A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about carnival

Introduction to the Alemannic Version of Carnival

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This blog focuses on the "Alemannic Fastnacht", the version of carnival taking place in the Southwest of Germany, i. e. the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Roughly speaking, we are in the Black Forest and ist surroundings, Swabia and on the shores of lake of Constance. It is called „Alemannic“ with reference to the historical Germanic tribe of the Alemannen who settled in this area after the fall of the ancient Romans. That was long ago but when regional culture, dialect etc. is concerned this term is still in use, be it historically correct or not.

This blog is intended to give you an impression of what is going on during the High Days (and already during the previous weeks) when whole towns and villages all of a sudden seem to go crazy for a strictly limited period of time. I am also trying to explain what is behind those traditions (and clean up some common errors and misinterpretations). Ever since I moved to this part of the country I have been fascinated by these unique traditions which are unknown in my home in the North. There is so much cultural background behind them, and the masks and costumes are so elaborate and amazing.

So we will start with some basics, later on I will present individual locations and their particularities. Thus it makes sense to read the blog in consecutive order. The first 10 or so chapters contain background information and are helpful to understand what the festivals are about. There are so many different traditions and local particularities in Baden-Württemberg's Fastnacht that one life won't be enough to see them all.
And make sure you read the "Survival Tips for Newbies";-)

Enjoy an encounter with strange figures, scary devils and witches, funny fantastic creatures, colourful beauties that come to life for a few short days every year in late winter.

'S goht dogege!

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Posted by Kathrin_E 16:48 Archived in Germany Tagged local carnival traditions baden-württemberg Comments (2)

Wolfach: A Lovestory from the Black Forest

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

Arrrggghhh.
Poor Hilda.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

Konstanz: The Cutest Jester Policeman

... and Lots of Mischief

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!“

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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.

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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...

PHOTO GALLERY OF THE PARADE

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Posted by Kathrin_E 01:03 Archived in Germany Tagged carnival konstanz baden-württemberg fastnacht Comments (0)

Weil am Rhein: Burefasnet One Week Later Than Everyone Else

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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...

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Hex a Traffic Sign

A story from Weil

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- 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…

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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.

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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

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"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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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"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.)

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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.

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

Karlsruhe: Big City Woes

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alemannic groups marching in the parade

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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.

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Tribute to Daxlanden

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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:

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

Bühl: Clean Your Candle

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Bühler Lichtputzer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...)

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Allda Esel from Kappelwindeck – funny donkeys.

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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.

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

PICTURE GALLERY:
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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 90th…

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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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:

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

Liestal: Welcome to the Front Yard of Hell

Or: How (not) to Burn Down Your Town

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Since we are in Switzerland already, here is another… Liestal is a pretty, innocent-looking little town in the surroundings of Basel, capital of semi-kanton Basel-Land. Like almost everywhere in Switzerland, the old town has survived the centuries unharmed and preserved its historical charms. A peaceful place, it seems.
However, this is just the facade. Once per year the citizens of Liestal show a different side of their faces and turn their town into the Front Yard of Hell.

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Model of a Chienbäse

The carnival is what Liestal is most famous for. They have their parade with masks and colourful costumes and confetti yadda yadda in the afternoon, but after nightfall the real thing starts. The main event of their carnival, called Chienbäse, is a fire parade. "Broomsticks" of burning wood are carried and iron wagons loaded with blazing piles of logs are pulled through the narrow main street of the old town. Scary, and quite something to watch!!!!

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Sunday Afternoon Parade

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The parade on Sunday afternoon, i.e. Sunday after Ash Wednesday, is a colourful event with many masked groups, some wagons, lanterns and Sujets, Guggemusik bands, drums and flutes. Bags full of Räppli (confetti) and goodies, flowers, oranges are thrown to the spectators - in other words, it is a smaller version of the Cortège parades in Basel, in similar style and with similar masks and outfits. Visiting with children is no problem at all, there are no safety issues (except getting lost in the crowd or being hit by a flying orange). It starts around 2 p.m. and will take a couple of hours to pass through the streets of the town. In bright sunshine everything appears pretty and harmless, but this event is just the prelude for the main one, the "Chienbäse" fire parade after dark. The cliques with the big lanterns will make another appearance in the evening.

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Chienbäseumzug

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The main event in Liestal's Fasnacht is the fire parade, named Chienbäseumzug after the Chienbäse, the burning brooms made from pine logs that are carried through the old town. It takes place on Sunday after Ash Wednesday in the evening, in other words: the night before Morgestraich in Basel. If you don't mind getting little sleep you can easily combine both events.
The cliques with the illuminated big lanterns march at the beginning of the night parade. However, they play a secondary role, unlike in Basel, because everyone is waiting for the fires to come. From afar you can already spot the shine reflected on the facades and in the windows of the houses and tension is rising.

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The parade involves around 300 Chienbäse and some 20 iron fire wagons and baskets. It is really something, an archaic spectacle (although it is just 110 years old), scary and impressive at the same time.
The burning brooms are carried on one shoulder. Each of them weighs between 25 and 100 kilograms. A look into the faces of the carriers shows how hard it is to carry them. They wear helmets and protective jackets, but they are nevertheless glad to have some water poured over them by the firemen at every stop. You'd think this is the kind of dare that young guys do, but there are people of all ages participating, men and women.
The most spectacular element of the parade, however, are the fire wagons. There are more than 20 iron wagons loaded with piles of pinewood logs that are set ablaze. They are pulled by 10-16 people and their flames go as high as the roofs of the houses. They cause an immense heat, and when they stop the spectators have to duck and cover up.

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The parade enters the old town through the gate underneath the Törli, the medieval gate tower. In between the groups, the fire brigade gives the interior of the passage a thorough shower with three or four hoses to keep the wooden parts wet and prevent any smouldering. One wagon will stop after passing the Törli, be pushed backwards through the gate tower and pulled back in. These are the Törli-Waggis, the one and only group that have the privilege to pass the gate three times instead of only once.

When: Sunday after Ash Wednesday, the evening before the Morgestraich in Basel. Start is at 19.15 - be there in time. Thanks to the date and the frequent train connections it can easily be combined with a visit to Morgestraich in Basel if you don't mind getting little or no sleep that night.
Where: Start and lighting of the brooms and wagons is at the upper end of Burgstraße. The route goes along Burgstraße through the Törli (gate tower), along Rathausstraße, the main street of the old town, then up Rebgasse and Gerbergasse to Gestadeckplatz. See the map on the website of the Chienbäse-Verein.

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So far they have not managed to burn down their town, LOL - in fact, Liestal is the fire-safest place in the whole area that night while the rest of the semi-canton would be in deep trouble if a fire broke out elsewhere. All fire brigades from near and far are on duty in Liestal. Every 50 metres there is at least one fireman with the hose ready. They know what they are doing.
I spoke to a lady who works for the municipality and used to be in charge of security. She said they are sure that fire protection works. If anything or anyone started smouldering the fire would be put out within seconds. There is only one apparent danger that they really fear: an outbreak of panic among the spectators. I do not want to imagine the mess that a panic would cause.

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Our safe viewpoint

The spectators ought to know what they are doing, too. Ask yourself honestly whether you have the nerves or not to withstand being so close to the flames, among heat and smoke and flying sparks, squeezed into dense crowds in a rather narrow street with a solid house in your back and nowhere to run. If your answer is yes - welcome to the adventure.
If you have the slightest doubt, do not enter the old town but watch the parade at the beginning or the end where there is more room.
Please read the safety rules. Watching in Rathausstraße is not for the faint-hearted. You would not get me in there even if you offered me a million Swiss Francs - no way. Thanks to local friends who organized our visit we were able to watch from a room on the third floor of a house, but even behind closed windows we felt the heat of the fires.

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Photo taken from TV transmission

Important Safety Rules

These safety rules are published on the web in German and French. I am translating them into English here, as these are really important to know. Please take them seriously.

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Are you ready for this?
Photo taken from TV transmission

- Keep enough distance from the fire wagons and the broom carriers.
- Keep a strict eye on children. Especially with children it is recommended not to watch the parade inside the old town but at the end of the route (Rebgasse, Gerbergasse) where there are fewer crowds and more space.
- Children under 6 may watch the parade only from a distance outside the parade route.
- Children under 12 must be accompanied by a parent.
- Children do not belong on the shoulders of adults. The heat is much worse up there.
- Firecrackers are strictly banned.
- People with health problems or walking difficulties are urgently advised to stay away from the parade route. (Ditto for claustrophobia and fear of fire.)

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Are you ready for this?
Photo taken from TV transmission

- Stay on the sidewalks, do not cross the street during the parade (because the ground is full of embers).
- Taking photos in the street is dangerous because it is hard to estimate distances through the lens or display of a camera (and your attention is focused in one direction and you don't see what is going on behind you).
- Make sure you know where to find an escape route in emergency. (Tricky one, because there are very few side lanes and the crowds block everything).
- Attention, flying sparks and embers. No liability for damage. (Wear suitable clothes, natural materials not plastic, an old leather jacket is best. Cover your head and hair.)
Source: http://www.fasnacht-liestal.ch (translation and comments in brackets by yours truly)

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Posted by Kathrin_E 00:54 Archived in Switzerland Tagged festival carnival switzerland liestal chienbäse Comments (1)

Karlsruhe-Durlach 2018

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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The parade also included two or three good Guggemusik bands.

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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.

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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)

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