Karneval in Köln

As the biggest city in the traditionally Catholic Rhineland, Köln puts on Germany's most exciting and rowdy carnival. The Kölsch starts flowing on November 11 at 11:11 am with screams of the famous motto Kölle alaaf! ("Köln is alive!"). Karneval then calms down for a few months, only to reach a fever pitch in February for the last five days before Lent. On Fat Thursday, known as Weiberfastnacht, women roam the streets with scissors and exercise merciless precision in cutting off the ties of any men foolish enough to wear them. Starting then, bands, parades, and parties go all night, and people of all ages don silly costumes, including the customary red clown nose. It’s a good time to meet new people; in fact, it is practically impossible not to, as kissing strangers is considered par for the course. During this time, visitors who are claustrophobic or who don't want to risk having beer spilled on them should avoid the Heumarkt area in the Old Town, and possibly the whole city. The festivities come to an end Tuesday at midnight with the ritual burning of the "Nubbel"—a dummy that acts as the scapegoat for everyone’s drunken, embarrassing behavior. Note: Many museums are closed during Karneval.

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