Gütersloh is like many smaller towns in Germany. Suburbs, malls and modern life continue growing around a small historic center that wears the past on its sleeve. Old houses in the traditional style of the area are renovated, sometimes even relocated, but keep you feeling like you just turned the page in a fairytale book. I wouldn’t even have flinched at seeing Little Red Ridinghood.
I happened to be in the area on Rosenmontag, which is the last day before Lent and of course the time for Karneval. Originally the Catholic farewell to meat and indulgences before fasting, it’s now mostly just a big party and an excuse to wear that sexy octopus costume (Jokes, that really doesn’t exist).
While the crowds are entertaining all by themselves -giant cupcake costumes included – the actual reason to stand in the cold for hours is the parade. Every club and group in town who is remotely able to build a float or stand on one does, whether the theme is penguins and polar bears or cows and butchers (true story).
Shouting a celebratory ‘Helau!’, they throw sweets in every direction, to delight the kids and make photographers like me protectively jerk away their lenses. All good fun.
Other highlights of exploring the area included Bielefeld, a pretty student town. I was inspired and impressed by a neighbourhood called Bethel, which is a community for people with disabilities and difficulties to live and work in. In the animal park outside Bielefeld I felt like a kid again, seeing European animals like wolves and snow owls for the first time. Too bad the badgers and otters decided to hide!
While all of that was great, my time in Guetersloh was special because of the family I visited there, that spoiled me endlessly. The long conversations and peaceful times at their home are more memorable than seeing another Fachwerkhaus or museum.
I know these blog posts are hardly adequate to describe my trip thusfar, and I always find it difficult expressing on the internet what is really important. Maybe my barely-edited photos will give you an idea of what it feels like to be here. It’s a start.
— all copyright to me, surprise —