Much as Berlin is the unrivalled party capital of Germany, for a few days in February or March of each year, during Fasching (aka Karneval) the title goes to Cologne, where a million revellers, Catholic and otherwise, enjoy the last few days of permitted sin before Lent sets in.
True-blooded Berliners pointedly ignore all the colourful, boozy festivities going on in the Rhineland, but if you care to get a piece of Mardi Gras fun in the Hauptstadt, despair not. The restaurant-cum-brewery Gaffel Haus has unabashedly been a piece of Cologne on the banks of the Spree for over 20 years and Karneval is taken seriously here, with no fewer than five events scheduled from Feb 12-18. For the novices, the highlights are the opening Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday) on Feb 12, and the Saturday party on Feb 14, both €5. Wear a costume (the sillier, the better) and your most un-Berlin smile, and brace yourself for hours of oompah music and litres of Kölsch beer. (For a soberer celebration, bring the little ones to the Kinder-Faschingsfest on Sunday, Feb 15 at noon.)
Meanwhile, just across the river, Rhineland-themed bar Ständige Vertretung also does justice to Karneval with two parties at the Soda Club in the Kulturbrauerei (€10), one on Weiberfastnacht again and the other one on Rosenmontag, or Carnival Monday. The bar also holds free Karneval nights on its premises, which promise to be completely packed with Jecken (a kind of jester) merrily and drunkenly singing “Viva Colonia” – exactly as it is supposed to be in dear old Kölle am Rhing.
Gaffel Haus Berlin, Dorotheenstr. 65, Mitte, S+U Friedrichstr.; Ständige Vertretung, Schiffbauerdamm 8, Mitte, S+U Friedrichstr.; Soda Club, Schönhauser Allee 36, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str.