as the American president often is in European political cartoons ]

The entire atmosphere surrounding Karneval is unique - over the top, loud, rambunctious, but not without historical connection and explanation for all of the small details. Just seeing the floats alone, one can get a good, fresh look at the puns Germans like to use, especially in regards to one of their favorite pastimes, critiquing politics and politicians.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, are their editorial cartoons as outlandish as these floats?