The distinctive flavour to the city of Cologne is often put down to the inhabitants, or Kölsche, who take an enormous amount of pride in their city. Cologne, like most areas of Germany, has its very own local dialect of German, though this is unlikely to hinder the average sight-seeing tourist, as many of the landmarks of the city have English-speaking guides and information. For those tourists who speak German, and wish to practice it, the citizens have a lot of patience with those getting to grips with the grammatically difficult language. Colognians are very friendly people; welcoming tourists of all types and with all interests.
Away from the landmarks, many workers of the German rail system (Deutsche Bahn) speak English, as well as ticket/timetable machines available in English modes. Local transport systems, however, rarely cater for the English speaker, with only the bare essentials of information available but this should only concern those wishing to explore the city away from the more centralised sights. Those wishing to explore away from the central city should plan their journey before leaving, to prevent minor complications as there is a lack of English away from the centre of Cologne.
Older people in Cologne tend to have little or no knowledge of English, whilst businessmen and women, as well as the German youth, all tend to have a good knowledge of the language. Language is rarely a strong barrier, so this shouldn't be too much of a worry for the average tourist, just approach a friendly native and use a smile on your face, your arms and legs.
Cologne's strong side is its cultural life. For latest information on what is happening around in town, get the "StadtRevue" (2 Euro), "Kölner" (1 Euro) or "Live" (Free). See also the official website: http://www.koeln.de/en
Karneval, the biggest festivity in Cologne is the Winter carnival (or Fastelovend) in February. According to the official Cologne tourism website: "Its highlight is the street carnival taking place from Weiberfastnacht (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, traditionally the day on which women take control of the city) to Karnevalsdienstag (Shrove Tuesday). On Rosenmontag (Shrove Monday) more than one and a half million people line Cologne's streets to watch the parade with the mad triad – the prince, farmer, and virgin – every year." Dates for Carneval: 2010 Feb 11th to Feb 16th
I'm always telling friends, that the Cologne Carneval might be the best carneval of the world. Ok, I know it's quite something to say that, as there are many great places out there with great carneval experience. But Cologne carneval is unique! Everyone... really! Everyone gets dressed up! People run around as clowns, cowboys, indians, selfmade costums & whatever you like to be!
The songs you'll hear are all on "Kölsch", the dialect & most of them are about carneval & about the city & its people.
If you visit Cologne alone, you won't stay alone for long (any time of the year). You just have to visit a pub and it won't be long, someone will invite you for a beer!
Here are a few videos on youtube, which gives a bit of the feeling what to expect, but it's still nothing of just beeing a part of it:
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