From Thursday with beefed-up security to prevent a repeat of the sex assaults that marred New Year’s festivities and ignited a debate about Germany’s ability to integrate asylum seekers.
Police forces in the western German city have been struggling to restore public confidence after it emerged that hundreds of women were groped and robbed in a mob of mostly North African and Arab men during celebrations at the start of the year 2016.
More than one thousand complaints have been filed over the crime spree.
And now every ones concern is on the week-long event which begins Thursday with “Weiberfastnacht”, known as “Women’s carnival day”, when thousands of female revellers in fancy dresses and take to the streets, and are invited to cut the ties of men as a symbol of clipping their power.
The highlight of the festivities is Rose Monday, with a parade of giant floats often in the theme of the hottest news of the year.
Among those on show is one of a lonely Chancellor Angela Merkel surveying the EU, while in the background, refugees drown.
Authorities have pulled out all the stops to ensure that nothing spoils the fun at the carnival, which runs through to Ash Wednesday on February 10.
“No form of violence has any place at the carnival,” warned Cologne police chief Juergen Mathies.
“We will take vigorous action against all those who overstep the line. That goes for drunk abusers, thieves or sexual offenders who cannot accept that a woman says ‘no’,” he added.
Around 2,500 police officers have been called in to patrol the streets, three times as many as last year, this pushed the security budget as high as 360,000 euros ($390,000).
Closed-circuit television cameras have been installed and bans imposed on known petty thieves, including suspected pickpockets who took part in the crime spree on New Year’s Eve.
As part of good will, Carnival organizers have even printed leaflets to distribute before in both Arabic and English explaining the party to newcomers, including whether alcohol was a must. In leaflet clearly highlighted which “You can have fun, sing and dance just as easily without alcohol,”.
Germany’s took in 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone, many fleeing the war in Syria.
In the city of Bonn, they went one step further and more explicit in its advice to refugees, explaining that the word “buetzen” means “kissing somebody on the cheek, one of our carnival customs”, but adding that “sexual overtures are strictly prohibited. Women and men must always consent to the ‘buetzen’. No means no!”
On the other hand Security forces are battling to prevent any possible terror attack, with Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen reiterating in a report that the situation remained serious after the Paris jihadist atrocities in November.
Survey shows, The wider area around Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia state is home to Germany’s biggest concentration of radical Islamists.