Armed with bottles of Schnaps, sharp scissors and even sharper words, women across the Rhine region stormed town halls and mayors’ offices at 11:11 sharp today.
Beauties native to the region
No, it’s not a feminist guerilla army invading Germany’s cities. It’s Carnival – Women’s Carnival, to be exact.
And throughout the Rhine region, from Düsseldorf to Koblenz, Germany’s merry women took charge of the festivities for the day.
Under the motto "ladies first", the German women enjoy the privilege of kicking off the six consecutive days of partying starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
The German women take their task very seriously. Shortly before 11:00 they don silly wigs, clown costumes and begin singing loudly. Then, swaying back and forth, arm-in-arm, they make their way to the town hall.
At exactly 11:11 they storm the municipal building, rushing around and pushing the men out, laughing all the while.
The few unfortunate men to be caught have to endure the punishment: the women cut off their dangling ... ties.
In Düsseldorf the mayor’s own daughter had this privilege. But Mayor Joachim Erwin has a reserve of at least 21 more ties, plenty of trophies for several more women.
This year more than 10,000 "jecks" or fools gathered in Cologne’s old town center for the count down and start of the street carnival.
The Cologne Carnival, one of Germany’s largest, is a real holiday for the city. At 11:00 on Thursday all work stops, businesses and offices shut down. Colleagues pull out their costumes and sway to folksy Carnival songs.
At 11:11 they all cry out "Kölle Alaaf", which basically means, let’s party.
Of course the beer never stops flowing. The traditional Cologne brew, Kölsch, is always close at hand. Pubs and restaurants throughout the city throw open their doors and welcome the seasonal fools at all hours.
On Friday it’s back to work for those who haven’t taken the day off or called in sick.