I don’t know which part of my first ever ‚Karnevalssitzung‘ (literally carnival session, a hard-to-describe mixture of pantomime, meets parade, meets variety show) in Cologne last night left the biggest impression. The immediate heartiness and joviality of our fellow carnival revelers, toasting to the evening with the ‚kalte Ente‘ somewhat ceremoniously served up by the waiter (cold duck: a punch made up of white wine, sparkling wine, lemon and sugar), the wonderful brass band accompanying the entire 6-hour-long festivities, the ‚Rote Funken‚ chorus dressed in the garb of the 18th century city soldiers marching to the rhythm of the drum and reminding everyone just how old this tradition is, our hosts and fellow guests at the table patiently explaining everything from the influence of Napoleon’s occupation of Cologne to the name used to refer to the sole women in each of these traditionally male choruses (‚Funkenmariechen‚ or ‚Tanzmariechen‚) to offering to translate everything said in the local dialect, the stand-up comedians bringing the hall repeatedly to laughter (and stretching my German listening comprehension skills to the limit), watching on as grown-men (albeit dressed as clowns/Arabs/gladiators and the like) sang along with pride to ‚Ich ben nur n kölsche Jung‘ (the catchy refrain O-O-O-EYO is likely to stay in my head for a while) and swaying arm-in-arm with the crowd at the end of the night infected by their obvious love for their city. All in all, I’m finally a little bit closer to understanding what this whole carnival business is all about. And I’m pretty sure I ‚m not supposed to be saying this as someone living in Düsseldorf, but ‚Alaaf‘!