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Entries about alemannic fastnacht

A Gallery of More Jesters

Three are hundreds and hundreds of jester guilds all over Baden-Württemberg, nobody could visit all of them in a lifetime. Often they participate in jester meetings and parades in other places. Jester meetings are always a great chance to see many new guilds. I got to see many outside their hometowns. Here is a collection of jester figures that I liked for this or that reason, figures I encountered somewhere in the parades. Some are funny, some are weird, some are scary, some are breathtakingly beautiful.

Butz and Butzenzuttel from Hirrlingen

A witch from Rottenburg

Pestmännle and Butzen from Hechingen. Legends tell of a poor little sick man who brought the plague into town and was heavily punished.

Two Weißenberger Weihergeister - yes, there are indeed two posing for my photo.

Moikäf'r Dellmensingen - May beetles

Glottertäler Triibl - Grape spirits from a side valley in the northern Breisgau which is known for its wines

Proof: witches can fly with their broomsticks. The technique needs some improvement, though.

Trees from Empfingen - bewware of them...

Schömberger Fransekleidle, famous for the polonaise they are dancing

Hokema ("hook man"), a water spirit from Impfingen

Sachsenheimer Urzeln: their particularity is the painted gaze mask

Gränz-Pfluderi Waggis from Weil, very close to Basel, 2004 and in their new Häs 2005

Neckarschreck, Stuttgart

Lindauer Binsengeischter with the catch of the day

Grusilochzotti, Lahr

Korkenzieher (Corkscrew drawers) from Lahr - I wonder who drank all that wine to make the Häs

Suggentäler Schreckli

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:41 Archived in Germany Tagged alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Jester Meeting 2018 in Gengenbach

Schalk and Bott as heads of the Gengenbach guild lead the parade

Members of the guild council

On a weekend in January 2018, Gengenbach and its jester guild hosted this year’s regional meeting of the VSAN, the association of Swabian-Alemannic jester guilds. 40 guest guilds from all over Baden-Württemberg and even from Switzerland followed the invitation and participated in the parade. Most of them were accompanied by a band from their town or village.

The climax of the weekend was the big parade on Sunday afternoon. I came over by train to watch, equipped with my camera as usual. The parade started in the western part of the town. I found myself a good spot just 3 minutes from the station.

This time I did not even enter the old town. The weather was fine and partly sunny, which meant good light for the photographers. During this extraordinarily rainy winter, the sunshine was even more welcome.

Next to and in front of me I had a family with a child in a stroller. The little girl was dressed up as a cat, super cute. Certainly she received loads of goodies from the jesters! I appreciated the presence of the stroller, which kept an open gap in the crowd, very useful for taking photos through said gap.

I had the sun in my back and the opening of a street, no shadow cast by houses. I think I caught some fine shots.

For more about the Gengenbach jester guild, please refer to the respective previous entry.

There were 41 numbers listed and most groups turned out to be large, so this parade took several hours. After number 28 and almost three hours, I was stiff and my feet, legs, back, everything hurt, so I decided to leave and catch the next train which was due five minutes later. Hence I saw but three quarters of the parade. (I am growing old! Ten years ago this would not have occurred to me!)

The guilds I missed were, though, all groups I had seen and photographed extensively in previous years. So it wasn't such a loss for my photo archive.

Gengenbach witches and Lumbehund

Witch fun

Plätzlerzunft Altdorf-Weingarten



Stubborn horses, led by drovers, are part of the show.

The Weingarten guild carry long whips (Karbatschen) and know how to use them. It's better to make room for them.





Wangemer Narrenzunft, Wangen/Allgäu


Kübelesmarkt Bad Canstatt, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt



The characteristic figure are the Felbenköpf. A historical legend is connected with them:

One very foggy night by the moonlight, the Cannstatters spotted troops of the enemy in the fields around their town, ready to attack... however, the "soldiers" turned out to be nothing but the pollard willows lined up along the path. The masks represent the willow stumps.

"Moons" walk among them.

The crazy fire brigade of Bad Cannstatt

Narrizella Ratoldi Radolfzell, Holzhauermusik Radolfzell

Two crazy woodcutters

Narrenzunft Schömberg

Perhaps the most beautiful of all jesters. They can be described as the elegant, courtly, distinguished, gentle jesters who don't harm anyone. They walk in rows of four and perform a polonaise. Lt the photos speak for themselves.

Fastnachtsvereinigung Herbstein, Springerzug



Herbstein is located in the Vogelsberg mountains in Hessen - in theory far away from the range of the Alemannic Fastnacht, but they are often guests at jester meetings. They are famous for their jumping dance.

Bajazz, the king of the jumpers, leads the row of the dancers. They run in pairs and perform their rythmic jumps, which require a high level of physical fitness.

All the "girls" are impersonated by boys, by the way!

My photo reveals the answer to the question of all questions:
What do they wear underneath...?

Narrenzunft Kißlegg Hudelmale


===Urzelnzunft Sachsenheim===


Unusual masks with unusual origins: they are not carved in wood like most others, but made from gauze and painted.


Sachsenheim near Stuttgart is the northernmost centre of the Swabian Fastnacht region. However, these masks are not Swabian. The tradition of the Urzel day originates in Transsylvania and was imported by "Siebenbürger Sachsen" who left Romania and moved to this village in the post-war era.

Narrenzunft Schwenningen

Schantle and Hansel. The vicinity to Villingen and its traditional guild cannot be denied.
The brown Moosmulle is a Häs for females and refers to the hard work of cutting peat in the nearby moors.


The tall Hölzlekönig is a singular figure, referring to a particularly huge fir tree in the woods near Schwenningen. After a lightning stroke the trunk received a metal cover.

Narro-Altfischerzunft Laufenburg


Narro and Narrönin

Laufenburg is located on the Hochrhein, right on the border, and consists of two separate towns with the same name: Swiss Laufenburg on the southern bank, German Laufenburg on the northern.

Until 1801 the town was united; politics then divided it (for the history buffs: in the peace treaty of Lunéville the southern side was given to Switzerland, the northern side to Austria; the latter became property of the Grand-Ducvy of Baden five years later).

Their carnival is an international joint venture. The "Old Fishermen's Guild" has members from both towns and they do their celebrations together. They have a common administration with two presidents, one from each side, and parity in the guild council.

The big salmon is their symbol and refers to Laufenburg's history as a centre of salmon fishing.

The jesters are all male. Only in rare cases a female member is admitted as "guild brother" with full rights.

There is one single female figure among them, called Narrönin, always worn by a male guest who is not a member of the guild.


The "sack carriers" hand out rolls and sausages to children and occasionally also to adults (I didn't get any...)

Narrenzunft Rottenburg

Rottenburger Ahlande and Pompele



Rumpel-Clique Basel



Guests from Basel: a small Clique with the characteristic piccolo flutes.

They go "Charivari", i.e. each of them has an individual costume and mask to their liking.

The hand-written sign informs us that they apologize for coming without drummers because of the flu.

Alemannische Larvenfreunde



An unusual group that consists of individual figures.

Toschtelfäger Schübelbach

A Guggemusik band from Switzerland. I love the cute drummer!

Narrenzunft Frohsinn Donaueschingen

A very pretty group, walking in pairs: the ladies in traditional local dress (Tracht), the men in white Narro Häs.

Narrenzunft Wilflingen

Schellnarren, their large belt with the open bells is unique.
The straw bear is a single figure, lead by four drovers.
See what you can do with those ugly ties you got for Christmas!
Those in the right photo are named Clon - not clones but clowns.

Schelmenzunft Staufen

Acrobatics performed by the young members
Their jesters are gentle people - or they seem to be

Katzenmusikverein "Miau" Villingen



We have met them already in my Villingen report. The Cat Musicians are led by the Tomcat Miau. Just like the Schalk in Gengenbach, he sleeps in a tower all year unless the guild come to awake him at the beginning of the Fastnacht.

Endinger Narrenzunft

A guild with a colourful Häs, named Jokili. Their home is a wine village in Kaisterstuhl.


Das Hohe und Grobgünstige Narrengericht Stockach


The jester court of Stockach holds a (mock) trial against a high-ranking politician every year. The sentence always involves, as punishment, the delivery of a certain amount of wine, which will them be consumed during the guild's meetings throughout the following year.
The judges are accompanied by Hansel in their colourful fabric masks.

Althistorische Narrenzunft Offenburg


Spättle in their colourful Häs, the jetser parents, and a member of the brass band. The flag attached to the trumpet shows the double-headed imperial eagle and refers to Offenburg's status as a free imperial city.


Narrenzunft Haslach



The name "Haslach" sounds simlar to the German word for hazel.

Hazelnuts and hazel leaves inspired the Häs of the local guild.

Kids are taken to the parades from youngest age. I am amazed how well this little one is sleeping despite all that noise and ballyhoo around.

Schellenhansel, named after the little bells attached to their clothing, are the most colourful members of the guild.


My favourite Haslach jesters are the Ranzengarde, though. "Dressed" in wine barrels, sporting long wooden noses and poited hats, they offer wine from the tap to selected people in the audience.


The jester troop, a parody on the military of the Napoleonic era, march with long guns and a cannon, and every now and then they fire a salute. They very kindly warn the spectators in advance. So, hold your ears!


Narrenzunft Schramberg



Schramberg's jesters: The Narro with his horns looks a bit scary, Brüele is always crying despite all the fund, Hansel is the elegant and friendly type.

Schramberg is famous for an extraordinarily silly and funny carnival tradition: floating down the canal through the town in a wooden tub. I have already described this in a previous entry. The guild of the Bach-na-Fahrer walks in parades with a little "tub" round their bellies.

Endivienbutz the jester policeman, and portraits of Bach-na-Fahrer

Narrenzunft Furtwangen

Various Häs types from Furtwangen

Narrenzunft Triberg

Red Devils from Triberg

Narrenzunft Krakeelia Waldkirch

The blue and yellow Bajass, dressed in the style of a court jester from the late middle ages, is Waldkirch's main figure.

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:06 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest gengenbach alemannic_fastnacht Comments (1)

Zell am Harmersbach: Fairy Tales 2018


Schneckehüslinarro and Spielkartennarro

I have already described Zell and its jester guild in a previous entry. Hence I won't explain it all again, but show you my newest photos.


This year, 2018, I finally made it back to Zell for the Tuesday parade.

Originally I had intended to go on Sunday. The weather forecasts suggested a change of plans, though, as they predicted pouring rain all day long for Sunday and sunshine for Tuesday. This turned out to be the right decision, as my pictures prove.

After the long and dull, greyish winter that we had this year, I thoroughly enjoyed the sunlight and the bright colours.

Schneckehüslinarro and Welschkornnarro


This year's motto was: "Figures from the Fairytale Forest".

The groups from the different parts of the town came up with very varied interpretations of the motto.

And we had our two usual crazy commentators again. This time Manfred was Märchentante, Auntie telling fairy tales. No idea who he borrowed the fur coat and the hat from - his mother-in-law I'd guess?

The elf bicycle

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves

Alice in Wonderland: Mad Hatters, Cheshire Cats, and the Queen of Hearts
To me they are the "winners" with their beautifully designed outfits that show so much love and care for details.

Trolls, or rather Drollige Drolle as they called themselves, performed a funny dance

The quarter nicknamed "Little Paris" impersonated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
They had much more than seven dwarfs, of course - and a dozen Snow Whites, and two Bad Queens.

A different interpretation of the motto. This group referred to the Soccer World Cup of 2006, which is often called Germany's Sommermärchen (Summer Fairy Tale). They played with the similarity of the words "Elf" (eleven) and "Elfen" (elves) and became a football team of elves.
The football kicker on their cart was the big hit with some young Bändele. They were totally absorbed in their game in the middle of the moving parade.



Pumuckl is a popular character from a German TV series for children, a naughty red-haired imp who lives at the workshop of his human friend Meister Eder the carpenter, and causes a lot of funny mayhem. They also invented a female Pumuckeline for the ladies in their group.

The Disney movie Frozen inspired this group. Including a snowflake machine on their cart.



The witch guild from neighbouring Unterharmersbach are regular participants in Zell's parades.

The same goes with the local Guggemusik band Eckwaldpuper. After the parade they gave a little concert on the stage in front of the town hall.

Bändele are dancing to the music, while the children enjoy their treats. The jester guild hands out free Weck und Worscht (roll and hotdog) to all kids.

For the rest of the day the Städtlefasend is in full swing: a street party with stalls selling food and drink, and all pubs and restaurants full to the brim, until the Fasend is buried at midnight.


Posted by Kathrin_E 00:53 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Karlsruhe-Durlach 2018

"Durlach cheers, laughs and sings
When the jester the sceptre swings"
... the motto for 2018. Not exactly meaningful, sorry.


Due to lousy weather forecasts for the Black Forest region for Sunday, opposed to greyish but okay conditions at home, I decided to stay in Karlsruhe and give our local carnival another chance. The advantage was being able to go there by bicycle independent of crowded public transport, although cycling 2 x nine kilometres in rather strong cold wind from the side (i. e. no advantage in either direction) was not too funny.

I chose a spot in the western parts of Durlach close to the starting point of the parade, not in the centre. Thanks to that I did not see anything of the mess that happened further ahead. I only read on the news afterwards that the parade was stopped by a mob of drunk youths. Police were present and interfered, so that the parade was able to continue as planned.

I have already previously discussed the problems we have in the city with juvenile idiots whose idea of “fun” is ruining everyone else’s fun. They have no interest at all in carnival, neither know nor care a thing about it, all they want is cause trouble. This has already led to the discontinuation of some parades like Daxlanden and Grötzingen. Sooner or later this may set an end to street carnival altogether, I’m afraid. It’s a shame, and a worrysome development in society. What are these people thinking, or are they too brainless to think at all?


Anyway, back to Durlach. The parade was about half and half: Carnival clubs Rhineland style from the city on the one hand, Alemannic jester guilds from the suburbs and villages in the surroundings on the other. Many of these guilds make their appearance every year, both in Durlach and in the Tuesday parade in Karlsruhe; they also used to be among the regulars in Daxlanden. I suppose that most of them are too small to have their own parades in their villages, so they join and approfit from the big ones in the city. Some are traditional, others are really really wild and scary.





The carnival clubs had their wagons in the parade. Two of them were floats that had motives and transported a political message (one stupid, one brainy), although the quality was nowhere near what you’d get to see in Mainz or Cologne or Düsseldorf. One had this big jester hat. The others were simply normal trucks, decorated with a bit of painted canvas. Rather lame, dear carnival clubs.

I wholeheartedly agree with the wish to shoot Trump and Kim Jong Un to the moon...

The trucks carried the members of the Councils of Eleven (Elferrat) and other members with jester hats, and the girls of the dancing guards in their uniforms and wigs, throwing sweets into the crowd. That’s all they have to offer.


A few independent groups in between were more interesting. The the one and only really cool wagon was the huge pirate ship.


The parade also included two or three good Guggemusik bands.

In that side street where I was standing, there was a bit of a “neighbourhood feeling”. Several people among the spectators around me were greeted by participants who knew them – be it with sweets or with snubs and confetti attacks. To be fair, an event in a large city can never have the same familiarity as in a small town where everyone knows everyone.

Nevertheless… compare with the previous entry, Zell am Harmersbach. The atmosphere, the imagination, the design of the costumes, the details, the amount of enthusiasm in the participants’ faces.


The end of the parade sums it up. The last group in the procession is the garbage brigade that immediately sweeps away all traces of carnival, confetti, candy wrappers and leftover sweets, and it’s over, everything back to normal. While in places like Zell the street party begins…

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:17 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival karlsruhe alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

Basel: Introduction and Preparation



Basel is the No. 1 place for Fastnacht-type carnival which is worldwide known. In Basel they spell it “Fasnacht” without the T, by the way. Basel is absolutely unique.

Their most famous event is the Morgestraich, the starting ceremony on Monday morning at 4 a.m. But there is more going on during the “three most beautiful days of the year”. Monday and Wednesday afternoon see the two big Cortège parades that tour on acircular route through the city centre and Kleinbasel for at least three hours. Monday night belong to the Schnitzelbängg and their sung presentations of current events in politics and society. Tuesday is the day of the children and the Guggemusik bands. The latter are performing in the evening on three open-air stages at the Monschterkonzert.


These are the official events. But there is always something going on. Basel does not sleep for those 72 hours. Cliquen and bands, small groups and individual people roam the streets day and night with pipes and/or drums or full Guggemusik equipment.

If I say day and night, I mean it. Catching undisturbed sleep is impossible. I’ll never forget that damn Gugge band that marched the street past my hotel up and down, up and down, up and down at 3 a.m. in the morning. Had I had a bomb at hand, I’d probably have thrown it…

I have been to Basel a couple of times during Fasnacht, usually just for the day to see one of the Cortèges. There are special trains during the night of Morgestraich from all directions, so that would be doable from Karlsruhe, but I always found the prospect too stressful.


One year, though, I booked myself a hotel room for the entire three days in order to see it all. I booked already in September. Choice was already limited, but I managed to find an affordable hotel, a bit shabby but conveniently located in Kleinbasel between Claraplatz and Mustermesse. The Cortèges passed more or less underneath my window.

Having everything within walking distance was an advantage. Basel’s public transport is well organized to bring the masses of spectators to where the action happens, nevertheless I was glad to have a heated room to rest and warm up, and my private WC at hand any time.

Then later, I went again together with some other fellow members of our Soroptimist Club: Our Swiss link club organized a visit to the Chienbäse parade in Liestal as well as Morgestraich in Basel, including a hotel in central Basel.

The diversity of activities, as well as the gigantic number of photos that I have, require splitting up my report on Basel into a series of half a dozen blog entries. Stay tuned…


The Date

Fasnacht in Basel takes place one week later than everywhere else. How come? The explanation is a simple bit of maths.

The Lent’s duration is, in accordance with biblical fasting periods, 40 days, cpunting backwards from Easter Sunday. In the current calendar, though, it lasts seven weeks. Now do your maths.

40 days and 7 weeks, that does not match. It used to be exactly 40 days, but at some point the Roman Catholic church decided that the Sundays should not be counted as fasting days any more. 40 days plus six Sundays, that leads to the current date of Ash Wednesday as it is observed almost everywhere.

Almost. Basel, however, and other parts of Northern Switzerland have stuck with the “old” carnival date to this very day.

A big advantage for us “Fas(t)nacht tourists”: We can visit other places first and still go to Basel one week later.


Sunday: The Day of Anticipation


A local from Basel once wrote, “On that Sunday we are like children on the day before Christmas.” Everyone is waiting for the morning of all mornings. The last preparations are being done, and the atmosphere is full of anticipation. Most shop windows are decorated with Fasnacht themes. The first shrill sounds of piccolo flutes can be heard in the streets.


On Sunday in the late afternoon, before nightfall, the Cliques bring their lanterns to their chosen starting point for Morgestraich. When I arrived by train and walked into the city, I saw several such groups. The lanterns are still hidden under linen covers, lights turned off. Until the next morning the themes and images are kept secret, although the shape and protruding unveiled parts allow assumptions.

The lanterns are accompanied by an escort of marching pipers. On Sunday, it’s piccolo flutes only, no drums yet. This is called Yypfyffe, “Piping in the lanterns”. Participants do not yet wear any masks or fancy dress but everyday streetwear.

I had an appointment that night. Through the Tripadvisor forum(!) I had established contact with a member from Basel who is active in the Fasnacht herself. She and her husband take part in one of those many, many smallish groups which are lovingly nicknamed Schyssdräggziiglli. They have no lantern to bring into town, but they cultivate their tradition to meet at the eve of Morgestraich to play their flutes and “pipe in” Fasnacht. They very kindly invited me to come to their house and join the party.

These people were living in the suburb of St Alban right on the river bank. They have a roof terrace with a terrific view of the river and the old town panorama with Münster church. Impressed, I asked them, how does one find such an apartment. They said that their search had lasted seven years, but they had absolutely wanted to live on the Rhine bank.

Piccolo flutes are tiny instruments. But I assure you that 15 or so of them played inside a relatively small living room create a noise that cuts everyone’s eardrums to pieces!

I have taken pictures that night but please understand that I am hesitating to publish photos of someone's private living room.

Posted by Kathrin_E 02:34 Archived in Switzerland Tagged basel alemannic_fastnacht Comments (1)

The Clock Strikes Four: Morgestraich, vorwärts, marsch!


Seen in a pastry shop

Fasnacht in Basel begins on Monday morning at 4 a.m. sharp. The municipal energy supplier has a special switch that is used only once a year. One single click turns off all street lamps in the whole city at once.

All of a sudden, the streets are dark except for the lanterns and headlights. Everywhere you hear the command, “Morgestraich, vorwärts, marsch!” Pipers and drummers begin to play and the cliques march off.

A goosebumping moment. THE one particular moment of Basler Fasnacht. (I am shivering while I’m writing this.)



The origins of Morgestraich have to do with military musterings, which used to take place at the crack of dawn. The only instruments permitted are piccolo flutes and drums. They play the traditional marches, also closely related to military music. All year round they have practiced in order to perform the rhythms perfectly.

The sound that echoes through the streets, the shrill piping and the drumming, is incredible, and hard to describe.

Morgestraich is no parade with a fixed route. Each group marches where they like. They are wandering all over the city. They will pass more or less everywhere, hence there is no “best” spot to stand and watch. The whole of Central Basel as well as Kleinbasel on the other side of the river are involved.


At Morgestraich they go “Charivari”, which means that the groups have no common costume. Everyone wears his or her individual “Goschdym” (outfit) and “Larve” (mask). The larger Cliquen present their big lanterns. Many participants carry their own small lantern on a long stick. Almost everyone has a little headlamp on top of the Larve. All these are painted in bright colours with pictures related to the group's sujet, or with figures or scenes related to Fasnacht in general.


My new friends from the previous evening had told me where they would set off in the morning, so I went to meet them in time before four o’clock.

My host let me try on her mask… (The last photo shows, and taught me, why flash should not be used.)

Five minutes to go. Streetlights are still on. The formation is being set up.


We said good-bye already because it is close to impossible to find anyone in the dark crowded streets. But I marched with them for a while until I lost contact in the thickness of the crowds.


It is possible, and allowed, for visitors to march behind a Clique and follow them through the city. In perfect marching pace please, 90 steps per minute.

In fact, this is the only way to move safely through the dark streets. They have chosen their routes carefully. The first in the group, called “Vordraab”, are without instruments and have the task to make room and to lead the others along a route without stairs, elevated curbstones or other traps they might stumble over. They know their way. The others literally must be able to trust them blindly. And so can the follower.

All this motion is timeless, without direction or purpose, meditative despite the noise, like swirling clouds, or swarms of fish in the surf, or leaves in the wind. It’s best to go by yourself, so you don’t have to worry about losing your companions. It’s best not to plan anything but to float with the current, stop somewhere to watch, then find new guides to walk with. It’s all about the feeling. In these hours, the rest of the world and daily life are far, far away.

At dawn, things slow down but don't stop. Most will want a rest now. A must-have for breakfast is a plate of hot "Mehlsupp".

Practical Hints, Dos and Don’ts for Visitors


  1. Come in time. Decide in advance where you want to stand and watch. Go there well before 4 a.m. while the streetlights are still on.
  2. Expect crowds.
  3. Dress warm. You’ll be tired and thus feel the cold even more.
  4. If you have a place to stay, leave all your stuff there. Don’t take a bag if possible. Crowds in the darkness may include pickpockets. Keep your wallet, money, documents in an inner pocket of your jacket.
  5. Tie the camera strap round your wrist or wear it round your neck, so it can’t fall to the ground in case you are pushed by accident.
  6. No flash please. It ruins the atmosphere for everyone around and blinds the participants. And your photos won’t turn out too great either.
  7. Lanterns, masks, musical instruments and everything are precious property of the participants. When they are parked outside a pub while the Clique is taking a break, looking and taking still-life photos is fine, but don’t touch anything.
  8. Dress code: One either wears a full Goschdym and Larve from head to toe and participates, or normal streetwear if just watching. Fancy dress and painted faces among the spectators are frowned upon.
  9. The marching groups always have precedence. Don’t stand in their way.
  10. Forget your everyday world, and enjoy…

Lanterns parked outside a pub while their owners enjoy a refreshment


Photo Experiments



Taking photos in the darkness is a tricky matter. Closeup shots of the illuminated lanterns are easy to take, but catching the general atmosphere in focused photos is extremely difficult because it is dark and everything is in motion. A tripod cannot be used in the dense crowds, everyone would trip over it. Using flash is a no-no: it ruins the atmosphere and blinds people who have a limited eyesight through their masks anyway.
Unfortunately too many spectators are thoughtless in that respect…


Things become easier when dawn approaches and the sky turns blueish.



Finding one of those (inconsiderate and thus detested) shops that had not turned off the light in the shop window also helps the photographer.

My solution, however, is a different one: Forget about focus. Play with the motion and the blur. Create artistic images that almost look like paintings.

Here are my results. I am actually quite proud of some of these…


I am including some pictures I took on Monday and Tuesday night, when the streetlamps were on again, so there was more background light.


Can't we almost hear the noise of the drums?

Posted by Kathrin_E 12:31 Archived in Switzerland Tagged basel alemannic_fastnacht Comments (2)

Basel Part 3: Gässlegehe



“Gässlegehe” literally translates to “walking the lanes”. To many participants it is a vital part of Fasnacht activities, a rather meditative part. Outside the parades they roam the streets playing flutes or drums, some alone, some in small groups of two, three, or ten or twelve.

You’ll hear the sound of flutes or drums approaching at random in the quieter side streets and lanes of the centre, on Münsterberg, along the Rhine promenade, on the bridges, in Kleinbasel as well. They appear out of nowhere, pass and disappear round the next corner, totally absorbed.

They walk in the same slow marching tact, 90 steps per minute, as during Morgestraich and play the traditional tunes respective rhythms. It’s the same timeless and aimless motion.

Father and son

Photographers – such groups of Gässlegeher give you the chance to catch fine shots of the masks in broad daylight.

But please be discreet and don’t disturb them. They won’t want to pose for your camera, they want to wander and play their music.

This is my favourite Gässle photo, which I have already used in the introduction. I caught these three in Augustinergasse on the way up to Münsterplatz. In the square they paused and took off their masks, and I saw that they were three young girls of about thirteen.

A peculiar outfit: Everything, really everything from head to toe is knitted, even the mask and the wig.


In the run of the Monday the Guggemusik bands, who are banned from Morgestraich, begin to make their appearance in the streets. Gugge bands will be out and about any thime from then onwards until the wee hours of Thursday morning. Day and night.



Parked lanterns, piles of drums or brass instruments and Larven outside a “Beiz”, a pub or restaurant, indicate that the owners are taking a break from all that marching and enjoying a rest and a refreshment inside.

Often they unintendedly create the finest still-lifes that scream for the camera to be set to work. (Looking and taking photos is fine as long as the photographer does not come too close and does not touch anything.)


Posted by Kathrin_E 14:33 Archived in Switzerland Tagged basel alemannic_fastnacht Comments (2)

Basel Part 4: The Cortège Parades



My previous entries may have suggested that Fasnacht in Basel is all calm and meditative and beautiful.

Oh no, it is not.

A completely different, noisier and messier side shows up in the two big daytime parades, named “Cortège”. They take place on Monday and Wednesday afternoon, starting 13:30 and going on for at least three hours.

The route is fixed and minutely organized. A circular course through both Großbasel and Kleinbasel is marched in both directions. Since the clockwise and counter-clockwise routes differ in some parts, I recommend standing in places where they both run parallel in the same street.


The best spots are, to me, squares with a tramstop, for example Barfüßerplatz or Claraplatz, where there is room to stand in the middle and see both directons.


Unlike in other cities where the participants assemble in side streets and all start from the same spot so that spectators at the end have to wait for ages until they finally get something to see, in Basel they have a cleverer system. The groups are assigned their starting point all over the circular route, and the entire circle starts moving at the same time. Everywhere the activity sets in at half past two sharp. No long wait, no matter where you stand and watch.

The route plan is published in advance on the website of the committee: http://www.fasnachts-comite.ch/cortege_en

The groups and clubs in Basel's Fasnacht are called Clique. The committee probably has a number how many there are registered with them – to the visitor it looks and feels like several hundreds. Then there are also the smaller “Schyssdräggziigli” which don’t have the complete “staff” and programme that the big Cliquen present.

They say that there are about ten thousand participants in the Cortège – no idea if this number is true, it’s impossible to count them as a spectator. But there are many. Very many.

Guggemusik bands take part in the Cortège, too. Again, many of them, and all of them excellent.



Goodies are thrown to the visitors from the floats and carts: sweets, flowers, oranges, vegetables – but als loads of confetti, which is called “Räppli” just like the smallest Swiss coins.






The unsuspecting visitor is more likely to receive a load of Räppli than anything else…

Typical Cortège selfie...

Basel’s Fasnacht is not only fun, though, but also highly political. This is the ancient right of the jesters. Under their masks are allowed to speak the truth and say everything people would not dare to say aloud under normal circumstances.

Each Clique selects a “Sujet” for the year’s Fasnacht, a theme concerning politics, society, economy, culture, whatever. The topic can be local, national or international. This theme is then commented upon in a half humourous, half critical way. Costumes and lantern are designed according to the Sujet.

While at Morgestraich they went “Charivari”, i. e. everyone wore an individual costume to their liking, in the Cortège parade the Cliquen present their Sujets and dress up accordingly.

Lanterns pass quickly during the parades. They are artworks that deserve a closer look. More about them in a separate blog entry.

Examples for Sujets

100th anniversary of the women's bath in Eglisee, a lake on the outskirts of Basel

Shop advertising and discounts (2006)

The situation in Libya under Ghaddafi (2010)

"In the water up to our throats"



"Yes We Camp" (2010): A serious one, quite goosebumping among the colourful parade. It refers to the earthquake of L'Aquila in 2009, people still homeless and living in tents a year later, and a prime minister Berlusconi who did nothing except big-mouthed speeches.

"Hail Helvetia, you still have your bridges": marching in an impressive formation

"Aldi et Obi": fearing the German invasion, and referring to the German Empire under Emperor Wilhelm II.
Anti-German topics are frequent. They really must have ressentiments against us.

A Fasnacht Clique consists of...

In the Cortège the Cliquen march in a certain order. Each section has a particular task to do.

They are the ones who walk in front. A job for members who can’t play neither drums nor flutes. During Morgestraich it’s their task to lead the way and make room for the formation behind. In the Cortège parades they distribute the so-called “Zeedel” (papers) to the spectators. On these papers, the Sujet is explained and commented in verses, half humorously, half seriously. In Baseldytsch, of course. Understanding them requires profound language skills and, in case of us native speakers of (German) German, a solid amount of imagination,

The lantern is either carried by four strong pairs of shoulders or placed on a cart and pulled. During the Morgestraich on Monday morning the lanterns are illuminated from inside. In the daytime parades on Monday and Wednesday they are presented without illumination.

Almost every larger Clique also has a wagon. This can be a small cart, a horse-drawn carriage, or a huge float pulled by a tractor.
From the wagon all kinds of gifts are distributed: sweets, oranges, flowers, sometimes vegetables, beer cans, little toys, packs of paper handkerchiefs... and confetti. Big sacks of confetti in colours that match the Clique's costumes.

The wagon is followed by the music. Traditionally there are only two instruments involved: drums, played by the Tambouren, and piccolo flutes, played by the Pfeifer.

The conductor walks between the flute group and the drum group. The conductor is usually an oversized figure with a very large papermâché head, a hole in the throat allows the person underneath to see.
The Guggemusik bands also have these oversized conductor fugures.

The Pfeifer masks are shorter than the others, they don't cover mouth and chin of the musician.
Pink tulle and grey beards go well together...

Traditional Figures in the Fasnacht



Basel's best-known mask type is the Waggis with his big nose, big mouth and teeth and a mullet-like mane in bright colours.

The person inside sees through the open nostrils of the mask. This is perhaps the iconic image that crosses people’s minds first when thinking of Basel carnival.

The Waggis is originally meant to be the caricature of a dumb Alsatian peasant. It came into existence in the late 19th century after the German-French war of 1870/71. Imagination has created the weirdest changes and varieties.

Harlekin (Arlecchino) and Pierrot have their origins in the Italian Commedia dell'arte.

The Alti Dante (Old Aunt) is a dignified, well dressed, old-fashioned elderly lady.

Glaun is simply a clown. Spelled according to Baseldytsch orthography.

Ueli wears the costume of a medieval court jester in mi-parti colours and a hood with long ears and little bells. He is a very old figure in Basel's Fasnacht.
The lantern of this Ueli Clique presents the world of the Ueli... the Ueliverse, the griffin with Ueli ears, the crest of Canton Ueli (the one of Canton Uri, ueli-fied), the Ueli newspaper and an Ueli flying saucer.

Not so traditional figures…

However, there is no limitation to these traditional types. People are free to use their imagination. Anything goes (as long as it isn’t obscene).




Nothing is holy. Really nothing.

The Miraculous Transformation of the Basel Citizen

Putting on the mask changes everything...

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:14 Archived in Switzerland Tagged basel alemannic_fastnacht Comments (1)

Basel Part 5: A Closer Look at the Lanterns



Outside the parades, the big lanterns are on display at Münsterplatz. More or less all Cliquen bring their lanterns up there and leave them standing until they need them again. This is the chance to have a closer look at them.

Treat this like an art exhibition. These lanterns are artworks. Renowned artists in the city take pride in designing them. Cliquen usually have ‘their’ artist with a distinct style. Styles differ widely, but all have in common that the images are rich in details. Often little comments have been written onto them Clique members.

The lantern expresses and illustrates the Clique’s Sujet of the year. They are meant to deliver a message. Be prepared that there are no taboos in the selection of the sujets. No one cares about "political correctness". They show how people actually think.


Depending on the respective topic, some are funny, some are satirical and ironical, while others are downright bitter and scary.

There is also an exhibition of carts and requisites. These are on display in a different place, at the arsenal. But I found that of less interest, hence I won’t go into further details.

Back to the lanterns. In here I am showing you some examples. Most of these date from 2010, some from 2006 and 2014.

Barrack Obama as the new Messiah

Scientists create the perfect child

Invasion of High German words endangers the Swiss German language, and a detail of a different lantern also dealing with the fear of us Germans. A widespread topic.

Hedgehog Switzerland: curled up into a spiky ball like hedgehogs do, the Swiss want to protect and defend their country a gainst anything coming in from outside.

Italy under Caesar Berlusconi



Alcohol and its dangers

A vision of Fasnacht in 2060, islamized

Naked hiking, a new trend among nudists

Henhouse Swiss parliament

"Bauer sucht Frau": a popular trashy format on German TV, a dating show for single farmers.

Walking the city at night is dangerous for women

Rhine bank in summer

Goddess Konsumia (consumerism - thanks Toonsarah for the correct translation)



A really tough one.
In 2009/10 this horrible story was all over the media. A father imprisoned his adolescent daughter in the basement of his house for more than 20 years, sexually abused and raped her, she bore him seven children. Three of the kids stayed with her in the cellar prison, the others were taken in as, allegedly, foster children by the parents.
And a mother who would close eyes and mouth, and keep the family secret instead of interfering and helping the victim, her daugher. The opinion of the neighbourhood was more important than the tortures the young woman went through - this aspect is the one they criticize most. They entitled the Sujet, "It is among us and it stays among us."

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:38 Archived in Switzerland Tagged basel alemannic_fastnacht Comments (6)

Offenburg Jester Meeting 2019


In 2019, the older one of Offenburg's two jester guilds are celebrating their 175th anniversary. Reason enough to hold a jester meeting. Being members of VSAN, the association of Swabian-Alemannic jester guilds, theirs was classified as one of the three official big VSAN landscape meetings of the year.

About 40 member guilds joined, many of them traditional and well known, plus some smaller guilds from Offenburg's surroundings. They all came with large groups, so the parade took at least 3 hours, despite the relatively short list in the programme.

It was mid February, but the organizers as well as the spectators were granted the most glorious, sunny and mild weather conditions this month is capable of. A perfect day for a festive parade.

I came over by train from Karlsruhe. The train was a bit late and I missed the beginning of the parade, hence I have to admit using an old photo here to introduce the hosting guild. But I have presented the guild and its main figure, the Spättle, already in a previous blog entry

Althistorische Narrenzunft Offenburg, Spättle

Narrenzunft Waldsee


A funny witch guild, ready to put on a show and do some acrobatic tricks, like pole jumping runs with their broomsticks, and building pyramids.






Wylägerer Fasnachtsgesellschaft Unterägeri, Switzerland

A Guggemusik band is a must in Switzerland, these came as fancy dragons. But the guild's Häs figure is the Nüssler. Loaves of bread, not sure if real and how old and hard, are stuck onto his broomstick.

Narrenzunft Aulendorf



Aulendorf is famous for its witch guild, probably one of the largest. Their striking feature is the colourful headscarf, embroidered with witch symbols.


An even more striking feature, which leaves an impact on all spectators who are standing with the wind in their face, is the wheeled house they are taking along. I have no idea what it is that they are burning on that fireplace, but it spreads a LOT of stinking smoke. I was lucky this time to be on the right side...

Trommgesellenzunft Munderkingen

Mocking the military is part of carnival all over, also in the Rhineland version. In the lands of Alemannic Fastnacht many guilds, too, have military troops in colourful uniforms. Some of them have a cannon with them - and beware if they stop next to you, hold your ears and keep your mouth open until the BANG is over.


Otherwise, it's all about bread in Munderkingen. The masks carry baskets of bread on their heads, necklaces made from bread rolls, and so on. These are not real bread, though, they are fakes made from wood. And they have those funny witches with their oversized headcovers.


Narrenzunft Markdorf



The Hänsele is a typical figure of the Bodensee area. Its origins are in Überlingen, and the Markdorfer version cannot deny its close geographical vicinity.

The typical Hänsele mask is made from fabric, with a pointed nose. They carry Karbatschen, those whips which are basically long thick ropes with short handles. They are masters in whipcracking just like their older cousins in Überlingen. (Keep your distance...)

Cute-faced foreest spirits also come to life in Markdorf.


Narrenzunft Wolfach


Colourful with a wide variety of masks. Wolfach is probably the place with the largest number of parades, and in addition to that the Wolfachers are always out and about to visit neighbouring places.


Krakeelia Waldkirch



The blue and yellow Bajass is a classical jester figure based on the Italian commedia dell'arte. Friendly laughing fellows they are, and they come in all sizes.

But there are also the witches from Kandel, Waldkirch's house mountain, in their guild. Just like any other witch guild they are always prone to mischief.

Narrenzunft Haslach


The most popular figures in Haslach, that's certainly Ranzengarde, a troop of marching guards in wine barrels.

The name of the town bears a reference to hazelnuts, or can at least be interpreted as such.

The hazel bush is shown in the town's coat of arms, and during Fasnet they come to life.



Narrenzunft Gengenbach


More about Gengenbach in a previous blog entry

Karnöffelzunft Willisau, Switzerland



These fellows with the funny name were new to me. "Karnöffel" almost sounds like "Kartoffel" (potato), and the faces show a certain resemblance. There are wild figures in their guild, but also laughing townspeople. The most spectacular sight, though, is the group of walking trees. They are based on an old legend about the spirits in a nearby mountain ridge. And there is the terrible Stadttier, a ghost in the shape of a dog, who is led and guarded in chains by the night watchman. The local Guggemusik band uses his image as their logo.



Katzenzunft Messkirch



The cat guild of Messkirch is widely considered one of the most beautiful animal Häser in the Alemannic Fastnacht. They look certainly amazing. I am a bit reluctant towards the (real) cat furs that are part of the Häs, though. The guild states that all furs come from legal sources and that all these cats had died a natural death before their fur was taken. I am leaving it at that.

A much simpler and cheaper Häs, nevertheless impressive, is the Messkirch bat, created from a bedcloth, some ribbons and other household items.

Narrengericht Stockach


Stockach's jester council is the most famous feature. The Hänsele in typical Bodensee style, the ladies in traditional dress with the golden lace bonnets and some other figures are also essential parts of Stockach's Fasnet.

Narrenzunft Rottenburg


Rottenburger Ahlande, witches and Pompele

Kübelesmarkt Bad Cannstatt



Bad Cannstatt is now a suburb of Stuttgart but used to be an independent town. Its citizens proudly display some legends from their history, although these may lead to the conclusions that the old Canstatters were not the brightest candles on the Christmas tree, so to say.

Once on a foggy day the guards spotted approaching French troops in the fields and feared a siege of their town... but when the fog lifted, the 'soldiers' turned out to be the stumps of pollard willows, in local dialect called "Felbeköpf".

Another story, which explains the presence of the moon faces, tells of an alarm raised by the local fire brigade when they thought that their steeple was on fire, but the glow was in fact caused by reflected moonlight. The fire brigade is present in the parade, too.

Poppele-Zunft Singen


Pflumeschlucker Bonndorf


The "Plum Swallowers" of Bonndorf are referring to, just like the Cannstatter figures, a certain reputation concerning the villagers' lack of genius. Bonndorf is located high up in the Black Forest and has a rough climate where fruit would not grow. When the Bonndorfers were given the first plums ever, they tried to swallow them in whole, pit and stem and everything. This anecdote lead to the creation of a funny Häs with a plum stuck in the mask's mouth. The umbrella is an inevitable utensil in the mountain climate.

The jester council does not walk in the parades, they ride on a horse-drawn tree trunk equipped with saddles. I am not sure how comfortable this actually is, but one of them was sound asleep despite all the hassle and noise...



Narrenzunft Donaueschingen


A beautiful couple from Donaueschingen

Narrenzunft Haigerloch

The Butz is the typical figure in Haigerloch and other areas in Swabia.

Narrenzunft Schwenningen



Hölzlekönig is a solitary figure referring to the once tallest fir tree in Germany (they sai), which unfortunately had to be felled, only the still majestic stump remained.

In addition to that, Schwenningen has figures who cannot deny their close vicinity to neighbouring Villingen and its ancient traditions, and also the cute Moosmulle, a Häs for females only.

Narrenzunft Furtwangen


White Narros with painted Häs, typical for these eastern parts of the Black Forest.

Posted by Kathrin_E 02:05 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival baden-württemberg alemannic_fastnacht Comments (0)

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