Our image is not exactly overwhelming, even if the local cheerfulness, personified especially by the people of Mainz, is popular. At the beginning of the year, in the so-called “fifth season” of carnival time, the state is transformed into a festival of fools shouting the traditional greeting: “Helau!” On the Monday and Shrove Tuesday, when all the offices, shops and schools are closed, people wish each other “happy holidays”.
The lively carnival speeches tend not to hit below the belt, humour is wedded with tolerance, but it can still be very political – the writer Carl Zuckmayer provided a vivid description of all this in his crime thriller “Fastnachtsbeichte” (Carnival Confession). But this zest for life – and the love of wine – is shared just as much by folks from the Palatinate, the Eifel and the Westerwald. Or has anyone experienced otherwise? I hope not! If things sometimes sound a bit harsh, they’re rarely meant to hurt.
The characters of the people in Rhineland-Palatinate have been shaped to a great extent by the negative experiences of many generations: when strangers came to this area there was not much left to laugh about. The first historical records refer to events surrounding war: Caesar came, saw and conquered. The oldest towns were originally Roman military bases: Confluentes (Koblenz), Bingium (Bingen), Antunacum (Andernach), Mogontiacum (Mainz) to name but a few. The history of these generations is mainly the history of wars.