A Travellerspoint blog

February 2017

Gengenbach: Witches, Spättlehansel, Klepperle and Lumbehund


Gengenbach's carnival called „Fasend“, not „Fasnet“ as in most of the Black Forest and beyond. Tradition dates back to an event of the year 1499, when some citizens of the town decorated a big rabble as the first jester tree and did a noisy run through the streets. Persecuted by the magistrate who wanted to imprison them, they fled across the border into the territory of the abbey. The abbot showed more understanding for carnival fun and obtained an amnesty. That was the beginning of the street carnival in Gengenbach.

The history of the present Fasend, however, begins with the foundation of the first carnival club in 1890 and the foundation of the jester guild in 1925. The main figures, the witch and the Spättlehansel, were designed only in the 1930's.

The Fasend begins three and a half weeks prior to Ash Wednesday when a large crowd in Hemdglunker (white nightshirts), equipped with drums and brass instruments and everything that makes noise, assembles outside Niggelturm to awaken the Schalk, the symbolic figure of Gengenbach's Fasend, who is sleeping in the tower during the rest of the year. When he finally wakes up, he is accompanied to the town hall where he takes the keys and the government. The following weekends see some indoor events until the High Days begin.
On the eve of Fasend (Wednesday before Greasy Thursday) the witches set up a giant broom stick and the Spättle a giant rabble in front of the town hall. All streets and all pubs are busy. In the evening, masked groups are around in the pubs to tell the news of the year and mock people.
The event which is of most interest to visitors is the main parade on Sunday, starting 2 p.m. The best spot to watch it is surely the main square by the town hall - come early because it will be crowded. Gengenbach is small, so they do the round twice. In addition to the members of the guild in ther traditional Häs there are the guilds from the small villages around participating, also one or more guest guilds from another town, and clubs, companies and groups from Gengenbach and around with big carts and imaginative costumes.

Schalk is the character who symbolizes the carnival of Gengenbach. His home is Niggelturm, one of the towers of the fortification, where he sleeps all year until he is awakened three weeks before the High Days to start the carnival season. There is no Fasend without him. His costume is that of an old court jester, Till-Eulenspiegel-type, in dark red. His equipment consists of a lantern and a Marotte, a sceptre with miniature masks of witch and Spättlehansel. He takes a leading role in the guild's events and marches at the beginning of the parades. In the evening of Shrove Tuesday, just before midnight, he is once more banned into Niggelturm and goes to sleep for 11 months until the next Fasend begins.

Bott is the city bailiff. Originally the one who was to persecute and arrest the misbehaved jesters in the event of 1499, he has been adopted by the guild as part of their staff. He is the moderator during the guild evenings and leads the parades together with the Schalk.

The witch is not, as many may think, a traditional figure in the Alemannic Fastnacht. The first witch mask and costume appeared only in 1933 in Offenburg. Shortly after, Gengenbach got a witch figure, too. Together with the Spättlehansel the witch is the main Häs of the jester guild. All witches must be men. They are always good for some fun...
The Gengenbacher witch mask has a rather smooth face compared to most other witch types, and a flat headscarf without any wooden structures underneath. So they are quite easy to recognize. They can often be met outside Gengenbach at jester meetings or on parades on Carnival Monday when they have no event at home.

Spättlehansel is a Häs for women and men. It is made from hundreds of U-shaped pieces of fabric (Spättle) in all colours and patterns sewn on an overall like roof tiles. The wooden mask is a laughing face. Small children wear the Häs withour mask. Despite the friendly look, however, the Spättlehansel are not entriely harmless. They tease spectatours with extending scissors, which are great for grabbing hats and caps, or with Saublodere (pig bladders).

Klepperle area typical tradition in Gengenbach: Small flat pieces of wood, a pair per hand, are clattered in a certain rhythm. Operating them requires light-fingeredness and most of all practice, practice, practice, but about every kid in town and every adult who grew up in Gengenbach is capable of this. It is an activity for children and teenagers, at the age of 18 they have to leave the groups and move on, for example become witches or Spättlehansel in the adult guild.
The group of the Klepperlisbuben is for boys only. Their uniform are blue work shirts, red bandanas and black woollen hats. A long row if them, sorted by height, marches in the parades performing their song and rhythm.

Girls are good at this skill, too, and limiting participation to boys was considered unfair. Hence the group of the Klepperlismaidli came into existence, and they walk in the parade and perform just like the boys. Their dress is a dark blue skirt with apron, white blouse and colourful vest, red bandana, white stockings and dark boots, and a headband that matches the pattern of the vest.

Lumbehund are big and fat so they can hardly move. Their clothing is stuffed with hay until they are round as a barrel. The witches make fun of them, push them over, roll them on the ground, sit on them, step on them... Thanks to the hay they are not hurt, but this costume cannot at all be comfortable. It is sweating hot inside. And then there is another problem... the Fasend involves drinking alcohol, lots of it, and there are various theories how to deal with the inevitable disposal of superfluous body fluid when you are stuck inside a bundle of hay.
A young man who wants to become an active member of the witch guild has to be a Lumbehund in the first year. It is sort of an initiation rite (boys, eh!) and only after this he will be allowed to have himself a witch Häs made. I think they are all glad they have to do this only once in their jester career...

Guilds from the surrounding villages and hamlets participate in the parade. The Strohhansel from Strohbach are always there. Strohbach is a hamlet in a small side valley, now part of the township of Gengenbach. Until the 1970s the village had no own carnival activities, but then a bunch of inhabitants decided it was time to start a guild. The name translates to „Straw Creek“, so the topic for their jester figure was obvious. The cute Strohhansel was presented for the first time in 1981. Head and jacket are covered in straw. The mask presents a friendly smiling face.
The guild appears regularly in Gengenbach and other parades in and around the Kinzig valley. Their „trademark“ is the little motor cart which seats one driver and up to three passengers. The miniature tractor loaded with sheaves of grain leads the group and carries the sign of the guild.
A single figure is the Unkrut („weed“), who is the enemy of the good plants and is fended off by the others with sticks and forks

The jester figure of the Ewerderfler („those from the upper village“, i.e. the quarter outside Obertor gate) is a product of the late 1990s. Named Rotzlöffel („Ragamuffin“), he is exactly that - a naughty boy who likes to play tricks. Better not trust his friendly funny face too much;-) The ragamuffins also have developed their own technique how to do boat cruises.
Just like the witches of Gengenbach, new members have to be Lumpenhund during their first Fasend season before they are allowed to don the Häs. The second photos shows two of them, stuffed with hay so they can hardly move and made fun of by the older members.

Then follow the private groups, companies, clubs and so on. Most of them come with carts, some small, others so huge that they hardly make it round the corners. These carts are amazingly decorated and turned into fantastic vehicles, jungles, fairytale castles, pirate ships or whatever strikes the groups' imagination. These are new every year. Here is a photo gallery...


Posted by Kathrin_E 04:00 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Zell am Harmersbach: Snails, Playing Cards, Corn Leaves

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.

Spielkartennarro, as well as the Schneckehüslinarro described below, are equipped with extending scissors.




Welschkorn is the regional word for corn (mais). The Welschkornnarro's Häs consists of dry corn leaves which are sewn on jacket, pants and hat.



Playing cards are used to make the Häs and hat of the Spielkartennarro. Three varieties are possible: either common bridge/skat cards (french 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*)
Closeup of a hat made from Cego cards (repaired on top with regular french cards)

Before the creation of elaborate Häs types, people simply wrapped each other up in reeds. Two Schilfnarros (reed jesters) were created for this year's parade to show what they looked like.

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.

The Moderators
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.




Posted by Kathrin_E 05:10 Archived in Germany Tagged alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Singen: Hairy Bears


Singen am Hohentwiel is known for three things:


1. its location in the Hegau, a landscape with steep rocky hills that are in fact the leftovers of extinct volcanoes, many of them have the ruins of medieval castles on top. The one next to the town is named Hohentwiel.
2. its Fastnacht and the Hoorige Bär („Hairy Bear“).
3. Maggi. This is a spice similar to soy sauce but a bit stronger in taste because it contains taste enhancers, so you use just a few drops. A bottle of Maggi can be found in almost every German household. The factory is situated next to Singen's train station and impossible to overlook.
Otherwise Singen is a modern, mostly post-war town. Not much to say about this place. Since I was only six when I climbed Hohentwiel for the (so far) only time in my life, and since advertising spicy sauces is not allowed here, let's discuss the carnival...


I have so far visited twice. Once I got to see the regular parade on Carnival Sunday. In 2010 I visited for the 150th anniversary of the local guild, which was celebrated with a jester meeting and a parade of some 60 guilds from near and far.
The main parade of the carnival weekend in Singen takes place on Saturday at 2 p.m. It is organized by the town's largest and oldest guild, the Poppele-Zunft. Many other guilds and groups from Singen and surroundings participate. Confetti attacks are very common in Singen, just as elsewhere. However, I have never anywhere else seen the kids in the crowd bring bags of confetti to throw on the jesters. Among the kids it also seems common and acceptable to spray shaving foam on each other, preferably into the hair. I noticed a level of bad manners among kids and youths in the crowd that I have never experienced at parades in other locations of the Alemannic Fastnacht.

The local salutation is „Hoorig!“ („Hairy!“), referring to the Hoorige Bär , as is the local verse. It makes no sense, and it isn’t supposed to...

Hoorig, hoorig, hoorig isch der säll,
und wenn der säll net hoorig wär,
denn wüscht mer net, wer hoorig wär.
Hoorig, hoorig isch der säll

(Hairy, hairy, hairy is the one,
and if the one wasn't hairy,
we would not know who were hairy.
Hairy, hairy, hairy is the one.)

The Hoorige Bär (Hairy Bear) is Singen's most characteristic Fastnacht figure. He belongs to the species of the Straw Bears. Originally there used to be only one of them but the group has grown, it is limited to 12 bears now.
The material is pea straw. Unlike most other straw bears, however, the guy doees not have to undergo the uncomfortable procedure of being wrapped and tied in straw before every parade. The pea straw is sewn onto a fabric suit that can be put on and off more easily.
The 'bears' are most impressive at the beginning of the season when they look three or four times the size of the guy inside (estimated). Towards the end the straw has notably thinned out. The straw suit has to be remade every year.

Poppele , the rider wearing red and green, is the central figure and namesake of in Singen's largest and oldest jester guild, the Poppele Guild. He is accompanied by several groups in different costumes - riders, historical personnel, the Hairy Bears, and other Häs groups. Poppele is a legendary figure, who once upon a time lived in Hohenkrähen castle. His real name was Popolius Maier. He was the nobleman's representant in the castle and in charge of both the armory and the economy. As Popolius was by no means a nice guy, he was cursed to become a ghost after his death. The Poppele ghost, however, loves playing pranks but is never mean or harmful. Lots of legends tell about people he fooled but then gave a rich gift to.

The Blätzlihansel wears a Häs made from little pieces of fabric in five different colours, and a textile mask. This kind of costume with masks that are made from fabric, not wood, is typical for the Bodensee region.

Schellenhansel is a jester in candy colours with little bells all over hood and jacket. They are equipped with extending scissors. This figure dates back to the 19th century but was forgotten for some time until it was revived in the 1930s, forgotten again, and revived again. The Schellenhansel Häs is worn by women only.

Rebwieber, the vintner women, another entirely female group. They recall the women who used to work in the vineyards on the slopes of Hohentwiel.

Several smaller, younger guilds join the parade. Blumezupfer (flower pickers) are a newer local guild from Singen. Some masks are flower heads, the clothing is a green gardener's working suit. Others have their heads covered in many small flowers and wear a brown suit with more flowers.

The jester guild Buronia from Singen’s suburb Beuren an der Aach has two main figures: Groppestecher (a fisherman) and Muckeschöpfer who is catching mosquitoes (instead of fish) with his net. Groppen are small fish that hide under the stones at the ground of streams. The fisherman impersonates a very poor farmer who had to catch these fish to have food for his family. A tell-tale about the Beuroners claims that, when they settled down in the wetlands, they believed the mosquitoes were bees and tried to catch them for the honey, hence the Muckeschöpfer.

The beer brewers belong to a guild named Gerstensack (barley sack) from Gottmadingen, a village on the Seerhein - the short piece of Rhine river that connects Bodensee and Untersee lakes. They have a cart with beer barrels and distribute beer to the spectators. Unfortunately not to everyone but mostly to the big men... *grumble*

The witch guild of Heilsberghexen from Gottmadingen takes along a little hut on wheels. It serves as prison for caught girls.
Have you ever wondered what witches wear underneath...?

Picture gallery of the parade

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:21 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Oberwinden: Village Fasnet with a Big Bang

The village of Oberwinden in the Elz valley is one of many nice villages in the Black Forest that won't be described in Rick Steves and other Five-Star-Sights-Only tourist guidebooks. If you want to spend a quiet, relaxing holiday away from mass tourism you need to look for this kind of places.

It is quiet for 364 days per year, to be precise, but one night Oberwinden becomes the centre of the universe (i.e. the Elz valley): on Carnival Saturday - simply because it's the only place in the surrounding whose main Fastnacht event takes place that day.


Situated next door to Elzach, one of the oldest and most traditional centres which I have already described, Oberwinden is well connected to the Alemannic Fastnacht. The local carnival guild was, however, only founded in 1954. Since many villagers used to work as waggoners in the past, the founders developed a funny figure that, if you apply a little fantasy, refers to this occupation. The Spitzbue („Rascal“) wears a costume in bright blue, green and red and a laughing mask with a hook-shaped nose. The umbrella and a whistle in the shape of a pipe are essential accessoires. The Spitzbue wears straw shoes - an old but dying-out local craft. One sock is green, the other red, same with the gloves. The colours of the pants and the hood are equally divided.

Like most villages Oberwinden will be decorated during carnival season. Rows of little flags and light bulbs in the guild's colours - blue, red and green - will be hung across the streets. Whoever owns a Spitzbue flag will put it up at their house. These flags are on sale in the local shops before carnival. The flag depicts the local Fastnacht figure, the Spitzbue, and the village's coat of arms.

The Spitzbue is represented on the fountain in the main square all year round. woodcarved Spitzbue on top braves ice and snow as well as summer heat...During the High Days the Jester Tree is put up by the fountain.

The night parade on carnival Saturday and the following street party is the biggest event of the whole year in Oberwinden. Since they are the only ones who have their main Fastnacht event on Saturday, guilds from the whole valley and beyond will come and join the night parade. Adult participants carry torches. The street lamps are turned off for more effect. Groups and companies turn tractors and trucks into carnival wagons, and everyone comes from near and far to party. Garages, sheds and cellars are turned into street bars operated by local clubs and shops, the whole village is one big party ground. This involves a whole lot of drinking, noise and mess (not my piece of cake, to be honest. I know that I am boring, LOL!)


As soon as the Saturday night parade has reached its final destination next to the train station, the whole valley stands and stares up to the sky waiting for the loud BANG that announces the start of the big fireworks. The „Fürst Erich Fireworks“ are an essential part of Carnival Saturday. „Fürst Erich“ used to be the big sponsor of the Oberwindener Fastnacht. Since the late 1960s he has been paying for the fireworks and supporting the guild financially in many other respects. I have only just learned that Erich died in March 2015. I do not know this full story - he was not even from Oberwinden but somehow fell in love with the place. Erich made quite some money in his business and decided to sponsor the local Fastnacht guild, who in return nobilized him to „Fürst (Prince) Erich“ - that's the name everyone knows him by. The main square of the village where the Spitzbue fountain has even been renamed „Fürst Erich Square“. I have met him - of course he enjoyed being the star, but he was generous, down-to-earth, fun and really nice and loved drinking beer with whoever was around. The 1994 badge of the guild depicts a (very favourable, he is in fact much older than shown here) portrait of Fürst Erich.

The parade in the afternoon of Carnival Sunday (14.00? not sure) hardly sees any participants from outside the village, as the neighbouring places will have their own events going on. The Spitzbue guild is mostly represented by the children. Groups from the village dress up and prepare small carts. The mayor and his wife dressed up as pigs were worth seeing. (Otherwise I'd rather suggest going to next-door Elzach to see the Schuttig parade.)

Fastnacht rules from Thursday to Tuesday. On Carnival Thursday the guilds everywhere take the keys of the town hall from the mayor who loses his power during the High Days.
Tuesday evening marks the end of the Fastnacht. The Zunftmeister, the master of the guild, hands the oversized key back to the mayor in a short ceremony which is then followed by the Burning of the Spitzbue.
In front of the town hall the Spitzbue assemble for their last parade, all carrying white handkerchiefs: Bläre un Jammere erwünscht - crying and whining wanted. In Fürst-Erich-Platz a straw doll in a fake Spitzbue Häs is burnt. Its death in the fire symbolizes the end of the Fastnacht. The evening and night, however, are still big party time in in all watering holes of the village.

... And Niederwinden?
Neighbouring Niederwinden, the other half of the municipality of Winden in the Elz valley, has a Fastnacht tradition of its own, of course. The main parade here takes place on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.), many groups and trucks stay and party during the afternoon and then move over to Oberwinden for the Saturday night parade.
The Narrenzunft of Niederwinden has created the figure of the Schindelejokel. The making of wooden shingles (Schindeln) is a traditional craft and profession in this village, a typical tool was picked as the jesters' attribute. The mask with the walrus moustache is said to resemble the face of a certain old man who used to be some kind of 'original' in the village. The Schindelejokel guild is always participating in the Saturday night parade in Oberwinden.


Posted by Kathrin_E 07:48 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Wolfach: A Lovestory from the Black Forest



Wolfach’s Fastnacht involves an open-air theatre performance. The so-called Festspiel takes place right after the parade in the afternoon of Carnival Monday. It is free and open-air. The stage is set up in the main street in front of the town hall. Many groups that took part in the parade appear in the play.
The tradition of such plays on Fastnacht was popular in the 18th and 19th century. It has disappeared from most places. Wolfach is the only place I know of that keeps it up. They have a handful of plays that are repeated every couple of years.
The show I got to see was a historical play about the construction of the new town wall 500 years ago. Unfortunately the wall has no gate, due to the Mayor's skintness. This causes quite some troubles. The wall is in everyone's way, the inhabitants cannot leave the town and no one can enter. And it is in the way of romance, too. The Mayor's daughter Hilda loves Wenzel the young miner but her father has other plans...

So here is the story!


It is a sunny day in Wolfach in the year 1511. Daily life is in full swing. The busy (busy!) washerwomen are doing their laundry on the river bank. Rafters pass on Kinzig river. A group of mendicant monks arrives but isn't met with much enthusiasm.


Everyone admires the newly built town wall along the river bank. There is only one tiny problem... the wall has no gate, so no one can enter or leave the town to reach the bridge across the river.


This is the heroine of the play: Friedhilda, the pretty daughter of Friedrich the Mayor. Near and far she is known as Beautiful Hilda.


Hilda loves Wenzel, the young miner, and Wenzel loves her. But they can only meet clandestinely because her father has other plans and wants a better match for his only daughter.


The clock strikes midnight. Ghosts dance on the town wall.
Hilda and Wenzel are having a secret appointment by the river.


But they cannot get together because there is the new wall in their way.
Hilda wants Wenzel to climb up but they cannot find a solution how. Nothing works, the rope is too short and
there is no ladder to be found. Very funny duet on the melody of „There's A Hole In The Bucket, Oh Henry, Oh Henry...“

The next day sees the inauguration of the new town wall. The Mayor has planned a festive ceremony. A squad of lansquenets - they call themselves the Thirsty Squad - march in to stand guard.


Everyone is there except the citizens of the town: they cannot attend the ceremony on the river bank because they are behind the wall and there is no gate.
Who is responsible for this mistake? The embarrassed Mayor has to admit that he himself decided to omit the gate to save money!
What to do? Let's paint a gate onto the wall, and solve the problem later.


The ceremony begins.
The mayor makes a speech and takes the chance to announce the engagement of his daughter Hilda with...


... Count Konrad of Fürstenberg, the lord of Wolfach castle.

Poor Hilda.


Even more so as the Count is not exactly a spring chicken any more, a notorious good-for-nothing, deep in debt and accompanied by a whole bunch of what would be called „society ladies“ nowadays - women that definitely aren't ladies.


And poor Wenzel.
But Wenzel has supporters. The miners show up to help him and free Hilda, and with them Wenzel's mother, Ulla von der Halden, the rich owner of the ore mine.


A very noisy fight breaks out between the miners and the lansquenets.
The Thirsty Squad end the fight quickly, though, as soon as the clock strikes twelve: Lunch break!


Energetic and resolute Ulla von der Halden - impersonated by a big strong guy - interferes on behalf of her son. She tells the Mayor a couple of unpleasant truths about the Count, who prefers to disappear.
For example, that the Count has donated the stones for the town wall but the stones are from her quarry and the 'donator' has never paid for them.
The embarrassed Mayor does not know what to do.


The miners check the town wall to find out how to make a gate but without success.


Hilda declares her eternal love to Wenzel in a heart-rending song.


The song ends in a high-pitched note that makes the stones crumble from the wall and creates a gate.
The Mayor's biggest problem is solved. He grants his daughter a wish.
Hilda says, of course, „Father, let me marry Wenzel.“
Much hmmm and hah and having Ulla von der Halden in the family... but her father finally says yes.
Ulla gives the stones of the wall to her son as dowry.
Happy end! *Sniff*

Wolfach’s Colourful and Busy Fastnacht


Wolfach is one of the busiest places in the Alemannic Fastnacht: In the run of eight days they have twelve parades in their little town, and they still find time to join parades in neighbouring towns.


On Carnival Monday in the wee hours of the morning, at 5:30 a.m. to be exact, the town is awakened by the Wohlauf song. In fact, everyone is already awake because they are all out in the street, but anyway... The Wohlauf singer is rolled along in a huge bed and accompanied by hundreds of jesters in white nightshirts. Every now and then they stop, everyone goes quiet, and the Wohlauf rises from the bed to sing his song. The yellow and blue Schellenhansel and the white Mehlwurmhansel has a picture of the Wohlauf singer on the front of his jacket.
I have not yet seen it myself but friends who have assured me that it is goosebumping. No light is permitted in the street except the jesters' lanterns and everyone has to wear white. So, lookers-on, if you are in civilian dress, hide in a corner.


The biggest parade, though, is the one of Monday afternoon, starting at 14:00. The jesters assemble outside the castle gate and then parade along the main street to the bridge and along the other river bank to the jester fountain. The Free Jester Guild of Wolfach leads the parade. First there is the Gullerreiter (cock rider), then the Hansel in their colourful costumes. The Walnusshansel, covered in walnut shells, form an extra group, also the Rungunkeln with the old wives mill. Right after the parade the Festspiel is performed on the open-air stage in front of the town hall. Another reason to come on Monday. All the groups that participate in the Festspiel also take part in the parade. Then there are other jester guilds from the surrounding villages and towns, some Gugge bands even from Switzerland, groups and clubs from the village.
Wolfach does not attract as huge crowds as the more famous destinations, which is pleasant. The streets are lively but the number of spectators is bearable and you'll easily find a spot with good visibility.


Gullerreiter, the Cock Rider, marches at the beginning of the parade.


The colourful crowd involves five different Hansel figures.
Streifenhansel is, as the name indicates, striped.
The blue and yellow Schellenhansel have little bells all ofer their suit and headcover.


Mehlwurmhansel - white as a flour worm
Röslehansel has a rose painted on the forehead.
A Spättlehansel with a Häs made of colourful pieces of fabric.


Walnusshansel‘s' Häs is covered in walnut shells from head to toe. They march as a separate group.


Having an Altweibermühle is all older men's dream, right? A mill they can put their old women through and turn them into young girls.
The cart with the mill is taken along during parades by the Rungunkeln, as the witches in Wolfach name themselves. Never call them Hexen. A witch is stuffed into the opening at the top (or pretended to do so). From the slide in the back, young girls emerge. (The girls are caught from the crowd, taken into the cart and sent down the slide.)

On Tuesday at dusk in the afternoon the „Nose Parade“ marches through the town. The participants wear fancy wooden noses, and their jackets inside out. They make noise on all kinds of instruments. Only men are allowed to participate – any female intruder can expect to be thrown into the fountain regardless of weather and temperature.

Ash Wednesday is the day of grief. Wolfach‘s men dress up as for a funeral, wash their purses at the fountain and then march to the - tax authority office presenting their empty purses and shedding a lot of tears.

Posted by Kathrin_E 12:59 Archived in Germany Tagged germany carnival baden-württemberg wolfach alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Haslach: Walking Wine Barrels


I visited Haslach on a Sunday in late January, a couple of weeks before the High Days. The tree was already up in the square. People in strange dress assembled around food and drink stalls and bands playing. The streets were decorated with colourful flags. There seemed to be something going on.


The train station was also packed. More people in fancy outfit emerged from the Regionalexpress and marched into town. Here they still showed their faces but they were carrying scary or funny wooden masks.


The jester guild of Haslach were celebrating their 150th anniversary this weekend. They invited guilds from the region and also from farther away for a big meeting. Many were staying for the whole weekend of more or less nonstop festivities, others come for the day. The main event of the meeting was the parade on Sunday afternoon with some 5,000 participants.


The Ranzengarde is Haslach's most unique jester group... Ranzen translates to satchel in high German but is also a local word for a man's big belly. The Ranzengarde relates to a story (legend?) from some war in the middle ages when the warriors had no armour and used barrels instead. The participants wear a wine barrel around their body, a high pointed hat and a very long wooden nose. Each of them carries a halberd and a little mug.
The barrels have a tap at the front - I think the association one imagines automatically is intended. ;-) However, from this tap they pour wine, the barrel contains sufficient supply for the carrier. Sometimes they even offer a sip to someone among the spectators.


Haslach was named after the hazel tree (Hasel), which shows in the town crest. Unsurprisingly the hazel tree also modeled for the creation of a jester figure, one of the guild's main types. The colours of the hazel tree - green, brown and yellow - show up in the Häs of the Haselnarro. The fabric is cut in the shape of leaves. A large hazel leaf covers the head. They come in all sizes. Grown jesters wear a wooden mask, small kids don't. The Haselnarro carries a stick with bells and woodcarved hazelnuts attached to it.


Schellenhansel is a young figure in Haslach's Fasent. The figure was created and first presented in 1994, based on a narration which mentions „Hansele juming along the streets of Haslach“ in the late 19th century. In the meantime there are about 50 of them in the jester guild. The Häs comes in two combinations of colours, either red and green or red and blue. Some of them carry extending scissors to tease the spectators by taking their hats.


Four large individual figures march at the beginning of the parade. The Gullerreiter (Cock Rider) is a fake rider: a person walking on his own feet, carrying the birg body with fake rider legs. Cocks have the reputation of being s*xually ... active and this connotation is intended. A cock rider is, for example, also part of the Fastnacht in Rottweil and Wolfach.
The result is following on the cock's heels... The stork is said to bring the babies. The Stork in haslach carries a baby doll in his beak.
The two birds are followed by the Big-Headed Married Couple, both dressed in 19th century Sunday best.


No carnival without a parody on authorities. While many guilds have one single jester policeman, Haslach has a whole squad. It is lead by the Büttel (bailiff, beadle), the guy in blue uniform with the big bell. He does not only lead the parade but he has an important role in certain guild festivities. The police squad, named Bolezei in local dialect, consists of six policemen. Their green uniform was designed after a mural in the guild's favourite pub. Armed with sabres, they guarantee 'law and order' during the Fasent, a task which is not to be taken too seriously.
Making fun of government and authorities includes having a jester army. The uniforms mock the military of Napoleon's times, but also the citizen's militia. Haslach's jester military owns a canon which they take along to happily fire salutes during the parade. Hold your ears if they stop and load it in front of you...

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:13 Archived in Germany Comments (3)

Freiburg im Breisgau: 35 Guilds and Counting


Freiburg hast he biggest and most varied parade in the whole of Baden-Württemberg. The city itself is home to 35 (thirty-five) jester guilds, called Narrennester. All of them organize their own event, but on Carnival Monday at 14.00 they're all taking part in one big parade through the city centre. Then there are the independent guilds from the suburbs. And even more: they invite other guilds and Guggemusik bands from all over Baden-Württemberg to participate, every year there are different guest guilds. Usually there are 100-120 groups in the parade.

An excellent opportunity to get an overview about those many, many varieties of nowadays' Alemannic Fastnacht. I highly recommend a visit to Freiburg to „beginners“ because you get to see so many different guilds in one parade. Bring a camera, and be there at least half an hour, better 45 minutes earlier to get a place in the front row at the rails. Be prepared for confetti attacks and similar.

Münsterplatz is the most spectacular setting to watch the parade – on the other hand it is also the most crowded. My personal favourite spot is the little square at Schwabentor, named Oberlinden. Stand on the outer side of the curve by the fountain for the best view. The parade begins right here, with the participants marching through the gate tower into the old town, which means you don’t have to wait long. This is the first wider opening that they reach, so those who have a little show to put on will do so here.

The 35 guilds form an association called Breisgauer Narrenzunft (BNZ). Each of the guilds does its own carnival programme but the association keeps them together and organizes some central events - like the big parade on Carnival Monday. The variety of masks and costumes among the member guilds is enormous. Many of these guilds have their origins in sports clubs or choirs, neighbourhood communities and such who some day decided that they wanted to join in the Fasnet, invented a figure, had themselves a Häs designed, and founded a guild.

Freiburg has a carnival already earlier, but its history as a centre of Alemannic Fastnacht actually begins only in the 1930s. The four oldest guilds were granted the honourable status of „Erznarren“ (Archjesters). A representant of each walks at the beginning of the parade with the BNZ guild sign. These four are Fasnetrufer, Herdermer Lalli, Blaue Narren and Oberwiehrer Kindsköpf.

Each year one of the thirty-five is chosen as Protectorate Guild. They have to organize the parade. In return they receive the position of honour and the big truck at the beginning of the parade. Next year’s protectorate guild marches at the very end of the parade.

Here come the BNZ guilds.


Bächleputzer were a historical profession that really existed. They were responsible for the cleaning of the little canals that run through most streets in Freiburg’s old town.


Blaue Narre
The first „Blue Jester“ showed up in 1938. Blaue Narre wear a blue Häs covered in Blätzle, small pieces of fabric, with a hood, a silver mask and belts with round bells. The Parents of the Guild (Narreneltern) accompany the group, pushing an old pram.


Bobbili is an old nickname of Freiburg's citizens - for reasons unknown to me. The Bobbili guild has created this cute red and white Häs. The umbrella is an essential part of it.


Bohrer Zunft
The Bohrer (Drillers) are from the suburb of Günterstal. They are connected with a local happening: About 100 years ago the Günterstalers dreamend of turning their village into a wealthy spa town, and started drilling for thermal springs with healing waters, but they never found any.


Deriving from carnival traditions of the Rhineland type, Freiburg's jester guild still has the Elferrat (Council of the Eleven). In fact there are two of them: the Ladies' and the Men's Council. Their function is mostly representative.


The Fasnetrufer (Fasnet callers) Häs was designed in 1934 as the new alemannic jester to represent Freiburg. The beaautiful Häs consists of several hundreds of heart-shaped pieces of felt in all colors of the rainbow. The big leather belt bears the crest of the city. The Fasnetrufer's instrument is a wooden ratchet. They make a lot of noise...


The Feuer-Narren (fire jesters) wear a red and black Häs with flames protruding from the mask. I have to admit, though, that I need a bit of imagination to recognize them as flames. Tom e they look more like pointed ears.


Freiburger Hexen
The witch guild was founded in the 1960s, based on an ancient legend. According to that, witches assembled to dance on the shores of a nearby little lake. Their most striking feature is the unique mask with its twisted nose and insect eyes.


Friburger Glunki
The Glunki first tried to introduce the tradition of Hemdglunker parades in white nightshirts. In 1971 they changed the nightshirt for a real Häs in orange, red and black. The Glunki are always good for fun. Their four-seater bicycle-car is always with them.

This guild originated from a much older men’s choir. Originally they were night watchmen. But all their material burned to ashes in the air raid of 1944. After the war they created a new Häs and became Fuhrleute (wagoners).
Sorry – this is the only guild I have no photo of!


This funny ghost comes from a suburb of Freiburg. There they have an old tower that served as prison in former times. The ghost recalls the prisoners peeping through the small metal-grilled windows. Each of them carries a little grill.


Haslacher Dickköpf
Haslach, a village southwest of Freiburg (not to be confused with the town of the same name in the Kinzig valley which I have already described), belonged to the Margraviate of Baden until 1889 and its population is mostly protestant. Nevertheless somem members of the local sports club founded a jester nest already in 1934. Haslach's inhabitants are said to be stubborn and have thick heads. In accordance with their nickname and image the guild members appeared with oversized paper-mâchée heads like the ones that exist in the Rhineland carnival, for example in Mainz. In later times more figures were added: the fat lady in the blue and white dress and a group of men in their Sunday best who are after her.


Herdermer Lalli
The Herdermer Lalli guild is a little older than the Fasnetrufer. In 1930 a group of men founded the guild in the suburb of Herdern. Their forst Häs depicted a rather dumb-looking peasant. In 1934 they were forced to change it because the Nazi government would not tolerate any 'mocking of the rural community'. Their Häs now consists of black pants and a vest with bells, a red shirt and a scarf decorated with a horseshoe, a black pointed cap and a fox tail which is attached to the shoulder. The lolling tongue of the mask gave them their name.


The blue and red Käsrieber (cheese graters) wear the matching kitchen device as epaulettes. Their faces are pale as cheese. They have to do with the mocking nickname of the inhabitants in the suburb of Unterwiehre.


The cat is one of the most popular animal figures in the Alemannic Fastnacht. The guild emphasize that their cat costumes are made from artificial, not real cat fur.


The Mooskrotten (moss toads) are funny laughing amphibians. They are at home in the village of Hochdorf which is surrounded by wet meadows and floodland forest. Frogs and toads are frequent along the waterflows and ponds.


In the modern suburb of Landwasser west of Freiburg, people founded their own jester guild in the 1970s. Since the floodplain forests are close where knowledgeable old women used to collect herbs and berries, they created such a figure, the Mooswaldwiibli, a friendly old woman.


The Münsterstadt.Narren have an interesting historical background. At the Münster church, there is a medieval sculpture of a jester serving as a gargoyle. This sculpture was taken as archetype to create this costume. So this is the medieval appearance of jesters. Nobody knows what this cone shaped leather device he is carrying on his shoulder is actually supposed to be or mean - but nobody really cares.


Oberwiehre Kindsköpf
The members of a Stammtisch in the Oberwiehre suburb decided in 1936 to join the Fasnet parade, dressed up as babies. They ordered a dozen or so paper-mâchée masks, type „Baby“, from a costume supplier. Dressed in long nightshirts, the Kindsköpf (babyheads, also a word for silly childish people) appeared at the parade. In the 1950s they decided upon a new, more 'alemannic' Häs with a red bib overall and red and white polka-dot shirts. A couple of years ago they changed it to the present red and white Blätzlehäs.
During the parade on the 75th anniversary of the BNZ in 2009, a Kindskopf appeared in the historical 1930s outfit with the long white nightshirt, straw shoes and the old mask. He carries a pacifier and a potty.


Ranzengarde Concordia and Reitercorps
The Ranzengarde with both troops on foot and on horseback and a band already took part in the carnival parades of the late 19th century, so they are the oldest group in Freiburg's Fastnacht. They wear military uniforms but have always understood themselves as a parody on the 'real' armed forces.


Rebläuse (grape phylloxera) refer to viticulture which is an important branch of agriculture in and around Freiburg. The invasion of these insects caused a catastrophe for the wineries all over central Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century (1913 in Baden). Planting resistant vines solved the problem. Freiburg's cute Rebläuse, however, won't harm the plants because they like wine too much...


The Ribblinghieler are big crying toddlers. The guild's motto is, „Musch net hiele, d'Mame nimmt di“ (No need to cry, Mummy will take you). Ribbling is a local word for marbles. The Ribblinghieler is a blond little boy who is crying because the others took all his marbles in the game. 'Crying about lost marbles' has become proverbial for being upset about nothing.
Yours truly is wondering, though, why adults want to be crying toddlers....


The Stühlinger quarter used to be nicknamed “Scherbenviertel“ for unknown reasons. The jester guild picked up the nickname and created the colourful Scherben (pieces of broken pottery). Scherben is also the name of a popular type of pastry which is only made and eaten during the carnival season.


The Ghosts of Castle Hill appear in an old legend. According to that they once freed the city from a deadly disease. The friendly ghosts wear a Häs in the changing colours of the forest. The little pieces of fabric have the shape of beech leaves.


The guild was founded already in the 1930s, but only fter the war they created their Häs. Schnogedätscher means Mosquito Beaters and refers to the vicinity of the Rhine floodlands, which are inhabited by billions of these obnoxious insects.


Sioux West
The Sioux West, at home in the Western suburbs of Freiburg, are the most unusual aamong the 35 guilds, but they are fully recognized as members of Breisgauer Narrenzunft, participate in all parades and even were protectorate guild in 2005. They are a group of people who want to relive Indian life, learn about them and make clothing, tools and festivities as authentically as possible after the example of America's real native people. They own a piece of land in the forest with a hut and a fireplace etc. where they meet all year round. Fastnacht is just one activity among many others.


The Tannenzapfen (fir cone) guild refers to the nearby Black Forest and its most typical tree. The Häs and headcover are made from modern materials, not to everybody's liking: the shining brown shingles consist of plastic.


The guild of the Turmsträsslerinnen asccepts women only. They refer to a true story that happened in 1756. Two grain merchants from Freiburg had shot a hare beyond the border in Baden's territory, which was against the law, and were arrested in Emmendingen. After tedious negotiations the magistrate of Freiburg got the two guys back and imprisoned them in the tower. Angry citizens wanted them free. While the men had nothing but a big mouth, the prisoners' wives and other women decided that time had come for drastic action. Armed with pitchforks and axes, the women broke into the tower and freed the prisoners.


Far away from the sea, the Waldseematrosen (forest lake sailors) probably sail, or dream of sailing, a little pond somewhere in the surroundings of Freiburg. Their 'ship' is a horse-drawn carriage... The group is more than a century old. Around 1900 the Waldsee, a small lake near Freiburg, became a popular Sunday destination. Already in 1901 the Waldsee sailors presented a big sailing boat in the carnival parade. They have decided on purpose not to wear masks according to alemannic traditition but to show their true faces.


The Westhansele from the western suburbs wear a colourful Häs made of patterned fabric leftovers.


Wetterhexen e.V. Freiburg
Wetterhexen (weather witches) are the second witch guild in Freiburg. Witches are always good for some fun, like piling up in the middle of the street or starting a friendly fight...


The Wühlmäuse (voles) carry extending scissors that enable them to grab and take an unsuspecting spectator's hat several metres away.


Zähringer Burgnarren
A table-tennis team were the founders of Zähringer Burgnarren (Castle Jesters). They refer to medieval history and the dynasty of the Zähringer, legendary ancestors of the Marggraves of Baden and founders of the city of Freiburg, who had their first castle in the Freiburg suburb of the same name. Thes created a court jester in red and yellow, the colours of the Baden flag and coat of arms.

Posted by Kathrin_E 02:58 Archived in Germany Tagged alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Konstanz: The Cutest Jester Policeman

... and Lots of Mischief


Many jester guilds have a policeman or bailiff as a persiflage on state authorities who is in charge of law and order, the jester version of law and order of course. The one in Konstanz is, to me, the cutest of them all...
The Polizeiblätz , member of the Blätzlebuebe guild, 'rides' a white horse. He is the leader of the Blätzlebuebe guild in the Fastnacht parades. With his bell he announces the coming parade and makes room. He wears a Blätzlehäs like the others but unlike them, he has a wooden mask on his face and a small tricorn on his head.



Blätzlebuebe Guild
The typical local jester figure is the Blätzlebue (plural: Blätzlebuebe). In local dialect the small U-shaped pieces of fabric that are sewn all over the Häs are named Blätzle. They do not wear wooden masks but a textile headcover which is also covered in Blätzle, with a red cockscomb on top. Their colours are generally dark. Some even have the edges of each Blätzle embroidered in different colours.


The Fastnacht in Konstanz begins with the Hemdglunker on Carnival Thursday. People dress in white nightshirts and roam the dark streets early in the morning. Later on the guilds visit the schools of the town and 'free' the children. The main event of the Konstanzer Fastnacht is the big parade on Sunday afternoon.

The first time I got to see the Konstanzer guild was during the jester meeting in Bad Cannstatt 2009. They also showed up at the meeting in Singen 2010. Hence in some of my photos the background shows a different city. In 2011 I finally made it to Konstanz to see the Sunday parade.


Outside the Fifth Season, the Blätzlebuebe are present in Konstanz's centre in a fountain with three bronze statues. The surrounding square has been renamed Blätzleplatz in their honour.


Seehasen - Lake Bunnies
The cute bunnies refer to the regional nickname of the people who live along the lake: „Seehasen“. A local jester guild has created this colourful Seehasen Häs for Fastnacht. It has become a title of honour and part of their identity, it seems, and is in use all the time. The local SBB and DB trains that run along the lake shores have been named „Seehas“, you’ll see the name written on the train cars. The sculptors Barbara and Gernot Rumpf have created a group of them at Kaiserbrunnen.


Jakobiner Club and their Tribunal
Fastnacht fans and supporters of the ideas of the French Revolution founded the Jacobins Club in Konstanz more than 40 years ago. The Jakobiner have become an essential part of Konstanz's Fastnacht. They dress as French revolutionaries in blue-white-red, all with a bleeding scratch in their faces (painted of course). They carry flags along for the parade, a cannon, and a cart with the inevitable guillotine.
Their main activity, however, is not just participating in parades. Every year on Greasy Thursday (the first of the High Days) they hold a tribunal against a local or regional celebrity who has then to atone for his or her sins towards the common people.

The biggest event of the Fastnacht in Konstanz, and the most interesting to watch for visitors, is the main parade in the afternoon of Carnival Sunday. The parade starts at 14:00 next to the protestant church, leads through the old town to Niederburg and back into the old town via Marktstätte, and ends near the train station. Expect crowds, so secure a good place to stand and watch early enough. The common salutation, by the way, is „Ho - Narro!“


Beware of Fastnacht Pranks... The usually security measures apply, some guilds play rather mean tricks on spectators. The witch is stealing a girl's hair clip - caught in the act. (She got it back but she had to run after the witch.)
Masked jesters love to play pranks on innocent spectators, at least certain groups. Witches are always suspicious, as are other demonic creatures and the carpenters' guild. Young girls who dress up are most likely to fall victims to the guys under the masks. (My trick is stand close to a group of teenage disco queens - they attract all attention and I am left in peace. Okay I am too old to be of much interest anyway, LOL.)
The witch cart has a cage where girls are caught and showered with confetti or straw. This seat is also a confetti bath, which is then set to rotation.


The meanest of all are the carpenters. This year in Konstanz I observed a new level. On the cart they have installed one of those devices that actually serve to pack Christmas trees into nets. Instead of a tree, one can push a girl through the ring, feet first, so she ends up in the net. The result, she is well wrapped and tied up. Luckily she has some friends who lend a hand to free her...



Posted by Kathrin_E 01:03 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival konstanz baden-württemberg fastnacht Comments (1)

Weil am Rhein: Burefasnet One Week Later Than Everyone Else



Weil am Rhein is a small town which is only known for being the last settlement on the German side before the border on the way to Basel. Many people who work in Basel live here because it is cheaper.

The place has one top: Vitra Design Museum with its remarkable modern buildings designed by architects like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

Otherwise the town is hardly worth a visit - the old village centre is quite nice but not a top sight – except once a year...



Weil, like Basel, celebrates its carnival one week later than the usual carnival date. The Burefasnet („peasant carnival“) date is actually the older Fastnacht date.
How come? The Lent is officially 40 days. When counting from Ash Wednesday to Easter you end up with 46 days, not 40. At some point in history the catholic church decided that Sundays are holidays and shall not be counted as fasting days, so the duration of the Lent is counted as 40 days plus 6 Sundays. Protestant Basel and other parts of Northwestern Switzerland refused to join and stuck with the old date, 40 days before Easter including the Sundays. This also spread to the right bank of the Rhine, the Markgräflerland on the German side close to Basel.


Weil's main parade takes place on Invocavit Sunday, six weeks before Easter and one day before Basler Morgestraich, at 2 p.m. Many jester guilds from near and far in Baden-Württemberg come to join in the parade. After doing their own activities on the 'main' carnival weekend they are happy to have one more event and one more party weekend before everything is over for good.


Kids will receive lots of sweets. Adults should be prepared for lots of confetti. I have rarely gone through and observed as many nasty confetti attacks anywhere else as in Weil. This involves rubbing a person's face and hair with an handful of confetti and stuffing it into the collar and underneath the clothes. Confetti does not hurt but having a load inside your underwear is not that pleasant...


Hex a Traffic Sign

A story from Weil


- What happened to this sign? Why is it down on the ground?
- It belongs up there to the top of the pole indeed. A strange accident happened to it. There was some idiot who…


During the Burefasnet parade a witch, who was up to some pranks, climbed the pole and sat on top of the sign.
The sign was not made for carrying riders and the fastening was not solid enough.
Both the sign and the witch tumbled to the ground...
(The witch fell and rolled like an experienced judoka and wasn't injured, no worries. Otherwise I would not make fun of the story.)
Moral of story: Witches should ride broomsticks, not signposts.


Reattaching the sign was not that easy. The witch guild will probably face a little bill from the community of Weil for the repair.
The guy in the neon yellow vest is the 'watchdog' who was in charge of this part of the parade.

The fallen sign then served as deck chair for tired jesters, while the signpost was popular for pole dancing.

Posted by Kathrin_E 02:00 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival baden-württemberg alemannic_fastnacht Comments (2)

Schwäbisch Gmünd: Guggemusik Festival

"Überdruck", a local band from Schwäbisch Gmünd

Schwäbisch Gmünd is a small town in the Rems valley east of Stuttgart, relatively unimportant nowadays. Until 1803, however, it was a free imperial city. Its old public buildings still show the pride and ambition that goes with this status.
Once per year Schwäbisch Gmünd is ruled by brass and drums played by people in strange masks and vestments. During the annual Guggemusik festival, some 20 top class Gugge bands from near and far play on stage and in the streets. They will smash the ear drums of any 'serious' musician but it is just... gorgeous.

What I said above about Guggemusik is only partly true for these ambitious, semi-professional bands. Their music may sound messy and coincidental but is in fact well practised and rehearsed. To give you a better impression there should be videos here, but I don’t have an account to upload them, sorry.


The annual Guggemusik festival takes place in the squares of Schwäbisch Gmünd on one weekend before carnival, usually in late January or early February – check the town's website for the exact date, it will be published a couple of weeks earlier. The festival begins on Friday evening with the Guggenball (tickets needed). Saturday is the best day for visitors. In the morning the Narrenbaum (jester tree) is erected in front of the town hall. After the official reception by the mayor, the 20 participating bands will play all afternoon on the stages in Marktplatz and Johannisplatz and also in the streets and pubs. At 6 p.m. the Monster Concert begins on both stages. On Sunday, the main event takes place inside the sports hall in Katharinenstraße: the Guggemusikfrühschoppen with all the bands and a lot of music, noise and drinking till late afternoon (entrance fee).


During the afternoon of Saturday, the two stages in Marktplatz and Johannisplatz are busy non-stop. The bands march in from the right, play a couple of songs on stage, then leave to the left while the next band is already waiting on the other side.


Two bands from Schwäbisch Gmünd participated in the Guggemusik festival: Gassapfetza ("Alley Smashers") and Überdruck ("overpression"). I assume that these groups were also involved with the organization of the festival. As locals they had their fans in the crowd and put on a big show. Their music is as flamboyant as the colour... These bands are N-O-I-S-Y... I was standing front and center next to the stage, which was great for taking photos and video but hard labour for my eardrums.


Tschäddärä (name untranslatable) is a band form Lörrach, situated on the German side of the Rhine but very close to Basel. They showed up as devilish gangsters. Their conductor has angel's wings on his back but otherwise does not look too angelic either...
Drums and percussion are mounted on little two-wheeled carts which are connected with the player's belt so that he pushes the cart when walking and has the hands free for drumming.


After the intro piece conductor and musicians take their heads off. It's easier for them to move and play without, although not as impressive for the spectators. At the end of the show the heads are put on again.


Despite their Robin Hood outfit, Les Pampana's are not from Sherwood Forest but from Cudrefin in the French speaking part of Switzerland.


Guggemusik is even known in Britain! The fancy musical Beefeaters of Frumptarn Barnsley Guggenband from Barnsley, UK


The Mühlbach-Bazis from Eggingen had the most imaginative masks and dresses. Afterwards I learned that they in fact won the prize for the best outfit at the festival!


Rondo Bellinziano have used and italianized the name of their home town: noooo... they are from Bad Bellingen in the south of Baden, not far from Basel.
To me, they had the best sound of all the bands I listened to that day.


Saubachgugga is a small, probably local band of about 10 or 12 musicians. They were not part of the official programme and did not get a space on stage. They simply came and played in the streets to be there and participate in the fun, and they were not the only ones.


"Kehrwoch'" - A Swabian Virtue
We even observe one of the most cherished Swabian virtues: "Kehrwoch'" refers to the weekly cleaning duty, which takes turns among the inhabitants of a house. It is a Swabian custom which is taken very seriously. On Saturday, the alley has to be swept no matter what. This applies under all circumstances, even if it concerns a stage where a band of 30 Gugge musicians is playing right now...
(Seriously, he was cleaning the stage because it was full of muddy snow and thus dangerously slippery.)


Still Life Off Stage
Photographers, have your cameras ready if you come across a band who are having a break and have dumped their masks and instruments outside a pub. You may discover one or the other fantastic unintended still life. (Don't touch anything, though.) Here is a collection of my favouriste shots.


Posted by Kathrin_E 04:11 Archived in Germany Tagged music festival carnival baden-württemberg alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

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