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February 2005

Party On

Just when you thought it was safe to set foot on the streets again, Munich goes crazy for Carnival...

You’ve long since eaten your last Lebkuchen and recovered from the excesses of New Year’s Eve. The beer-filled days of the Oktoberfest are just a blurry, distant memory. Don’t despair. Another excuse to eat and drink yourself silly is just around the corner. Fasching, or carnival, is the last rowdy celebration before the sober and lean time of Lent and a perfect opportunity to make merry in and around Munich. The season of wild partying, silly costumes and funny hats officially kicked off three months ago, after the crowning of the city’s Fasching prince and princess on November 11 at 11:11 am, but celebrations peak when the season finishes on Faschingsdienstag, or Shrove Tuesday (February 8). The Thursday before (February 3) is known as the Altweiberfastnacht (women’s carnival night), or unsinniger Donnerstag (absurd Thursday). This is the day men should beware: women can proffer kisses without permission, be rude and generally harass their menfolk. Men should wear their worst tie to the office that day: tradition also dictates that women can cut off the tie of any man within reach. Main celebrations, however, take place on Shrove Tuesday. In Munich, festivities start with the traditional Tanz der Marktfrauen, or dance of the market women, who swirl around in their colorful costumes at 11 am at the Viktualienmarkt. Although the day is not an official holiday in Bavaria lots of people get the afternoon off and head to the Viktualienmarkt, which turns into a party zone between 2 pm and 5 pm, with a local radio station churning out cheesy hits for people to dance to. That’s assuming you can find yourself some space, of course—it is not uncommon for the whole area, from Marienplatz to the Viktualienmarkt, to be completely blocked with throngs of people wearing red noses, silly wigs and fancy dress. There are pirates of the Caribbean, sheiks and cowboys dancing crazily in the streets, drinking the ubiquitous beer and schnapps and scattering confetti and streamers.

If you want to be dazzled by some glamour during Fasching, then look no further than the traditional carnival balls held at various hotels. These range from masked balls to traditional black-tie events, with the most spectacular being held at the Bayerischer Hof hotel (Tel. 212 09 99).

Alternatively, for a more traditional celebration, head to one of the Bavarian towns outside Munich. Nuremberg is worth a visit, to witness the old Fasching tradition of driving out the winter. This stems from the days when the town’s citizens would take a one-day break from fasting during Lent to dance, sing and, above all, eat. This year the celebration will be held on Sunday, March 6. A musical procession starts at the Tiergärtner Tor at 7 pm and ends in the main marketplace. Dancers demonstrate traditional dance steps and then encourage onlookers to join in the procession, along with the troops of bagpipers and drummers. A large scarecrow is then burned in the square as a symbolic end to winter. (For more information contact the Nürnberger Schembartgesellschaft, Tel. [09183] 38 79.)

Just as original is “Chinese Fasching,” which takes place in the Bavarian town of Dietfurt. A band of trumpeters and kettledrummers wake up the townfolk on “absurd Thursday.” This is followed by a procession through the town, starting at 2 pm, and, at 3:30 pm, the people of Dietfurt nominate someone to be their “Chinese emperor” for the year. Many of the hardcore revelers party on until Friday morning. (Further information is available from the Dietfurt tourist office, Tel. [08464] 64 00 19.) There’s lots of fun to be had in the Bavarian town of Spalt on “absurd Thursday.” The Flecklasmänner of the town dress in sackcloth robes and intricately carved wooden masks and run around scaring people. Old women don masks and move from bar to bar, teasing the guests. (The Spalt tourist information center can be reached at Tel. [09174] 79 65 25.) The bars of Allersberg, meanwhile, are packed with Flecklas witches on “absurd Thursday.” Fasching Sunday in Allersberg is also worth seeing. The day kicks off at 10 am with a morning beer at the Kolpinghaus. A procession then waltzes through the streets of the town at 2 pm. The onlookers are showered with sweets and confetti. (For more information contact the Allersberg tourist information center, Tel. [09176] 508 35.)

In the Alemannic areas of Swabia and Baden the traditions of driving out winter have mingled with the pre-Lent celebrations. Here Fastnacht resembles a pagan festival rather than a Brazilian street party as in Munich or other large German cities. “Absurd Thursday” starts in Constance at 6 am, when bands bang their drums to wake up the town. The celebrants dress as spirits, demons and witches, who run into schools, lock up the teachers and kidnap the children. The whole town is in uproar by Thursday evening, when people dress up in nightshirts and run around the town in a race—those who have any energy left, that is! <<<

Kostüm Verleih Herta Rauch Buttermelcherstrasse 2a (Viktualienmarkt), Tel. (089) 26 39 16
Ralf Rainer Stegemann Marktstrasse 18 (Münchner Freiheit) Tel. (089) 33 16 06; cell phone (0172) 810 02 15

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