Do you have any plans for next weekend so far? No? Great! Drop everything at once and move your ass to Mainz. From Thursday on, Mainz will be hosting one of the biggest outdoors parties in Germany. Fastnacht is nearly over – but before it’s carried to the grave (yeah, it will actually be buried) it reaches its climax – and you can be a witness.
Forget about the Oktoberfest, Fastnacht is better!
Don’t know what Fastnacht is? Basically, it’s just another name for carnival. But don’t say that out loud. Have you heard about Brazilian carnival or carnival in Cologne? Then you’ll have an idea of what Fastnacht is like. But still, in Mainz it’s all different. To a genuine Meenzer (that’s what we call each other) Fastnacht is something that belongs to the calendar like salt water belongs to the ocean. And to some it even marks an own season. To outsiders, Fastnacht might be hard to understand. But between Weiberfastnacht on Thursday (don’t wear a tie on that day, it’ll sure as hell be cut off) and Ash Wednesday the city is in a state of ecstasy.
Coming to Mainz these days might be a culture shock. But if you read and follow the following tipps carefully, you are well prepared for one of the best parties you have ever been to.
1. Straßenfastnacht vs. Saalfastnacht
We usually decide between Straßenfastnacht and Saalfastnacht. Straßenfastnacht is celebrated on the street and culminates on Rose Monday. The Saalfastnacht on the other hand is nearly finished by the start of the Fastnacht weekend. It consists of several indoor events with comic or satirical speeches, dance and music performances. They aren’t everyones cup of tea so I will only focus on the Straßenfastnacht in this article. If you want to witness Saalfastnacht, switch on your TV at 8.11 on Friday evening, and tune in on SWR’s show „Mainz bleibt Mainz wie es singt und lacht“.
2. Get yourself a costume
Never go out without a costume. This is something that parents do when they are at the Rose Monday Parade because their kids wanted to go and Fastnacht grumps. Really, dressing up is a great part of the fun!
The possibilities are virtually endless. To inspire you, these are my favorites: Bob the Builder, Teletubbie, Mila Superstar and a Christmas Tree. Oh, and these two:
Singles who want to have some fun and flirts should dress in less. Honestly, nobody cares about how much you wear and how much skin you show. Consider a police, stripper, cat or nurse costume. Men are well-advised with a pilot or doctor’s uniform. Angels, devils, cowboys and indians are always a good idea – although these costume get boring after a while. Keep in mind that you will need something warm for the outdoor parties and something else underneath if you plan to take your party indoor after the parades.
3. Let the champagne flow!
Let the corks fly and the champagne flow! Yes, absolutely! Fastnacht is only once in a year. And once you are sick of champagne and shots, try a Cola-Schoppen – that’s coke mixed with white wine. It’s the drink that teens grow up with in the region. Sounds horrible but tastes great. Honestly!
4. Visit the Rose Monday Parade
The Parade on Rose Monday isn’t the only one in Mainz but certainly the biggest. It starts at 11 am on Monday in the Neustadt. You can have a look at the route here. 5000 participants have signed up for the parade this year.
The spots around the Schillerplatz and the Höfchen are most popular among visitors. You’ll have a much better view and less of a crowd in Kaiserstraße and Boppstraße.
If you want to support the parade you can buy an official Zugplakettche, a badge that is sold for 4,50 Euros in the city and online and helps to finance the Straßenfastnacht.
5. Never stoop down for sweets
It seems that some people only visit Fastnacht Parades to vie for Kamellen. It’s what we call the small presents that the parade’s participants throw into the audience – mostly sweets. If you spot somebody next to you trying to catch all the sweets with am umbrella you should be skeptical and maybe look for another place. These people can turn out to be very aggressive.
Always keep in mind that a real Mainzer never stoops down for sweets. Pros only keep an eye open for Fleischwurst and shots.
6. Sharing is caring
Shots will keep you warm and sharing is fun. Don’t be confused if a complete stranger offers you a little tapper. Accept it, tap it and enjoy!
7. Helau vs. Alaaf
Whatever you do: Don’t ever shout „Alaaf“. This is something only people in Cologne do. In Mainz you say „Helau“ as an expression of clownish joy.
8. Know your music
Just like „Alaaf“ the music group called „Höhner“ belongs to Cologne. In Mainz you’ll hear Margit Sponheimer and Ernst Neger instead. Try to make sense of „Am Rosenmontag bin ich geboren“ and „Im Schatten des Doms“ before you come.
9. Parties on Rose Monday
The outdoor parties after the Rose Monday Parade are the best. People celebrate on Ludwigstraße, an Schillerplatz and Höfchen the whole day and night. Dancing the conga line on the street? Hell, yeah! If you are cold and prefer to keep celebrating indoors you’ll find plenty of bars and cafés hosting several Fastnacht parties.
10. Don’t forget to eat
Don’t forget to eat well. I do once in a while. But with all that champagne, Schoppen etc. you’ll need to have some food in your stomach. Try Weck and Worscht or Spundekäs’ with pretzels. If you’re in for something sweet, treat yourself to a Kreppel.
11. Crying grown-ups
Don’t worry if you see crying grown-ups in the city on Ash Wednesday. It’s the day on which the Fastnacht is officially buried and on which Lent starts. While some people are still fighting their hangover, others get pretty emotional.