Fastnachtzeit in Friburg (Germany) and Basle (Switzerland) (Satis Shroff)
When we cry ‘Narri, Narro!’in Freiburg, they rejoice in Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf, for it is carnival-time. And the German and Swiss TV channels have mostly carnivals on their screens. But most of the people, young and old, are out in the streets of their towns and enjoying themselves with merry-making and repitition of Fasnet slogans.
In Freiburg there were the usual shoppers and pedestrians between the Kaiser-Joseph street and the town council (Rathaus) and small costumed kids dubbed “the Eckeplätzer” came with flutes, trumpets and drums what the Germans and Swiss are wont to call ‘Guggemusic.’ The knaves shouted ‘Narri, Narro’ on top of their voices, and the onlookers were treated with long red sausages, crepe,` Flammkuchen, a speciality with cheese and bacon from Alsace and, of course, American doughnuts introduced by the occupation GIs.
This was followed by the big procession of the Badische knaves organisation in the third meeting of the knaves (Narren) with 10,000 participants and many other Freiburger knaves, witches, ghoulish figures as the highlight of the Fasnet celebrations.
On Rose-Monday you are awakened the Wühlmäuse, people masked and costumed as moles at 7:30 am, and a bit later at 8:11 your are startled by the cries of the Ribblinghieler. On February 5, which is called the Fasnet-Zischdig, the celebrations come to an end, like in Tiengen where the decorated Fasnet tree is pulled down , followed by the burial of Ignaz at the Tuniberg house. The Fasnets-burning takes place at 12 o’clock in the night, which symbolises the end of the days of fasting. And on Ash Wednesday the purses and wallets are washed in front of the Freiburger town council building (Rathaus). This tradition demands that empty wallets and purses be immersed in the water of the Freiburger Bächle because till the next year the water of the Bächle is expected to turn into currency notes. What a wonderful Allemanic belief, isn’t it? And they say, if you are a stranger and fall into the Freiburger Bächle (small water-canal), which runs through the city, then you are obliged to marry a Freiburger damsel. I must admit it happened to me, and I wouldn’t change this Allemanic damsel for another. Great customs and beliefs, don’t you think so?
I like it in these times of Fasnet when people are merry, sociable, laughing and there’s a lot of clownery and no seriousness, because life is earnest enough, provided there’s not much alcohol, alcopops involved.
In the Black Forest town of Wolfach the people come out at 5:30 in the morning costumed Narren figures come wearing white night gowns, long caps and white stockings like out of a Carl Spitzberg oil painting. The people of Wolfach are woken up by a lot of noise-making using trumpets, trombones, flutes, drums and in the afternoon there’s a jolly big procession. The Germans and the Swiss like it loud with brass-bands, samba dancing, percussions-on-wheels, Gugge-music and a lot of oomph.
The Fasnet Monday begins in Rottweil at 8am with a four-hour ‘springing-of-the-knaves’ (Narrensprung). Thousands of classical costumed Narren figures come through the old gate of Rottweil and scatter themselves everywhere in the olde town historical town. The Rottweiler do it with style. In Munderking there’s a fountain around which the knaves dance at first before jumping three times into the icy waters of the fountain. They strengthen themselves with a swig of hot wine.
. The highlight of the Fasnet Sunday is in Elzach at 8pm when the torch procession takes place. The torches are lit and the famous and notorious Schuddig, with his inflated pig’s bladder dangling from a stick with which he clobbers the teasing onlookers, walks along this Black Forest town—which is immersed in a ghostly light.
Swiss Fastnacht: It must be mentioned that last year’s Fastnacht celebration in Basle (Switzerland) was marred by the death of a boy, who was eagerly collecting goodies in the street and he was crushed by a procession wagon. This year the security committee has promised to be stricter so that such accidents don’t occur again. 12,000 active members of the Swiss Fastnacht will be taking part in the street parades, and this year 485 groups will be walking, dancing or driving by distributing sweets, chocolates, flying kisses and bombarding the spectators with confetti cannons to the sound of reggae, hip hop, salsa, samba, techno and other rhythms. There will be around 100 sujets or themes, a few of which are listed here: the noise-tolerance of the Basler citizens, littering (the Swiss want to keep their country clean), SVP, a political party, women and gendering, Euro 08 and global climate-problems with Swiss undertones.
You can hear the noisy Guggen music again in Lucern, the monsters dance and quite a few Luzerner are high on alcohol and sway around the sidewalks. Fastnacht, the nights of fasting, have begun in catholic Switzerland. A big bang opens the Narrenzeit with 12,000 early risers, which is 2000 more than last year, and the ‘most beautiful week of the year’ begins. No one is spared in the week of merry-making, satire and lampoonery, not even the politicians, with all their misdeeds of the past year. In traditional Luzern a person named Brother Fritschi get kidnapped and jailed in the town council hall by costumed Swiss soldiers. 500 years ago the Basler stole Luzern’s Fasnacht figure of identification, and the two Swiss cities re-enact the spectacle from those days. Brother Fritschi is put in chains for half a year, till he is kidnapped by the Basler.
On the day of Basle’s Morgenstraich, when the lights go out, people in the streets hold hands and celebrate the traditional Fastnacht, Brother Fritschi and Frau Basilea are invited as the guests of honour by the local government and peer at the Basler Fastnacht procession from the terrace of the town council.
After the long Morgenstraich, I love to have the traditional Basler Mehlsuppe (flour soup), croissant and coffee. You ought to try it too. I personally prefer the Swiss Fasnet to the German one because it’s well-organised, and when the lights go out at 5am in Switzerland’s second biggest city Basle, there’s an eerie atmosphere when the drums begin to beat, followed by the shrill and high sound of the typical piccolo flutes. When the sun shines you see isolated, masked piccolo flute players in their colourful costumes in different parts of the Swiss town playing on their flutes—oblivious of the world.