Join the parade

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Smile for the family album

Smile for the family album

Cologne witnessed Europe’s biggest gay pride parade this weekend.

20 000 marchers and more than 70 floats snaked their way throught the tightly packed city streets on Sunday.

An estimated half a million people watched the parade. One million people joined the gigantic street party downtown, which lasted the whole weekend.

With sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20’s Celsius (that’s somewhere in the 80’s Fahrenheit), Cologne’s downtown streets were absolutely packed with people.

Groups you never knew existed…

Onlookers watched the members of gay sports clubs march by, saw floats sponsored by Germany’s major political parties and witnessed how gay-friendly companies like IKEA and Ford made their stance on diversity a selling argument.

The German soccer federation DFB sponsored a float embracing gay soccer fans, there were gays and lesbians from rural areas advertising the country life and the parade also included self-help groups of gay and lesbian handicapped people in wheelchairs.

But what made the parade fun were the many individuals in elaborate costumes and the many fringe groups standing up for their rights. You saw some things there in that parade that usually remain hidden from public view on the other 364 days of the year…

Come along for the ride

This year, I was invited to ride along on a parade float. A friend of mine had organized the float to advertise his online pharmacy “Fliegende Pillen” (or Flying Pills).

Our float came complete with a Brazilian dj and a group of beefy dancers who walked in front of it. My friend had even decked them out in very revealing red and yellow outfits with giant plastic pills.

The crowds watching the parade just couldn’t get enough of the hunks who were walking in front of our float. I think there must be thousands of souvenir pictures of them tonight.

Up on our float, it was just amazing to see all those people standing on the sides of the streets having a good time. From up there, the crowds looked much bigger than the 500 000 spectators that official sources estimated.

It’s a big party for everyone in Cologne

People in Cologne love to party and they love parades. So the annual gay pride parade has really turned into an event that draws the crowds – be they gay or straight, old or young.

That’s one reason why I love this city. It’s extremely tolerant. In Cologne, there’s a saying that sums up the live-and-let-live atmosphere here: “Jeder Jeck is anders” – everyone’s crazy in a different way.

So with that kind of an attitude, it’s no surprise that the city has turned into the “San Franciso of Western Germany”. It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of the city’s one million inhabitants are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Turning the tables

With all the gay, lesbian and transgender visitors who came to town this weekend for the gay pride celebrations, it’s almost as thought the tables had been turned: you saw more guys holding hands and more women kissing today than straight couples.

And no one seemed to mind. Or if they did, they knew that they were the minority this weekend.

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