Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Satire Takes to the Streets in German Carnival Parades

Satire Takes to the Streets in German Carnival Parades

Germany's notoriously riotous Carnival season culminated on Rose Monday with a parade of floats in Cologne and other Rhineland cities. The larger-than-life floats featured in the parades are colorful and often offer biting satire -- from Chancellor Merkel to fallen ex-Defense Minister Guttenberg.

Chancellor Angela Merkel made an appearance, as did Germany's disgraced former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and even Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Cities in Germany's Rhineland region, including Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz, on Monday played host to a who's who of recent headlines. Political humor is a regular feature of the annual, tradition-rich Carnival festivities in the region.

The traditional Rose Monday event is the culmination of a five-day long Carnival celebration. The biggest parade, in Cologne, drew around 1.5 million visitors and was broadcast live on local television. In nearby Düsseldorf, officials also estimated 1 million had attended the city's parades, with nearly half that number converging on Mainz.

Towering above the crowds, the floats loop around the cities, with participants throwing sweets or flowers down to enthusiastic Carnival fans. The largely Catholic tradition of Carnival -- which is a regular feature in other parts of Europe, including France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands -- celebrates the onset of spring and preparations for the Lent fasting period, with loads of food, drink and partying.

Guttenberg, the former defense minister who resigned after a plagiarism scandal, served as a recurrent political target this year. One float in the Düsseldorf parade showed zu Guttenberg crashing a plane into Merkel's Chancellory alongside the slogan "Merkel's 11th September." In Mainz, a float bearing the name "Angies Voodoo Lounge" showed the German chancellor pricking needles into voodoo dolls of her political enemies.