Always ready to toast with their local Kölsch beer, the people of Cologne, Germany, love a good party.  At no point, however,  is the city most alive than during Carnival.

Coined the “fifth season,” the festivities begin on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  As the clock strikes 11:11 on 11/11/11, residents and visitors alike take to the streets to commence a celebration that continues through Ash Wednesday of the following year.  Though the Carnival spirit takes a brief pause to celebrate the winter holidays, the festivities climax with the official parade on Rose Monday, held next year on February 20, 2012.  Get ready:  it’s the party of the year, and you are invited.  With a guest list numbering over 12,000, the costumed Kölners throw Kamelle und Strüßcher (sweets and flowers) from floats and horses parading along a four-mile stretch.  Closing times for pubs are suspended, and the parties continue indoors and out at all hours of the day and night.

(Photo: J. Badura, Cologne/Festkomitee Kölner Karneval)

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