Cologne explodes in an orgy of drinking and merry-making as it officially kickstarts the "fifth season" or carnival.
Clowning around on the first day of carnival
If you arrived at the railway station in Cologne this morning, chances are that you must have been buffeted by throngs of gaily costumed people singing to their hearts’ delight.
With a loud roar of "Kölle Aalaf", carnival revelers ushered in the "fifth season" punctually at 11 minutes past 11 a.m. on Sunday in Cologne.
Even gray clouds and freezing temperatures couldn’t dampen the festivities as thousands of jesters and clowns converged upon the "Alter Markt" in the heart of the city’s historic center.
The police were taking no chances: they promptly barricaded the market square and managed to limit the tipsy enthusiasts to about 20, 000.
Local bands " Bläck Fööss" and " De Höhner" revved up party spirits and had the crowds as well as the traditional figures of the carnival – Cologne's "Peasant" and "Virgin" swaying to their beats.
In Bonn, a deafening canon shot officially kicked off the carnival, while in Düsseldorf, clowns dragged out the symbolic figure of carnival, "Hoppeditz" from his winter hibernation.
The "fifth season" as the carnival is dubbed will carry on till "Rose Monday" on February 7 in the coming year.
The various carnival committees and clubs will hold their sessions only at the beginning of next year to decide upon the organization of the boisterous and merry street parades.
Then Cologne will go out of its mind as scores of decorated floats with huge figures parodying topical events, more than a hundred bands, horses and brightly clad groups paint the streets.