Up to one million revellers were expected to dance away the gloom in Europe's biggest economy for a few hours Monday as the German carnival season approached its climax here.
Amid a constant drizzle, the parade kicked off early on Shrove Monday in the western city of Cologne in the heart of the predominantly Roman Catholic Rhineland region of Germany.
The procession from Chlodwig Square to the city's landmark Gothic cathedral included elaborately decorated floats poking fun at political leaders as the country faces its biggest economic downturn since World War II.
With an eye on the general election in September, one display featured a giant Chancellor Angela Merkel as Miss Germany in a bikini striped with the black-red-gold of the German flag.
Another was festooned with US President Barack Obama and the Statue of Liberty telling him to whip the flagging American economy into shape.
Organisers said the turnout was expected to fall short of the 1.2 million costume-donning party-goers seen last year, and top out at about one million.
The German carnival season kicks off November 11 and culminates this week with the observance of Ash Wednesday.