I have a great deal more empathy for those unwitting Caucasian tourists who happen upon South Beach during Memorial Day Weekend. I ended up in Germany during their Carnival festivities recently and the sight of thousands of really inebriated German teens and twenty somethings marching, signing loudly and hold mostly empty 40’s was interesting to say the least. They were not exactly goose stepping in unison, but the sights of thousands walking towards the festivities, in uniforms of furry animal costumes with the occasional sound of shattering bottles was part Clock work Orange, part comedy festival.

While I have not been to either, Carnival in Dusseldorf, Germany did not quite compare to the sexiness of the equivalents thrown in places like Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad. The cold grey temperatures were not conducive to the flesh baring costumes but the many dingy stuff animal editions took it to next level of un-sexiness. There were a few bar maiden outfits, but 40 degree temps (30s in the evening) made practicality trump sexiness.

This was closer to a version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, just significantly less packed and definitely no gratuitous flashing for beads. For a people watcher, it is not always easy to reconcile my needs with the fact that I dislike crowds. As always when I travel, I was determined to see the sights and immerse myself in a bit of the local culture. Carnival provided an opportunity to do a little of both.

Large groups of drunk youth are normally to be avoided at all times. There was no obvious tension that one might find from competing sides prior to rivalrous football competition in Europe, but the indecipherable signing by mostly large groups of young males, was still disconcerting nonetheless. Picture a Caucasian person walking in South Beach during Memorial and there is a crowd getting increasingly hype to C-Murda’s “Down for my …”, or any Future/Gucci song. That was me walking alone in the midst of the unknown.

Like I said it was interesting. Thankfully most Germans are proficient in some English, so once again I was able to escape relatively unscathed in my linguistic ineptitude. The small sampling of conversations left me realizing that Carnival in Germany, more than anything, enabled a welcome escape from the grey, monotony and cold from the long winter months. I know it’s a stereotype, but Germans probably do not need much of a excuse to drink heartily. Teens, in general, look for every excuse to turn up. The drinking age of 18 left made it seem if youth dominated the crowds, but there was a fair mix of older patrons as well as families (for the daytime festivities).

The issues of refugees/immigrants in Germany is nearly as hot a topic as it in Trump’s presidency. The Christmas market attacks in Berlin (December 27, 2016) that killed 12, by a ISIS inspired Tunisian national, have had people in Germany on edge about public gatherings and the rising anti-refuggee sentiment. Carnival, in part, was an opportunity for people to drink, celebrate and forget, if even momentarily, a country that shares much uncertainty at the moment.

I know many of us feel like that uncertainty is just the theme for the last year period, both worldwide and even presently in the United States. Festivals like Carnival are ways to resume normalcy. They are about national pride, celebration and escapism. Selfishly, I would have loved it warmer and a little sexier, but Germany’s Carnival was worth participating in if for no other reason it gave a first time visitor a positive glimpse into the German spirit. It once again renewed my sentiments that the human spirit, no matter how different we are racially and culturally, wants to be happy… Carnival, however brief, is the escape where pride and tradition can simply be enjoyed for all the right reasons.





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