Last week, when I needed a palate cleanser, I completely forgot that I had an ACTUAL palate cleanser, in the form of King Cake! The events of this post actually took place on January 6th, but posting about it slipped my mind because I needed to write about the Capitol Insurrection first to blow off some steam.
Several of my friends are New Orleans residents, so I’ve heard about King Cake on and off for years, but I had never had one. (I did have the German equivalent, Dreikönigskuche, or Three King’s Cake, around Fasching, but I didn’t make the connection until very recently.)
The basic idea is this: Every year, between Twelfth Night on January 6th and Fat Tuesday, when Lent begins, New Orleans is full of King Cakes and Mardi Gras events. You can get King Cake throughout that time, but don’t eat it before January 6th!
When I saw my New Orleans friends starting to talk about King Cake this year, I remembered that one of the DMV’s best New Orleans style bakeries was just a short distance away. I quick check on their website confirmed that they do, in fact, sell King Cake, and so I placed an order.
The Bayou Bakery King Cake is almost a sweet-bread more than a cake. It’s a Danish-style cake filled with “Creole Cream Cheese,” whatever that means. It’s topped with white icing and dusted with sugar in the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice. It comes with some Mardi Gras beads, and a little plastic baby.
Some of the stories say that the plastic baby is from the olden days when there would be a bean in the cake and whoever got the piece with the bean would be King for a day, or something like that. The more recent iteration of the story is that you can hide the baby somewhere in the cake and whoever gets that piece is the lucky host of next year’s King Cake party.
The Bayou Bakery King Cake costs $39.95 and serves 14-16 people. Since I was only willing to have ten or twelve servings myself, I took it to a friend’s house and she and her daughter helped me to consume it.
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.
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.
One of the many giraffe costumes I saw. I can pretty much guarantee that this guy was not nearly as cold as I was.
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.
When it’s time for lunch, you can’t go wrong at a snack bar with thiscast of characters.
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.
Another chocolate-inspired group costume.
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.
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.
The empty streets didn’t last too long though, and before long there was plenty to see.
There was a lot of NSA/Google/Facebook/Data-Security themed stuff.
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.
I don’t know what this one was supposed to represent, but I thought it was neat looking.
I have no earthly idea what the story is with this group.
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.
There were lots of marching band and drum corps types of groups in various ornate uniforms…
…and one group playing marching washboards.
Some of the floats were single-rider deals, like this one. The head was turning back and forth.
More marching bands…
More single-rider floats…
I think after about six hours of playing the same song, you start to go a little crazy. Like this guy.
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.
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.
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.
…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.
I’m not sure if this one had a meaning other than just being Carnival-themed.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as Weiberfastnacht. On this day tradition dictates that women are allowed to cut off the tie of any man within reach. The women are also allowed to kiss any man they like, according to some versions of tradition.
I didn’t last long at all today. It’s just 10:30 and I’m already snipped:
One of my colleagues is a tie hunter. She shows off her trophies on the wall. Some of these are paper- after the first two ties were cut, the other men in the office started to put on paper ties. It’s a massacre!
It’s not all wardrobe-bloodshed, though. At the start of Fasching, sometimes the RVV (the local public transit authority) gives away Krapfen (donuts) at the main bus station. Just look for the fuzzy green hats and reflective vests…
Watch out for your neckties, friends! Have any of you had your ties cut (or done some tie cutting) yourself?
Just before the end of January, I was in the grocery store with a friend when we passed an aisle filled with costumes- the exact same sorts of costume gear that you would normally see in a Target or a Walgreens just before Halloween. Naturally, I asked what the deal was.
It turns out that there’s another holiday here that involves dressing up. It’s called Fasching, and it’s this month. Fasching is Carnival, a.k.a. the local version of Mardi Gras, and it happens roughly seven weeks before Easter. It spans several different days, with a variety of different events.
The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as “Weiberfastnacht”, or “Women’s carnival night”. On this day tradition dictates that women are allowed to cut off the tie of any man within reach. The women are also allowed to kiss any man they like, according to some versions of tradition. (Not one to waste an opportunity, I bought four cheap neckties. And some ChapStick.)
The following Monday is known as Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). On Rosenmontag there are various street processions involving lots of costumes and carnival floats. Faschingsdienstag (Carnival Tuesday) is the last day of Fasching and when most of the festivities happen. Faschingsdienstag is not an official public holiday in Bavaria, but it’s still celebrated.
The traditional food of Carnival season is Krapfen, or donuts. They’re available in every bakery, in all sorts of different flavors. I’ve heard of varieties containing sweets such as vanilla, marmelade, or chocolate.
According to legend, it used to be customary to choose a man to be the “sacred king” of the tribe for a year. The method of choosing the sacred king was the King’s Cake. A coin or bean would be placed in the cake before baking and whoever got the slice with the coin was the chosen one. Another version of the King’s Cake story says that it’s just a king for a day scenario. I haven’t found any reference works that I trust to be completely authoritative so far, but I’ve seen numerous references indicating that the King’s Cake idea has evolved into the donuts that we’re familiar with today.
My favorite part of this, so far,is the costumes though. So far today, I’ve only seen three people dressed in costume so far, and two of them worked in the bakery where I get my morning pretzel. I’ve also seen posters for Kinder-Fasching, which is basically for the kids. (Kinder = children.) I suspect I’ll see a bunch more costumes after work, but I expect to see more when I go out this evening for my usual bi-weekly Stammtisch. The word doesn’t translate easily to English, but a stammtisch is just a meeting group. This particular stammtisch is the Regensburg English Stammtisch, which is a group that meets every other Thursday to drink and chat in English. I try not to miss it because it’s a heap of fun.
Naturally, I’ll have another tie on for that part of my evening.