Starting a story with the weather is not exactly original. But that’s what skeptics also say about Rose Monday trains. It is therefore permissible to say that on the morning of Shrove Monday 2023, golden sunshine will flood Cologne. It’s been gray and drizzly the past few days – but now it’s bright and warm. As if the sun was just waiting to shine again. Just like the carnivalists on their parade.

Because the Rose Monday trains that roll through Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz and other cheerful capitals on Monday are also big comeback parades. They are back for the first time in three years, in 2021 and 2022 they were canceled in their regular form due to Corona. Rose Mondays were somehow just Mondays back then – and therefore sad days. The mood now seems to be correspondingly relaxed.

The Cologne train crosses the Rhine

In Cologne, the brass bands play their mood songs even before the start in the morning, lots of sweets – as they say here: camels – are stuffed into the pockets so that they can later be thrown into the audience. Even an occasional ICE train that squeaks past hardly bothers – this year’s Cologne Shrove Monday is set up near a train station on the right bank of the Rhine, which has never been part of the move. It’s a tribute to the “wrong” side of the city because of the 200th anniversary of the Cologne Carnival. You just have to be careful with the selfies. “Here? We’re in the middle of nowhere!” says a costumed man to a friend. He considers the background unworthy.

Moderator Johannes B. Kerner (58), who as a celebrity is allowed to ride on one of the cars for the first time, is amazed. “It’s crazy how people are on fire here, early in the morning,” he says. “It’s really extraordinary.” Model Papis Loveday (46, “I’m a star – get me out of here!”), also a celebrity guest, says he was also on the last train to date. “Really an experience,” he calls it in retrospect, reverently. “And immediately, a week or two later, the lockdown came.” It was a “disaster”. And now? “New life, new me, new everything,” says the model.

Biting floats on Putin and the war

You hear something similar in Düsseldorf. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Carnival belongs in the Rhineland like the Oktoberfest in Munich,” says Anja, 52, quite unprominently, who is standing there on the Zugweg. “It’s a special feeling to be here again, the joy of walking among people, laughing, singing, that’s all that defines the Rhinelander.”

In the face of all the relief, the floats, with which the organized carnival tries to comment on world and sometimes local politics, almost recede into the background. Vladimir Putin appears several times. In Cologne he kisses the devil and turns the world through a meat grinder as a vampire. In Düsseldorf, he enjoys bathing in a tub full of blood in the Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow. In Mainz, the Russian President blows a cold east wind in the direction of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The Düsseldorf wagon builder Jacques Tilly also supports the climate protection movement Last Generation with a design. “Who are the climate terrorists?” asks the car. You can see an activist trying to stop the destroyers of the global climate – embodied by lignite excavators, industry and traffic – with his body. On a global scale, however, somewhat lower-threshold problems are also discussed. In Cologne, for example, a car is dedicated to the tricky problems with the property tax declaration. You can put it this way: there is something for everyone.

And at the latest when the last camels have been swept off the street and the last note of the brass bands has faded away, then you will have to devote yourself to all these complicated problems that many people were allowed to forget that day. Carnival – not always original. But quite healthy.