Düsseldorf and Köln are the Rhineland’s rival cities. Neither town has a good word to say about the other. At Karneval time the Kölner greet each other with the words “Alaaf!” while the Düsseldorfer shout “Helau!” During the rest of the year, the Kölner listen to the rock band “BAP” while the Düsseldorfer bop to “Die Tote Hosen”. And of course the Kölner drink Kölsch (literally “from Köln”) while the Düsseldorfer quaff Alt (literally “Old”).
So the new advertising campaign from the Kölsch brewery “Früh” (literally “early”) is bound to cause some raised hackles to the north.
The ad shows an empty Kölsch glass, and the words “Bevor es Alt wird” – literally “Before it becomes Alt” (a nice play on words – the capital A indicates that it is referring to the Düsseldorf beer, rather than meaning “before it gets old” – which would be “Bevor es alt wird”).
Düsseldorf is, however, striking back. Their riposte has been a picture of a Früh Kölsch with the phrase: Früh übt sich, was ein Alt werden will. Literally “Früh must practise to become an Alt” but also a play on an old saying: “Früh übt sich, wer ein Meister werden will” – He who would become a master must start practising early.
This ad is the result of a grassroots initiative to promote Düsseldorf Alt and protect it from the attacks of the Kölsch breweries. There is currently a competition running on their site where people can vote for the best anti-Kölsch ads.
There is bad news for Düsseldorf though – apparently sales of Kölsch are actually rising in the northern city. Unthinkable! Quick everyone… down to the pub!
We were out the other night in a local pub, and I noticed an intriguing menu suggestion on the blackboard. Rheinische Tapas… or Tapas from the Rhineland.
Of course it just had to be tried!
So here is what it looks like…
Meine Damen und Herren… carpaccio of Blutwurst (black pudding) with a mist of chopped onion…. raw pork…. salted herring and beetroot puree… with a side of chopped raw onions… snipped raw spring onions… bruchetta of chopped Blutwurst and raw onion with radishes… fried onions… and toasted baguette… mustard was optional. Altbier (local dark beer) was not optional… it was most definitely a Pflicht (duty)…
Tomorrow is the start of Karneval in Germany.
It will all start at exactly eleven minutes past eleven. On the dot.
If you are an unsuspecting male visitor here in the Rhineland, the first you’ll know about it is when a horde of middle aged women in coloured wigs and clown noses descends on you wielding scissors. They will then cut off your tie. Possibly your shoelaces as well. Laugh about it (even if it was an expensive tie).
You see, tomorrow is Altweiberfastnacht… “ladies’ day” if you’re being polite… or “old crones’ day” if you’re not. Don’t worry… they’re only emasculating you. Have a beer and lament your lost manhood.
The Altweiber will not detain you once you’ve lost your gender-symbol. They’ll continue on their way to the Rathaus, where they will force entry, storm the mayor’s office and eject him (also minus his manhood) until next Tuesday, installing their Karneval Prince in his place. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Don’t panic. Have another beer.
Karneval is the start of five days of mad excessive celebration. Everyone on the streets, in the bars and in shops and businesses will be wearing fancy dress and drinking to excess. Half of the population throws themselves into the madness… and the other half flees the cities, either barricading themselves into their homes for five days, or heading for the airport to escape.
School children particularly love Karneval. They go to school in fancy dress and spend their time partying and spraying each other with silly string. Well it’s more fun than doing sums.
The older ones leave school at eleven minutes past eleven and hit the town with the rest of the adult population… arriving home late afternoon, trying to disguise their underage drunkenness as youthful exuberence. It usually works. Their parents have been dressed as clowns and drinking beer since before midday too.
The question is whether to hide, or whether to join in the madness….