This weekend the annual Karneval der Kulturen, the Carnival of Cultures, took place directly in front of my house. The Karneval is fun to visit – alongside standard street festival fare like screen-printed t-shirts, Ökostromanbieter and €3.50 caipirinhas it features an exuberant parade with Rio-style samba dancers and a golden dragon float, as well as a delightful overall profusion of brightly colored feathers – but it’s not so fun to live in the middle of it. You have four dissonant types of loud music pummeling you from different directions as you’re trying to put your kid to bed. You have the frequent wail of ambulance and police sirens. And you have Wildpinkler, my new favorite German word, which I discovered this weekend thanks to my neighbors’ attempts to stop random strangers from peeing in the entryway of our building. Apparently a Wildpinkler is a person who pees in an inappropriate place, especially at events like street festivals; there is no equivalent English noun. I love the image the word evokes (to a non-native speaker like me) of a wild pee-er, of pee run amuck. We got a lot of Wildpinkler last year; even our mailboxes and the landing to the first floor were urine-drenched by the end of the weekend. Hence this year’s (pretty successful) campaign to get everyone in the building to lock the front door to keep the wild pee out.
More linguistic delights from the carnival: my four-year-old son calls it the Carnivore der Kulturen. In the morning he looks out the window at the festivities and asks “When can we go to the carnivore? Can I have cotton candy at the carnivore today?” The name is kind of fitting, not only for the meats that are grilled there on a swinging suspended barbecue he calls a Fleischschaukel, but because people go there to consume cultural experiences — to eat gyoza or lángos while drinking soziales afrikanisches Bier and to buy dreamcatchers and worry dolls and Peruvian pan flutes. People also wear “multicultural” and/or colorful costumes. For example, the blonde dude in a Vietnamese conical hat and neon yellow jumpsuit who was passed out in front of my building around 7pm yesterday. And my child, pictured above in the costume he designed for the carnivore.