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The Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewind Park

I’m being a very bad blogger, because I haven’t actually had much downtime to write a regular post lately.  I also don’t have many ideas for what to write about, but I’m still working on that.  I do still take a zillion pictures everywhere I go, especially when the place I’ve gone is very entertaining.

Here’s an example-  over the weekend, Amelie and I went through the Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewind Park in Coconut Creek, Florida.  Basically, they’ve set up all kinds of amazing Christmas and holiday themed light displays along the drive-through portion of the park.  The light show is open from 6pm to 10pm all the way to January 3rd, and it’s $14 per car.  They also sell 3-D glasses  for $3 a pop to enhance the lights, because the three-dimensional objects in the park are not 3-D enough.  This is hilarious.

The Holida Festival of Lights came to my attention because it’s visible from the Florida Turnpike, and it turned out to be significantly larger than I expected.  It’s no Christkindlmarkt, but it’s still a fun little thing to see.    Some of these photographs came out a little fuzzy because of the lighting and the moving car, and also because I couldn’t open my car windows that soon after they were tinted.

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This traffic thinned out quite a bit once we got past the admission booths.

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Severus the Christmas Sea-Horse… has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

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Just in case you forgot we’re in Florida, here’s a manatee.

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…and penguins to suggest coldness even though it was still at least 70 degrees at dusk.

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This fellow had a very convincing ho ho ho.

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More penguinosity.

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I’m not entirely sure what a snail has to do with the holidays, but we both liked him.

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I’m not convinced that the 3-D glasses would have made this any cooler, but hallucinogenic drugs certainly would have.

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This bear is epic.

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Ice-skating bear.  Check.  Not as great as the previously noted epic bear though.

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We had a lively debate on what this is supposed to be.  It sort of looks like a ginger-bread penguin.

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::cough cough:: Disney castle design rip-off. ::cough::

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This is a good way to end any story.

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Carnival in Cologne

On Rose Monday, I was in Köln for the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) Parade. This was part of a slightly larger trip which included Karlsruhe and Stuttgart-  I’ll talk about those in another post, because Cologne during Carnival is more than enough for one post.

First, a brief administrative note-  I took more than 600 pictures, and I whittled them down to around 180 or so that were worth sharing with anyone.  From those, I picked 32 for this post.  If you want to see the ~150 that aren’t in the post, they’re in this gallery over here.

Second, there are a few things to bear in mind while looking through these pictures:

1) The best thing about the Carnival season for a big kid like myself is the costumes.  There were so many costumes-  I noticed a high count of bees, giraffes, and pirates.  The people who wore full body fur suit costumes had the right idea though.  The temperature wasn’t bad, but it was windy. Unless you were standing directly in the sun, it was kind of cold.

2) If I ever go to one of these things again, I totally need a costume with a helmet.  Flying bars of solid chocolate hurt when they hit you in the head.  Even a packet of Haribo gummi bears can be unpleasant if you get beaned right in the forehead.  The candy was being thrown for hours, and after a while I started to shrink back like a kicked puppy any time someone made a throwing motion.  The kids standing on either side of me made out like bandits from all the noggin-bounce candy castoffs, though.

3) These pictures actually span two parades.   When I arrived in Cologne on Sunday afternoon, there was a different parade going.  This parade featured more children, and wasn’t quite as large as the official parade on Monday, but it led to almost a quarter of the more than 600 pictures I finished the weekend with.

On to the pictures!  The first one is an off-duty Superman, looking like a 70s pimp with that furry coat.  I think the guy next to him is wearing a Batman costume, but I can’t be sure.  This costume is particulary daring with the chilly weather.

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Next up, a few Gnomes.  The Gnomes aren’t what I love most about this photo, though.  It’s the walking shower behind them… the curtain, the faucet… I think the shower costume is both creative and hilarious.

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One of the many giraffe costumes I saw.  I can pretty much guarantee that this guy was not nearly as cold as I was.

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This next couples costume won’t make much sense to my American friends without context, but I spotted it right away-  there’s a series of very cute commercials here for Kinder Riegel milk chocolate.  I’ve embedded an example below, so you can see what the costume is all about.

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When it’s time for lunch, you can’t go wrong at a snack bar with thiscast of characters.

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During the first parade, I was particularly amused by this entire family of bears, each equipped with his or her own Honig (honey) pot with which to catch candy thrown from parade floats.

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Another chocolate-inspired group costume.

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There were so many great costumes that I put nine more into an image collage.  The full sized individual shots of each of these are in the gallery linked near the top of this post.

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On Monday morning, the parade started at 10:30, but I found a place closer to the end of the parade route than the start, so the streets actually looked this empty at first.  Also, you can see that the windows on the parade route are often boarded up.  I’m not sure if this is because of drunken revelry or if it’s because of flying chocolate bars, but this is a pretty common sight along the parade route during Carnival.

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The empty streets didn’t last too long though, and before long there was plenty to see.

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There was a lot of NSA/Google/Facebook/Data-Security themed stuff.

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I made these six pictures into a collage because they were all together, and there’s a theme here.  The green wigged, blind-folded people have eyes on their hands to represent the constant watching of data leeches like Facebook.  I think the NSA camera stick holders in the previous picture were also with this group.  Plus the green wigs were conga-lining, which was kind of fun.

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I don’t know what this one was supposed to represent, but I thought it was neat looking.

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I have no earthly idea what the story is with this group.

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The German on this golden knight translates to “Your cellphone, your freedom.”  I’m not entirely sure what they meant by that, but I think it was another one talking about data security.

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There were lots of marching band and drum corps types of groups in various ornate uniforms…

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…and one group playing marching washboards.

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Some of the floats were single-rider deals, like this one.  The head was turning back and forth.

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More marching bands…

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More single-rider floats…

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I think after about six hours of playing the same song, you start to go a little crazy.  Like this guy.

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Once again, I have no clue at all what the deal is with the giant yellow heads that all have soul patches and deerstalker caps.   I bet they’re heavy though.

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There were lots of horses in the parade, but these two had the longest manes of any horse I’ve ever seen.  Usually, parade horses have their manes trimmed very short- not so with these two.

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The Zugordners (parade marshals) were utterly fascinating to watch.  They all had these bright red jackets with the little black hats that were vaguely English Bobby shaped.  I have no idea what they actually did, though, because the parade sort of moved itself along without any special pointing from this guy or his brethren.

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…and on to the floats.  The German on this one reads, “Fun Ghetto.”  Inside the jail is someone drinking, a pair of humping dogs, and other forms of caricatures of fun.

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I’m not sure if this one had a meaning other than just being Carnival-themed.

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This next one might need some parsing from my German friends.  I think the German text is supposed to translate to “Upgrade you will.”  The goat has a rocket strapped to his back.  And Yoda’s wearing a scarf for what I’m pretty sure is a local sports team.   I don’t really get the full meaning.  Any locals care to fill us in?

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This one says “The Death Star, Washington” on the side.   There were a few floats that had anti-American sentiment.  All the NSA spying stuff has really caused some friction between our nations.

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See?

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About an hour after the parade ended, I walked over to the courtyard between the train station and the Cathedral.  There were still an incredible amount of people moving through the city back to the train station.

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I was wondering how the city recovered from something like the Rose Monday parade so quickly, and now I know.   As soon as the parade was done, the cleaning crews came out.  A veritable army of people with brooms gathered the majority of the debris into small piles, and another group came by with giant vehicle-sized vacuums.  That giant white tube is a huge vacuum, sucking up piles of garbage from the street.  I’ve never seen anything like it before, but I think it’s pretty nifty.

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Have you ever been to a Carnival Parade?

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Valentine’s Day In Germany

Like Halloween, Valentine’s Day is a late addition to Germany.  Children here don’t typically exchange valentines in school like I did growing up, and the holiday is mostly for romantic couples here.

The stores here don’t usually sell children’s Valentine’s cards like you would find in the US, but the rest of the trappings of the holiday are pretty easy to find-  red hearts full of chocolate, balloons, flowers-  Hallmark and FTD would never let a market slip through their iron fist that easily.

That being said, Germany does have its share of interesting traditions that aren’t generally found in the US.  Among the red hearts full of chocolate and candy are the green foil wrappings of Lindt’s Der Froschkönig, the Frog King.  The connection of the Frog King to Valentine’s Day seems to be based loosely on the Brothers Grimm faery tale of the Frog Prince.  Eating a chocolate frog is better than kissing frogs, I guess.  In the original Brothers Grimm version, the frog’s spell was broken when the princess threw it against a wall though.  Maybe you’re supposed to throw your chocolate frog at the wall also.

Either way, he sure is cute.   Here are some of this year’s Froschkönig offerings.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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Do you have any interesting Valentine’s Day traditions to share?

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Hunting Krampus In Berchtesgaden

I went to a Perchtenlauf this weekend in Berchtesgaden,  a town nestled in the Alps near the Austrian border.  It’s surrounded on three sides by Austria, and is actually south of Salzburg.  Berchtesgaden is nearly as far to the Southeast as you can go and still remain in Germany.

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A Perchtenlauf is a fascinating holiday tradition.  The 5th of December is Krampus Night or Krampusnacht.  On the 6th of December, the Feast of St. Nicholas occurs.  On both nights,  young men dress up as Krampus and roam the streets frightening children.  Krampus is generally demonic in appearance, and typically kind of beastly. Krampus is said to punish children who have misbehaved during the Yule season.  There’s folklore about him carrying naughty children back to his lair in a sack.   On the 6th,  St. Nicholas visits, looking a great deal like a Bishop.  In Austria, Bavaria, and several other nearby regions, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Krampus on the 6th of December as well.

berchtesgaden-10In Berchtesgaden, Krampus is also accompanied by Perchten.  Wrapped from head to toe in straw, the Buttnmandl join the Krampus as they run noisily from home to home and around the community.  Their heads are covered with a mask, usually with a long tongue to add to the frightening appearance.  They have large cowbells attached to their backs, which clank when they run or jump.  The picture to the left is from the Berchtesgaden website- I wasn’t able to get a good picture of any of the straw-clad Buttnmandl with my own camera, and I wanted to include a picture of them. The banner image from Berchtesgaden.de includes all three types:  Buttnmandl, Krampus, and St. Nicholas.

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In Berchtesgaden, you’ll never see one without the other.  The Perchten carry a switch, and they strike passers-by with them for luck.   When girls or children dance with the Perchten, their faces are marked with black charcoal- proof they have danced with the devil, so to speak.

We arrived in Berchtesgaden in the afternoon on the 6th of December, and went into the city in search of these mythic beasts.  We saw signs of them near store-fronts.

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It was a snowy day in the Berchtesgaden Christkindlmarkt, and we only had a little bit of time before the sun set.

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After dark, we quickly found more sign that the Buttnmandl had passed by-  everywhere they went, there was loose straw on the ground to mark their passing.

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It was clear that at some point in the past, a mighty hunter had killed three of the beasts:  their heads were on display in the Altstadt.

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I thought the decorations throughout the city were very nice.

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After a few mugs of hot mulled Apple wine, we finally heard the clanking of the beasts in the city.  Each time we heard the clanking of those cowbells, we walked toward where the sound had been, and found nothing but straw.   Finally, after several passes not finding the Perchten, we stumbled across a crowd  surrounding several of them.  I was not able to get clear pictures, but I assure you there were many of them.

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The bells on their backs made a very distinct clattering sound.  Hours later, after we had returned to the hotel, I heard the sound passing by before I went to bed.  A group of Perchten passed in front of the hotel, and then another.  I nearly went back outside, but the sound passed so swiftly I know I wouldn’t have seen anything more.  These cowbells made quite a lot of noise.

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Here’s a video clip from the same place a few years ago, to give you an idea of the sound of the bells.

Have you ever seen a Krampuslauf or a Perchtenlauf?