Postcard from... Germany
Angela Merkel may be one of Germany's most popular post-war leaders, but yesterday she was recast as a giant three dimensional "mother pig" which was paraded through the streets of Cologne to the merriment of thousands of onlookers.
On top of a porcine female chancellor were lots of little piglets waving the flags of the eurozone's crisis-plagued states. It was a classic example of the kind of political humour which is wheeled out to order every year in the Catholic Rhine region during the days leading up to Lent.
Rio has its Mardi Gras and Venice its masks, but satirical floats are the highlight of carnival processions in the cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. This year's targets included the European Union's Nobel Peace Prize which was shown standing on crates bulging with weapons for export.
The rise of the far right was another issue: Germany's Interior Minister was shown squatting on a lavatory containing an exploding neo-Nazi bomb.
The business of lampooning authority began on the Rhine during the 19th century when Prussia was the occupying power. During carnival the locals donned mock blue Prussian army uniforms and wooden guns. The legend of Rhineland anti-authoritarianism was born.
But the myth was exploded a couple of years ago when researchers found photographs showing how Cologne residents delighted in demonising the Jews during carnival processions held under the Nazis. The unpalatable truth was documented in an exhibition.
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