11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne
It's the only language that you can drink: "Kölsch" is a dialect most Germans don't understand — and the unofficial language of Carnival in Cologne. Here are words you need to know to get by while partying in the city.
Fastelovend, or: Fasteleer
Carnival, also known as the "Fifth Season," holds such a special place in the hearts of most Cologne residents that they have many words for it. Although Carnival, or "Fastelovend," is said to begin on November 11 each year, the really "great days" start with Ladies' Night, or "Weiberfastnacht" on the Thursday before and runs up until the dawn of Ash Wednesday.
Kölsch: It's the only language you can drink. That's the running gag in Cologne, where the dialect and hometown brew share the same name. Normally served in tall, slender glasses, during Carnival it's plastic cups only as no breakable glass is allowed on the street. Should you grab Kölsch at a Brauhaus, though, remember: Bring cash. It's the only way to buy drink tickets in packed pubs.
Clowning around with the Jecken
Anyone celebrating Carnival in Cologne is considered a "Jeck." A costume is required - the more colorful the better — to enjoy a Kölsch beer on the streets as a Jeck. Though used year-round to get a feel for your Carnival loyalties, asking someone if they're Jeck can also mean: "Are you nuts?"
D'r Zoch kütt!
This expression means: "There comes the Carnival's parade!" High atop the colorful wagons decorated with paper maché sculptures are costumed people who rain down sweets and — if you're lucky maybe a rose — on the crowds. Dance troupes and marching bands likewise get in the mix. The highlight in Cologne is the Rose Monday parade, though smaller neighborhood parades are held throughout the week.
"Kamelle" are the sweets thrown from atop the Carnival floats. It used to be hard candy only, but in recent years, chocolate bars, chips and bags of popcorn are thrown as well. If you're hungry, you can try to grab the throwers' attention with a loud "Kamelle" — just be sure to check the pronunciation first so you don't yell Camel! at the crowds.
For the grown-ups in the crowd, roses are often handed out but only if you cry "Strüssjer!! Kamelle!!" Sometimes there might even be a kiss given out as well.
A "Bützcher" is a big smooch. During the Carnival festivities, expect to get kissed ("gebützt," or to be correct: "jebütz") more than usual. Complete strangers distribute harmless pecks on strangers' cheeks, though some wet Bützcher (in standard Kölsch, "Butz") may also smudge Carnival makeup all over your face.
Jet ze müffele
Something to eat — particularly important with high Kölsch consumption during Carnival. Famous Cologne dishes include "Flönz" (blood sausage), "Halver Hahn" (rye bread roll with cheese), "Hämcher" (pork knuckle) and "Rievkooche" (potato pancakes). During Carnival, "Frikadellen" (meatballs) are available as a quick snack almost everywhere (photo).
This word refers to pubs, bars or restaurants. Almost all of them take part in celebrating Carnival. They clear out the furniture to create a large dance floor and decorate everything colorfully for six days of celebration in a row. In many local pubs only Kölsche music is played (songs in the Kölsch dialect). You will often find up to 300-meter long queues in front of the traditional pubs.
A "decke Trumm" is a big fat drum. It sets the beat in many traditional Carnival songs. The drummers strap them on and beat them with a heavy stick. You can impress everyone by beating the drum and describing what you're doing in traditional Kölsch: "op the Trumm jeklopp."
Schunkele un danze
In all of Cologne people dance ("danze") during Carnival — on the streets and in the pubs. If a song is in waltz time, people hook into each others arms and sway back and forth according to the beat. This is called "schunkeln." Some famous Schunkel songs are: "Ich ben ene Räuber," "Mir sinn kölsche Mädcher," "Blootwoosch, Kölsch un en lecker Mädcher."