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Travel

Alaaf and Helau: Carnival season begins

At 11:11 on 11/11, Carnival season officially starts. It reaches its climax on Rosenmontag or Rose Monday - in February. Cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz celebrate in their own unique, traditional way.

By 9 a.m., Cologne's Heumarkt is already bustling with carnival revellers. Together they count down the last few seconds to 11:11 when carnival officially begins. This year's motto, "Mer stelle alles op der Koppe" ("We'll turn everything on its head"), gives the tone to the colorful stage program. The local beer, Kölsch, flows abundantly. Shouts of "Kölle Alaaf" can be heard throughout the city. It's a typical carnival call meaning "Here's to Cologne!" - a declaration of love for the city.

Karneval Richard Wagner Mainz Jecken NRW Deutschland

The resurrection of the jester Hoppeditz

In Düsseldorf, the resurrection of the jester Hoppeditz marks the start of carnival, with cheers of "Der Hoppeditz erwacht!," which means "Hoppeditz is waking up!" To raucous crowds, he climbs out of a mustard pot at 11:11. The Düsseldorf locals then demonstrate why their city holds the title of "longest bar in the world" and continue to party on in the many inns and pubs.

The Mainz carnival season opens with cries of the carnival call "Helau!" and the Narhallamarsch, a traditional German carnival tune. The "Narrancharta," or "jester's charter" is read, followed by colorful stage performances. "I'm sure we'll have even more people at Schillerplatz on November 11 this year than last year," rejoices Richard Wagner, President of the Mainz Carnival Association. The city's carnival is known for its political and literary influences, with satirical caricatures often featuring on the floats of February's carnival procession. As the poet Joachim Ringelnatz said, "Humor is the button which stops us losing the plot."