Monday, February 27, 2006

As today's Rosenmontag, we made a morning trip to Mainz to view the various Fastnacht festivities occurring around the city. And by festivities, we mean the various locations you're able to purchase Pilsner and Weissbier while watching an 8-hour long parade. While D and I don't quite have the stamina to watch the parade for an entire day, we were able to capture (along with our friend Je) the spirit of Fastnacht in our five hour wander around the Altstadt. To avoid the classic this-then-that, here are ten items to consider when planning your celebration of a Mainzer Fastnacht:

10) The American soldiers who overhear you speaking "perfect American English" will want to talk and hang out. They'll seem a little lonely, but it's tough to believe when they admit that they've been drinking since Thursday's Mainzer Fastnacht start.

9) Don't try too hard with your costume, as this place doesn't get too competitive with dress. Notice Balloon-man, Black-Hat-man, and the Surgeon (picture, right) all hanging out as the parade goes by. This is as good as it gets, folks, and we're just out here to laugh at ourselves. Something colorful will do.

8) When will these costumed celebrations realize that they'd be so much better if we just held off 'til Spring? It's still seriously cold out there, and we're not sure how the short-skirted Viking (not depicted) can stand to stand and throw back liters of Pils while also taking the opportunity to flash his little conqueror at this poor American immigrant.

But of course, it's impossible to move the date as Fastnacht (or Karneval) precedes the start of Lent, occurring here in Mainz the week before so as to get all tomfoolery out of the system before the religious season of fasting and reflection. Germany's Rhineland gives a special twist to Karneval by using this time to mock politicians and authority, albeit primarily (picture, southwest, in costume) 19th Century politicians and authority. There's also much verbally subversive speech and song about politics beyond the anti-Prussian and anti-French sentiments it was founded on, though much of the contemporary stuff is relegated to speech, song, and undercutting-authority-through-public-drunkenness. So for next year, save the date.

7) Entertaining in itself is standing near the main train station just before the start of the parade (11:11 am), watching the tens of thousands of costumed rush from their intercity trains, down the escalators, and out onto the street in order to find the best possible place to view this Rosenmontagzug. Note the various party supplies, such as kids with kegs on wheels and musical carts tugged by the middle aged, proclaiming for them how they "Pump up the Jam." Much jam, I must say, was pumping.

6) Man, I just took a two hour nap between completing #7 and starting #6. Fastnacht really tuckers you out. How can these people party for five days straight? Lifelong Mainzers tell me they're only able to enjoy once every two or three years. So if this post is convincing you to make travel plans for the next three years, take the middle one off for the sake of your liver.

5) This event must be great if it's something you grew up with, but as outsiders it can be a gawking tramp around the various places and platzes in Mainz. Forget about for pointing out the numerous Indianed-, Arabed-, and Mexicaned-clothed personas walking the street, American-sissy points awarded for exclaiming, "Gee, there's a lot of broken glass around here" or "The Children's Parade on Friday was so much tamer!"

4) Here the unspoken law's that you shout out "Helau!" and someone hollas back the same. However, give an attention-deprived reveler three beers and a water bottle full of Lipton and vodka, and they'll repeat the word over and over until their throat goes dry (thus requiring more fluid-soothing). The younger generation also seems to use this phrase as a mating cry.

3) Boop Boop! Boop Boop! Fastnacht Paradox, Fastnacht Paradox! (hundreds of beer carts strewn throughout Mainz, almost no public lavatories. I was forced to shelter myself in a large evergreen near the river, D and Je to make a stop at Augustinerkeller for more beer and porcelain (picture, east). These two events were, of course, not simultaneous.)

2) Getting ready. My favorite part of Fastnacht is the build-up. First you start to see decorations and costume shops appear around Mainz. Your colleagues begin to tell stories and ask questions. Amazing amounts of manpower come out to set up the various beer stands and bleachers. Occasional costumed officials (as pictured above, standing next to condom head) are met, by you, while walking down empty avenues during lunch break strolls, and again on your 10:00 public night-ride home. Your usual bus line to work is diverted as parts of the city are closed down. After the first Thursday celebrations, you see cut ties and empty bottles in the morning before work (Fastnacht Thursday is for the ladies, and they'll cut off your fabric business-bling if you wear it that day). And finally, the random costumed revellers standing near bus stops in your suburb. Before heading into Mainz today, we saw "around" Fastnacht as the excitement built and built.

1) If you don't hold out, you won't see what you never saw before. The only disappointing part of the day was being unable to see the duck march past. Remember the duck we couldn't see in November? Current rumors hold that that this duck was supposed to close out today's parade. After leaving the insanity of Mainz, we returned to Mombach and turned the parade on TV. I began this post, I then fell asleep. My first words to D, upon waking, were, "Did you see the duck?" No, she didn't see the duck. Perhaps* it's better that way.

And some noticeables from Fastnacht, which doesn't officially end until they symbolically bury the spirit and cry in the Rhein. If you're around this time, next year come check it out. To some, it might just look like Halloween, but really, there's an entirely different jam being pumped. I'll leave you with one more shot, this of the dance party surrounding the Mainzer Karneval Fountain.

*Did you see the duck? Tell us. And if you have a picture of the bird, we'd love to link it or put it up.


Blogger d said...

J! pretty much summed it up--I have nothing to add except to point out that my favorite costume of the day was "nipple guy" (or "condom head," as J! refers to him--there was some debate about this betwee Je, J! and myself). For those of you out there who think this was just one clever Mainzer with a unique sense of humor . . . you're wrong. Remember, Europe has no shame when it comes to nude female body parts in public, especially when made into funny hats. I saw them everywhere.

9:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you D, its a nipple.

3:19 AM

Blogger d said...

ha! Vindication!!

10:06 AM


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