Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Fasnacht arriveth at my fasblog

Rüüdige Fasnacht 2005 ! ! !

Yes, that most excellent 600-year-old plus festival heralding the advent of Lent intertwined with the Celtic roots-rich tradition of bidding farewell to Winter and planning for the coming Spring. It all begins before dawn tomorrow with Tagwache (Day Watch) at 5am local Swiss time, on Schmotzige Donnschtig or SchmuDo (Dirty Thursday) as the offical kickoff to the week-long galamonztercorso of sheer madness commences in Old Town Luzern.

And I wish I could be there.

Fasnacht is one of the most colorful karneval festivals in the world, bar none. It is celebrated all over Switzerland, with slight regional and kantonal variations, as well as in Germany and Austria where it is called Fasching, which means last drink served before the fast. Hand-crafted grende (masks) allow the traditionally reserved and industrious Swiss to anonymously shuffle off their working coil and become whatever character they choose to create.

Fasnacht means literally, eve of the beginning of the fast. It is the Swiss variation on the German word, Fastnacht. The Swiss rather enjoy lopping off parts of German and French words, the "t" in this case, and/or adding things on in a historically long and successful effort to distill and instill their own unique culture. In the realm of spoken languages, the Swiss can understand nearly everything the Germans and Austrians say, yet neither of them can understand the linguistic Swiss variations. It's that different.

The Karneval season - the period between November 11 and Ash Wednesday - is known as the Fifth Season of the Year. It begins on the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 minutes past 11 o'clock in the morning. Strangely enough, I was born on that very date in the identical numerical time coordinates, but a mere twelve hours later at 11:11pm. It's no wonder I love it. By some quirk of Helvetian providence, I was born to it.

This evening, while I am playing tennis at the court club here in The Dalles, a cry of Rüüüüdige Faaaaaaasnacht will scatter swans across the Vierwaldstättersee at exactly the same time that phalanxes of brash crumplehorns, accompanied by a reverberating thunder of thump-tumping barrel drums, begin their rousing, brassy cacophony known as Guggenmusig.

Yes, at the risk of being further thought of as the transplanted So-Cal loon that I am, I will initiate a whoop-holler-siren-squonk of a drachenyelp that will be heard clearly in that lovely city nestled beneath the dragon-horned mountain, Pilatus, and perched serenely at the vortex of the lake of the four kantons.

In this way, I will be present in spirit at the raising of commencement glasses in Luzern, the very heart of Switzerland, as the throng of masked and artfully costumed Kult-Ur-Fasnächtler groups meet in the historic courtyard of Franziskanerplatz.

Over much early laughter, hot cider drinks and pre-dawn shots of blood-warming spirits, the excited participants prepare to join in the many non-stop scheduled and impromtu parades, apéros, music and dance events all over the city as well as the smaller nearby villages.

Costumed citizens and bustling tourists from the world over descend into the Old Town lining the narrow cobblestone strasses and gasses, medieval bridges to watch the variety of themed floats, sing along badly with the neverending Guggenmusigen, dance with kindred strangers, eat hot grilled cervelat (Swiss white sausage) served with fresh bread and chased by a superb Alpine Pilsner, indulge in deliciously sweet famous Swiss schoggi, enthusiastically partaking in the merry din that rings in the start of Fasnacht.

Here is the link to Radio Pilatus, which features two live-stream webcams that provide a small window to the zany happenings during Fasnacht. The Kapellplatz webcam generally captures the live music and throngs of revelers passing through. The other streams from the Rathaustreppe webcam, the grand stairway that usually holds one of the various güggenmusig bands seated and playing to the delight of passersby along the Unter der Egg. Not far from there is the old Weinmarkt where the all KUF groups line up their vehicles and floats between parades for picture taking and improvisational performances, cavorting and making cheer, cooking communal food and toasting the many joys of Swiss life.

I would love to see a plethora of webcams set-up to cover the whole festival, at every markt, platz, strasse and gasse, and along Schweizerhofquai from several angles where on Güdismantig (Good Monday) the grand parade begins in front of the Hotel Schweizerhof, passes along the big curve at Schwanenplatz onto the Seebrücke and crosses to the other side of the River Reuss. (Switzerland is 9 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, so whatever other timezone in America you might be in, do the math).

The best view used to be from a webcam near Schwanenplatz where the parade of themed güggenmusig bands could be seen as they passed beneath the camera along with all the vibrantly decorated floats, many adorned with irreverent visual messages addressing things political and cultural, things natural and imaginary, each superbly hand-crafted as only the Swiss can do.

I will post more images from my 2003 visit, as well as music and photo gallery links throughout the coming week. Please check back and enjoy this amazing kraftsmanesque karneval as it unfolds live via webcam and as I've experienced it firsthand. It should be fun.

Rüüdig Schöni Fasnacht ! ! !


Anonymous Anonymous parried...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?

August 01, 2010 12:37 PM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

Yes, it is. Copy & paste URL into wherever you wish to. Who are you?
Please leave an e-mail.

August 01, 2010 7:34 PM  

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