There's a bonbon near your foot! Do NOT MOVE!

Monchengladbach Travel Blog

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So, I was a year in to living in Germany and, although I had been in Düsseldorf the year before while Karneval was going on, I had not been to the actual parade and had planned to go this year (2002). I ended up working, however, so I didn't make it...  but in retrospect I think this turned out to be good thing. From what I ended up witnessing in my husband's hometown of Moenchengladbach on the way back from work, Karneval in Germany is a dish best served the first time as a SMALL portion!

Here is the story I shared with a group of friends who were giving me moral support in adjusting to life in Germany. It was in response to them asking me if I had gotten to go to the Karneval parade in Düsseldorf (which was on Rosenmontag, or "Rose Monday"). They got a good laugh about it. :-)


On "Rosenmontag" I had to work and ended up working on "Veilchendienstag" as well. On that Tuesday, however, I was out of work by the early afternoon. On the way home, one of my buses had to stop at the Hauptbahnhof (main station) in Mönchengladbach and this happened to be right along the route of our particular town's parade that took place that day. The store I worked for, a baby and toddler clothing and accessory shop called "Baby One," was in the parade and so I spontaneously decided to stick around to see my colleagues, since it happened that the parade was just coming through at that very moment.

Those of us from my work who didn't have to actually Work at the shop that day and who volunteered for the parade had the (unexpected) pleasure of donning adult diapers over their usual clothing and carrying around baby bottles and pacifiers, promoting the whole "everything for babies" image of our shop (... ok, maybe the fact that the bottles were filled with schnapps and beer wasn't quite in line with that but, you know...). The prospect of seeing my co-workers drunk and in nappies made me quite eager to cheer them on, especially our boss who is a real party guy (he loves to make the most of any fun event). So, I got off my bus and stuck around in the wind and cold (it was even colder than usual that day) so that I could see (and taunt... of Course!) my colleagues. :-)

This was really my first "up-close-to-the-action" Karneval in Germany. I had been in Düsseldorf during Karneval time the previous year and had seen the drunken, costumed crazies stumbling around, singing and dancing, but I didn't go to the parade route and didn't find anything particularly fascinating about it. Boy was I in for a treat This year, though.

At first it was not crowded at all. I was one of maybe a handful of people gathered on either side of the street when the first few parade groups came through. Then, about fifteen minutes later, there were some small floats, marching bands, people in costumes, lots of drinking (within and without the parade) and, best of all...

...parade-goers, young and old, scrounging like starved, wild animals for whatever was being thrown from the marchers and the floats! And I mean they were scrapping it out over Everything: packets of coffee sweetener, postcards, adverts, bags of popcorn, pickles (no joke!), cheap little plastic toys, mini rubber balls, cigarette lighters, you Name it! Today, no matter What it was that was being thrown, from Whomever and Wherever... it was Pure GOLD!

My first instinct when I got a load of the first crowd rush for the thrown booty, was to Get the Hell Outta' there! I decided, however, to fight my survival instincts and tough it out so I could tease my work colleagues (are my priorities showing yet?). I still don't know if that was the smartest idea, but I can say that it was definitely an educational experience.

One of the highlights of this particular event (and there were many) was when I actually got elbowed by a man who had to be in his 60's (at Least) because one of the float guys decided to shower Me with a bunch of cheap "bonbons" (that is what they call the little wrapped hard candies, for those who don't know).

After witnessing rounds of throws and the chaos that ensued, I was smart enough to know that once those little wrapped candies landed at my feet, it'd be best to just shut my eyes and not move. As soon as they hit the ground I swear, I heard what sounded like growling and snarling behind me. A bead of sweat slipped down my neck but I kept it cool and just closed my eyes and chilled. About half a second later, that's when I got the bony elbow to the hip as this particular old man scrambled with a couple of teens and a few other older people to grab the bonbons that were at my feet. The float guy had to have thrown out at least 40 bonbons at me and they were gone from the ground within seconds! Once the snarling stopped, I opened my eyes to make sure my shoes were still on my feet.

Ok, really, I figured on children. You know, little kids who usually go nuts for a piece of candy. But to be frank, there actually weren't too many Children who dared to get in the mix (smart little tykes!). Instead it ended up being organized tag teams of old folks, teenagers, pregnant women, adults of all shapes and sizes, 40 year old men, dogs, guinea pigs, flying squirrels... all of them out there competing to be the proud owners/consumers of whatever what flying up in the air, whether it be a corn cob or a piece of lint. And I have to say it: I was especially impressed with the "over 60" crowd. Talk about experience! I now know what they spend their time doing in those retirement homes (and I thought it was just painting and knitting!). These people were like Special Ops teams of bonbon recovery specialists! Now that I think about it, I did notice a lot of unmarked buses on the outskirts of the Bahnhof and as the small candies fell, if you watched the surrounding buildings closely, you could see grey-haired commandos rappelling down the sides, securing the perimeter to make sure no bonbon escaped. If you spotted one of these tactical teams in your area  (usually running in groups of two or three) you might as well just drop any bonbons you had and make a run for it.

Aside from the awesomeness of the old folks Special Teams, one of the "neatest" moments of Karneval came about halfway through the parade. There was this woman, probably in her late 20's, who actually "rushed" a couple standing on the opposite side of the parade route with a toddler in a stroller and another one obviously on the way. This 20-something wannabe linebacker ran all the way across the street because a bonbon had landed in front of the child in the stroller. Suddenly, she stopped a few feet short of the mother/mother-to-be and then proceeded to scream at the pregnant woman because she had picked up the bonbon that the 20-something-er had Obviously just sprinted across the street to get. The Real "Kodak moment," though, came when the father/father-to-be suddenly grabbed the candy from his pregnant partner, started running after the 20-something-er, then threw the candy at her head! Ha! And they say you only get this sort of violence in Hollywood films! :-D

So, in addition to some drunken sing-alongs on the final bus ride home and the developing bruise the size of a large grape on my hip from the 60 year old candy-Rambo, that was my German Karneval experience in Mönchengladbach. Next year, if I just happen to get kidnapped and dragged kicking and screaming against my will to one of these things, I am going full on prepared with a map of emergency parade escape routes and an American football uniform, complete with cup.

Lord_Mike says:
if you watched the surrounding buildings closely, you could see grey-haired paratroopers rappelling down the sides, securing the perimeter to make sure no bonbon escaped......stop, my sides are aching!!!
Posted on: Jan 17, 2009
Lord_Mike says:
Special Ops teams of bonbon recovery specialists! Laughing my ass off!
Posted on: Jan 17, 2009
eireanninion says:
Haha... yeah, of course. They were near the end of the parade and, by the time they reached my area, they guys especially were pretty well tanked. They were dragging a little wagon behind them full of bottles... I'm thinking almost all were empty. Lol
Posted on: Jan 17, 2009
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Special Ops ready to go.
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Und jetzt gehts los!
Und jetzt geht's los!
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