51 weeks a year my good old friend Peter is a very reputable man. He works as a teacher, loves cooking and watching football on TV and regularly supports some older neighbors by carrying their groceries up the stairs. Peter lives in downtown Cologne, Germany – and this is an important point for our story. For insiders, there is a very brief and a very simple explanation why his life changes completely for one week each year. Sounds strange to you? Well, let me explain:
Cologne is famous for its carnival. Officially, carnival begins on 11/11 at 11:11a.m., but the main events usually take place during the week before Lent. This year, it falls on February 16-22. Everyone – and let me to repeat it slowly: E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E – watches parades through the city and celebrates parties on the streets. Cold temperatures, rain, snow and ice are simply ignored and closing times for pubs are officially suspended for those days. But the Cologne carnival is not only about watching, it’s more about dressing up! It´s okay to wear a red paper nose, but the brighter a costume, the better it is. My friend Peter, BTW, this year decided to masquerade as a famous German politician. As an example of how serious the Cologne people take their carnival, most of the city of Cologne shuts down and almost everyone is given a day off. Cologne is one of the few cities in Germany that celebrates it with such gusto.
You might wonder now why this story is published in a FedEx blog. Well, in 2010 FedEx moved our hub for Central and Eastern Europe from Frankfurt to Cologne. And, needless to say, this decision was certainly NOT taken because of the carnival. Like any major facility move, there are many factors considered, but one of the significant reasons we chose Cologne was because of the great infrastructure including freeway and high-speed train connections and the river Rhine, one of Europe’s most congested water ways, close by. In terms of inhabitants, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and is located in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The area within a radius of just 500 kilometers generates over 40 percent of the entire gross domestic product of the European Union.
And last but not least, there´s the airport. Cologne Bonn Airport, home of the FedEx hub, is one of the largest commercial airports in Germany. Cargo business is an important foothold and the airport is second in the German air cargo sector. The airport definitely drives growth in the region: According to statistics, some 12,500 people are directly employed at the airport. FedEx has more than 500 employees working at its Cologne hub. The team members there are wonderful – not only in daily business but especially when it comes to unusual shipments. Last year they handled the “Fénix” capsule that was used in the historic rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped 700 meters underground. The life-saving capsule crossed the globe on a worldwide tour and was displayed at the German Mining Museum.
I´m pretty sure that many of our Cologne team members not only love their exciting and modern working place, the city of Cologne and the beautiful region around – but also the crazy carnival! But don´t worry: FedEx will leave the lights on at our Cologne hub and continue smooth and reliable operation, even during carnival.