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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.