Eight years ago I moved to Cologne and experienced my first Carnival. The Carnival song of that year is called “Et jit kei wood” and talks about the impossibility of putting the culture and feeling of Cologne into words. Roughly translated it goes “there is no word that can describe what I feel when I think of Cologne”.
While I liked this feel-good song right away, I was not yet able to fully grasp the depth and meaning of these lyrics in 2013. I do now. It is the joy and laid-back attitude of the people towards each other manifested in every day life and the smallest interactions.
I sometimes wonder if it is a feeling that you only experience when living here. But several people have told me that they sense the special atmosphere when visiting Cologne (also outside of carnival). So while we might be overemphasizing the uniqueness of our city and culture, we are not imagining it, others feel it too.
If you have experienced Carnival in Cologne or even live here, you will have a good idea of what I mean. If not, the following excerpts from songs that we sing all year but particularly on Carnival might paint a picture for you.
"Et gitt kei Wood, dat sage künnt
Wat ich föhl, wann ich an Kölle denk"
“in Cologne we stand together even when things are tough”
“we are brothers and sisters, no matter where we come from”
“even when the sky is grey, Colonians carry the sun in their heart”
“I wanted adventure and travelled the world but always knew where I belong”
“when I see the stars at the sky and hear the bell of the cathedral, I know I am at home”
“if you don’t have any money, don’t worry, come on over, we will buy you a drink”
“real friends stand together”
“the heart of the world lies in Cologne”
“we are all human beings”
“you are my city, dirty and ugly - I love you and the people here are wonderful”
This is Cologne. This is our culture.
There is probably no other city in the world with hundreds of songs dedicated to it. And while some songs are just meant to make us dance, sing and have a good time, most songs appeal to the pride, joy and kindness of the local culture we experience every day.
If you find yourself at a bar during carnival in Cologne, you will not be able to tell who is the high ranking manager and who is the intern, who was born in Cologne and who wasn’t. Hierarchy and labels are non-existent (except for the admiration of creative costumes) and when a slow song is put on, the entire crowd links arms with each other to sing about their love for the city and neighbours. Everyone is a human being and it is a peaceful, joyful community.
And I am convinced that the reason that I have been living here for 8 years (longest I have ever lived anywhere except my childhood home) is that Cologne’s culture so very much resonates with me and my values.
Of course there are lots of imperfect things about the city but what prevails for me is the joy, kindness, the warm hearted and easy going way of treating each other. And the way life is looked at: accept what is, especially if you cannot change it. Things will be ok in the end. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t take yourself and life too seriously.
Can you see why I love this place?