The Smallest Imperial City and its Fasend
Coloured paper, cards, corn leaves or snail shells - can you imagine that these are used to make suits and hats? Of course people don't dress like this all year round. Only for three days per year the little town goes crazy...
Zell am Harmersbach, situated in the northern Black Forest in a small side valley off Kinzig valley, is in fact hardly more than a village. The settlement may have some 5.000 inhabitants. It has, however, a proud history. Zell gained the rights of a free city in 1366 and kept this status till 1803. Zell am Harmersbach was the smallest free imperial city in the whole Holy Roman Empire. Unfortunately the old town burned down around 1900. Not much is left of Zell's glorious past except Storchenturm gate and some adjacent bits of the town walls, and the late 18th century church.
Zell's Fastnacht guild has some unique masks and costumes. In addition to them, groups from the town's eight different quarters join the parade and design their show with a lot of imagination – see the photo galleries at the end. Due to the changing mottos every year’s parade is different. Since the place is small, people all know each other and the atmosphere is familiar, relaxed and fun. This makes Zell one of my all-time favourites. I thoroughly enjoyed my so far three visits.
In local dialect the Fastnacht is called „Fasend“ (not „Fasnet“ like in most of the Black Forest).The Fasend begins on Sunday with the Awakeing of the Narro at Storchenturm. Zell's big carnival parades take place on Carnival Sunday and Tuesday.
The Four Jester Types of Zell
Obviously Zell's inhabitants had no money to buy fabric and sew costumes. They wanted to celebrate Fastnacht nevertheless, so they used the materials they had and invented some unique Häs types.
Zell used to have paper factories, so coloured paper was the first material they tried. The Bändlenarro is covered in paper stripes in six different pastel colours. This figure is the oldest and most frequent in Zell's jester guild. Bändlenarros are equipped with pig bladders to tease the spectators. Adults and bigger kids wear wooden masks with a grinning face while small children come without masks.
A Schneckehüslinarro's suit is entirely covered with the shells of grapevine snails (which are frequent in this region). The poor guy cannot sit down and has to be very careful about his delicate decorum.
Playing cards are used to make the Häs and hat of the Spielkartennarro. Three varieties are possible: either common bridge/skat cards, or the old German cards, or Cego cards. Cego is a regional card game which is popular in the Black Forest, only played by men because the female brain is unable to understand the rules (or so they say *grumble*)
Spielkartennarro and Schneckehüslinarro are equipped with extending scissors.
The Awakening of the Narro
The beginning of the Fastnacht celebrations is a goosebumping event. It begins on Carnival Sunday at 2 p.m. with the Awakening of the Narro. The year before the Narro has been buried in the 'grave' at Storchenturm. Now his resurrection marks the beginning of the three festive days.
The council of the jester guild assemble on the stage at Storchenturm. The president of the guild reads the traditional speech, invoking the Narro to return to his humble people who have been awaiting another Fasend season in their serious daily lives.
Then the tomb opens and the jesters in full Häs appear one by one. Hundreds of them arise and walk out into town to form the Sunday parade.
These two guys deserve an extra chapter because they are so funny. Two former members of the jester council, Manfred Lehmann and Berthold Damm, moderate the parades from the stage in front of the town hall. They give some explanations about the jester guild, the year's motto, the groups in the parade and talk a lot of silly stuff to entertain the crowd. Some grasp of the local dialect is useful to understand them. Of course those two dress up, too. Like the groups from the town they adapt to the current motto. And it seems they are not scared of anything...
In 2009 the motto was „Cinema“. The two guys where the farmer and his wife, both in Sunday dress - Berthold became charming Bertha.
In 2010 it was „Music - from classic to rock“ and they dressed up as rockers. Hilarious. They confessed that they had borrowed the clothes from their sons.
In 2011 they were the directors of the festival house. Very elegant in tailcoats and high hats.