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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)

Karlsruhe: Big City Woes


Carnival in protestant Karlsruhe doesn't have an original tradition. Today's carnival consists of imported Rheinland style carnival clubs, and some guilds from the Catholic villages south of the Alb who do Alemannic Fastnacht. The result is a mix which isn't really convincing. Two big parades take place in the city during carnival: one in Durlach on Sunday and one in Karlsruhe Centre on Tuesday.

The main carnival parade takes place on carnival Tuesday afternoon from 2 p.m. and runs through Marktplatz, Kaiserstraße and Karlstraße. Since no barriers keep the crowds out, the huge carriages get stuck every couple of metres, and the parade takes AGES. Some decorated carriages show inspiration, very few are actually funny, most are just trucks with painted canvas cover On the trucks you see guys in jester caps and girls in guard uniforms, dressed in the respective club's colours according to Rhineland traditions, who throw sweets into the crowd. The tiny alemannic groups in between seem rather lost.


In spite of all this the streets of Karlsruhe see a hundred thousand or more spectators that day. I wonder why. It is, sorry to say this, about the most boring parade I have ever seen. Since there are no railings along most of the route and people push to get at the sweets thrown, the passage is narrow and the huge trucks get stuck. The parade takes ages and there are huge gaps between the groups. From Marktplatz to Stephansplatz (usually a 10 minute walk) the parade needs about an hour. Check the route the parade takes (newspaper, internet, programme leaflets) and stand in a location as close to the starting point as possible to avoid waiting for ages.



A few theme wagons are dealing with local politics. This one is about Europabad, the new pool and spa in Karlsruhe which has been opened in 2008 and caused heaps of trouble, and costs. Political messages, if they are there at all, are rarely witty or funny.

The Sunday parade in Durlach, also beginning at 2 p.m., is shorter and better organized. Presentations are, however, more or less the same as in Karlsruhe, perhaps there are more groups in Alemannic style.

Alemannic groups marching in the parade


A private group with some imagination... The ladies dressed as dishwashing detergent bottles. In the 1970's Pril, a well-known German brand, came in such blue bottles with a red tap and two flower stickers on each bottle. In those times almost everyone had these stickers „Prilblumen“) in their kitchen to decorate tiles or cupboard doors.




Tribute to Daxlanden



Daxlanden is a suburb in the southwest of the city with a catholic tradition since it historically belonged to the Margraviate of Baden-Baden. Daxlanden is famous for its parade on Carnival Saturday. They have a large jester guild in the suburb itself, invite neighbouring guilds, and there are always many big and small groups from the suburb, from kindergarten to bowling clubs and office staff, who come up with a topic and dress up and maybe even design a small cart. This parade, which is one of the few that happen on Saturday, has always been popular in the whole city.

I have taken these photos in 2016. At that time nobody neither knew nor expected that this would have been the last carnival parade in Daxlanden.

Since 2017, the Daxlanden parade is no more. The reasons for the cancellation are safety reasons, in other words, problems concerning alcohol and garbage. In the previous year some juvenile idiots organized a „flashmob“ and hundreds of drunk youths messed up the celebrations. Afterwards the city has set new safety regulations which are impossible to fulfil for a suburban jester guild. So they cancelled the parade for good. No one knows if Daxlanden’s street carnival will ever see a revival.

This is the biggest problem in and around the large city. There is no real tradition and thus neither knowledge nor respect. The youngsters come for booze and party. They have no interest in the parades and local events. In the Black Forest everyone knows what Fastnacht means and how precious and expensive a Häs is. Many city people have no clue and no care. „Party“ means no more than getting drunk and causing trouble, and who cares about the rest of the world. Because of that widespread rowdyness I restrain myself from visiting the smaller parades in the villages around the city. I had long wanted to see the famous Nachtumzug (night parade) in Grötzingen, another suburb. It's too late, though. In regard of the rising problems and readiness for violence and vandalism, for five years the Grötzingen guild have substituted it with a daytime parade.

Here is a photo gallery in memoriam Daxlander Fasnet:


Posted by Kathrin_E 15:30 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival karlsruhe baden-württemberg alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Bühl: Clean Your Candle

Bühler Lichtputzer

Jester tree in front of church and town hall

This blog entry is special, because the photos are just a few hours old. We are in the middle of the High Days 2017. There is still some leftover confetti stuck in my hair while I am writing this. In Bühl they are certainly partying all night.

Bühl is a small town in the Upper Rhine Plain, just south of Baden-Baden. It belongs to the Ortenau, which is a wine and fruit growing region at the foot of the Black Forest. This is not one of the big Fasnet centres, but one where this festival is thriving and developing well.

I came to Bühl because of a silly coincidence. I was asked for help identifying two photos of a carnival parade in the 1970s that were found in our city archive. One showed a witch, the other a jester figure with a tool that looked like an oversized pair of scissors but strangely deformed. With a bit of serendipity and patient searching, I came across the jester guild of Bühl – strike! Now I wanted to see them in real life.


Bühl’s guild Narrhalla Bühl 1826 e.V. holds the main parade on Sunday afternoon. My impression ist hat they are sort of a roof organization for the several jester guilds in Bühl. The Narrendaddel, a single figure, leads the parade. Hemdglunkerle in white nightshirts, Quetschedeufel („plum devils“), Schrättle, Rebgeister („vine spirits“) and two witch guilds are all at home in Bühl.

The oldest carnival tradition is connected with the Lichtputzer („candle cleaners“) guild and dates back to the year 1534. Historical reports from the 16th century tell of a certain baker, a notorious drunkard and jester, who would note all happenings throughout the year in his book and then, during the carnival days, roam the village pubs together with is companions and hold a jester court. Scissors were used to cut the candlewick so that the person’s „light could burn more brightly from now on“ – symbolically, of course. The Lichtputzer Häs was invented in the 1970s as a revival of this tradition. They carry oversized models of those special scissors that were used to cut candlewicks in former times.

Plum and Pear

Bühl has been the namesake of the famous Bühler Zwetschgen, a species of blue plums, similar to damson plums but not the same. These fruit are popular because they are tasty and easy to cultivate, and because there are so many uses for them in the kitchen. They make a great topping for cakes, they make woderful jam and plum puree, they can be dried, used for sauces, and for schnapps making (Zwetschgenwasser). Of course these fruit are alive and present in Bühl’s carnival parade. A guild from neighbouring Neusatz, named Niesatzer Hurzle, have created two fruit figures, the plum and the pear. Thus blue and green are their colours.


Dozens of guilds from the small villages in the northern part of the Ortenau, around Rastatt and Baden-Baden come to Bühl to join the parade. A place like this shows how lively the Fasnet tradition is, with new guilds forming all the time and new figures being designed. Witches are particularly popular.


In addition to the Fasnet guilds, many groups, clubs, teams, companies, schools from Bühl and surroundings are taking part. Some local issues are addressed, too. In Bühl the church bells, respective the question whether they should toll the hours at night or not, divide public opinion into two parties.


While one side likes and wants the ringing of the bells, the other side wants undisturbed sleep. The priest (the real one) is keeping out of the discussion, he marches ahead with a sign saying, „Not my business“ and „I don‘t care“.

A scene that made us all laugh… A huge cart with a confetti cannon on top arrived. The guy at the cannon spotted an open window on the first floor and, sitting in the window, one of his mates he obviously knew well. He aimed and shot a full load of confetti into his mate’s living room. (Moral of story: Beware of your friends...)

Allda Esel from Kappelwindeck – funny donkeys.


The flail dance: This guild’s Häs represents farmers from former times. The flail is their accessoure. They form a row with the flails on their shoulders, and one by one dive underneath the flails from front to back. The witch is an intruder.


Dreizipfeleshansele from Achern - one of the prettiest figures I ever saw.



On the train back home I found myself among a horde of red and black devils whom I had seen in the parade. They came from a village near Rastatt – the Saubergteufel from Ottenau. Other passengers and I talked to some of them. They were good fun. It must be really cool to go on tour with a whole bunch of friends like they do.

From witch with love

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:56 Archived in Germany Tagged festival carnival traditions baden-württemberg alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Luzern: A Jump into Switzerland on Güdismontag

Wey-Frosch with the summit of Rigi in the background

"Güdismontag" is the local name for Carnival Monday, one of the main days in Luzern's Fasnacht (sic!). Not only the spelling differs - Swiss traditions differ in many respect from the Alemannic-German ones, although the base is the same. I hopped over by train for the day because I have long wanted to see the carnival of Luzern.



It is a sunny pre-spring day on the shores of Vierwaldstättersee. The mountain panorama is as beautiful as can be. Snow-capped peaks are reflected in the calm waters of the lake. Cruise boats are waiting for passengers – but today no one cares about lake cruises and mountain views.

There is something in the air. The streets, the quays, the bridges are packed with people, many of them in fancy dress. Fantastic masks roam the streets. The original paintings on Chapel Bridge have disappeared – in fact they are just covered in order to protect them. Insted, the bridge is decorated with Fasnacht pictures. Stalls have been set up that sell food and booze. Bands are playing on the river bank. Guggemusik mixes with the hammering noises from many loudspeakers.

People are already lining up along the route of the big parade. One has to come early to find a good spot.


At 2 p.m. the Monday parade starts. The best place to watch it is on Seebrücke, the big bridge across the mouth of river Reuss. Especially on a day like this when the photographer appreciates the bright sunlight. I found the bridge less crowded in the middle than at the ends, just mentioning.
Already before the official beginning small masked groups are walking the course. Even the Royal Family is there, with a giant birthday cake for the Queen's 90th…



The official beginning of the parade are riders with the banners of the four main guilds and societies that form Luzern‘s Fasnacht Committee (Fidelitas Lucernensis, Maskenliebhaber-Gesellschaft, Wey-Zunft, Zunft zu Safran).


The parades on Thursday and Monday are identical except for the leaders. While Thursday is the day of Brother Fritschi and his wife Fritschine and the Safran guild, Monday is ruled by the Wey Frog. The Monday parade is led by Wey-Zunft, whose symbol is the giant frog. They have the prominent place in the first part of the parade which Brother Fritschi and his entourage hold on Thursday. The huge green Frog has his own cart, pulled by members of the guild in frog costumes. The president of the guild is driven in a splendid horse-drawn carriage. Another carriage carries the heads of the other guilds.



Then come the 39 numbers of the parade, each of them listing a large guild or band that often consists of several parts. In other words, the whole parade lasts about 3 hours. Many participating groups have huge carts. Each of them chooses a topic that costumes and cart refer to. Some are political others simply meant to entertain. Small independent groups march in between. The self-made masks and costumes are fantastic. Guggemusik bands are an essential part. They will have their biggest event on Tuesday night.


A frequent topic this year are fantasy figures, Star Wars, fighting roboter creatures à la World of Warcraft and similar – not my world so I do not know how to call them correctly - apologies to the hardcore fans! ;-)
The kind of pictures that you see on the t-shirts of heavy metal fans, you get the idea.

Well, let the photos speak for themselves. After a dozen or so groups in this style, and there were more than a dozen, it becomes slightly boring, though…

The martial Wild Boar cart is equipped with a huge cannon that shoots - confetti.

Warriors fight the City of Luzern for some issue in local politics

Is Luzern‘s Fasnacht worth seeing? It certainly is. I came over from Germany for the day so I got to see little more than the Monday parade, though. So my experience is just a snapshot of a small part of it. Some day I would like to join the entire sequence of events, starting with the Big Bang and the arrival of the Fritschi Family on Thursday morning and ending with the Guggemusik Monstercorso and the Farewell Fritschi ceremony on Tuesday night.

E rüüdig schöni Fasnacht to everyone! Enjoy the photo gallery:



Posted by Kathrin_E 22:59 Archived in Switzerland Tagged carnival switzerland luzern Comments (0)

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