Ancient customs, terrifying masks and lots of fun in Switzerland, the Balearics, Lithuania, Slovenia, Lake Constance. And the Caribbean rhythms of the Dominican Republic
Let’s start from very close to Switzerland: you can easily reach it by car and even those with few days available can have fun. Perhaps motions will be amazed to see Switzerland count among the most crazy Carnival countries. But if you think of the Swiss as people laid and unwilling to let themselves go to jokes, you’re wrong, and just go to a Swiss town for Carnival to see all the colors! Beginning with that of Basel, which makes it possible for three days when the “normal” order of things is suspended. Its uniqueness and quality have made it become an intangible heritage of UNESCO humanity. The Frau Fasnacht, as it is affectionately called by the inhabitants of Basel, is a different carnival from the usual: it is a show that is based on unique instruments, creativity, exuberance and artistic expressions of the highest level. Political-social themes, stories and current affairs are transposed in a typically Basilian way, proving a pungent humor and a sharp tongue. During the drey scheenschte Daag, the three most beautiful days of the year, the city is in turmoil. The Carnival begins in total darkness, at 4.00 o’clock, on Monday after Ash Wednesday. The Morgestraich transforms the city center into a sea of hand-painted lanterns, where thousands of pipers and masked drum players accompany their respective lantern and carnival theme with their music. The celebrations end on Thursday, again at 4.00 o’clock, with the Endstraich. But in terms of Swiss extravagance, Solothurn is not joking: it hosts none other than the Hawaiian carnival in the capital of the Baroque (7 – 14 February 2018). In fact, in the most baroque city of Switzerland, the Carnival lasts a month and culminates with the week of parades preceding Lent. Solothurn to coincide with the feast of St. Hilary, January 13, changes its name to Honolulu. It seems, in fact, that is exactly the antipodes of Hawaii or at least they are convinced by its inhabitants for centuries. The party comes alive at 5 am on the fat Thursday (8 February) with the “Chesslete” – the noisy procession armed with torches and deafening instruments – and ends on the Wednesday evening of the ashes (February 14) with the fire of the straw puppet Boogg. But the palm of madness and fear perhaps has Tschaggatta, which boasts the palm of the most monstrous carnival (February 8 and 10, 2018) In fact, strange creatures are the protagonists of the upcoming holidays. Carnival characters typical of the Lotschental – valley 40 km from Brig – the Tschagatta are characterized by a harness made of Swiss pine masks, clothes of goat or sheep skin and a bell tied to the belt. From 3 February – the day after Candlemas – until midnight on Shrove Tuesday masks roam the streets of the villages chasing women and children and, after catching them, rub their snow-soaked gloves on their faces. These are just some of the carnival events: to find out more, visit www.myswitzerland.com.
We remain close to Italy with the ancient Alemannic carnival in the Lake Constance region, between Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein. In the Lake Constance region the Carnival (Fasnet, in the local dialect) is a particularly heartfelt tradition, populated with ancient figures and rural origin, which serves to drive away, with trumpets, bolts and drums, devils and long winter . The most early Carnival procession is that of St. Gall: at 6am on Fat Thursday, February 8th, in the dark part of Aaguggete, when masks invade the streets of the center with dances, confetti and the traditional Guggenmusik, with trumpets, drums and beats of hands. To get completely in the carnival tradition of alemanna it is worth going to Upper Swabia: here habits and customs related to the fifth season of the year. Bad Saulgau survives the mask of the “Dorausschreier” (“the screamer at the door”), of which the first written news dates back to 1355. When the plagues and consequent famines were raging, the Dorausschreier, covered by a cape not to be recognized , with a stick he extended a basket of bread and food to the windows of the plague victims. The Bad Saulgau Fat Thursday procession leaves at 6:30 pm from the market square, accompanied by torches, and ends with dances and dishes. Evocative and dark is the witches ‘dance held in Bad Waldsee at midnight between Wednesday and Fat Thursday around a large fire, above which demonic creatures sharpen their witches’ stick. Then come the Narren, or mad of the Carnival, to expel them, symbolizing a struggle between good and evil, and between the forces of winter and the looming spring. Among the most particular carnival traditions there is also the fashion show in Costanza by the Hemdglonker: a huge wooden doll with a nightdress and a cap worn around by singing and shouting on the evening of the fat Thursday by the students, true protagonists of the day, and also dressed at night – to symbolize the inclination to loiter. 10 February, Carnival Saturday in Uberlingen. With its beautiful squares, old buildings and elegant houses, Uberlingen is one of the most enchanting lakeside towns of Lake Constance. A topical moment to visit is certainly the Carnival Saturday when, in the silent darkness of the evening illuminated by dim lights, the Hansele, dark creatures, make their way by snapping the whips through the medieval Franziskanertor, between screams, music, jumps and acrobatics – terrorizing the spirit of winter, and sometimes not just his. The Hansele, with its colorful costume, is a figure that dates back to at least the late Middle Ages, and is understood as the personification of the devil. Only male citizens of Uberlingen can wear their costume. Around 1,500 disturbing Hansele participate in the Carnival Saturday procession. 11 February: Sunday of the party. Some of the most beautiful carnival masks on Lake Constance are those of Weingarten in Upper Swabia. To see them parade the best opportunity is the Carnival Sunday parade, which invades the streets of the town, gathered around its baroque church. Here too tradition has it that the Fasnet was born of the joy of those who overcame the bubonic plague of 1348. In Weingarten you can also visit a museum dedicated to the local carnival and its costumes (http://fasnetsmuseum.de/). Music, confetti and colors are the protagonists of the international carnival of Schaan, in Liechtenstein, which sees more than 50 groups coming from neighboring Switzerland, Germany and Austria for an afternoon of fun, games and Guggenmusik. To see one of the biggest carnival Sunday parades, return to Constance: masks, music and colors invade the streets of the largest city in the region, crossing its Altstadt. February 13th, Ash Wednesday: Farewell Carnival. Final show of the carnival on the Bodensee is, on the evening of Fat Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday (13 February 2018), the great bonfires with which a witch is burned, symbol of the excesses and past madness, accompanied by the laments of the jesters and of the other masks of the fifth season of the year. In Vorarlberg, however, the fires are lit on the first Sunday of Lent. When darkness falls, tall wooden poles to which a cloth doll is tied, full of gunpowder, catch fire and explode, giving a disquieting and majestic show and marking the end of carnival festivities (almost) everywhere. In fact, in the fishing village of Ermatingen, in the Thurgau region, Carnival is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent (this year on March 11, 2018). Tradition has it that in March 1415, during the Council of Constance, Pope John XXII found refuge here, and rewarded the inhabitants of the place with the concession to be able to celebrate “the last carnival in the world” when everyone elsewhere made penance. And so it is still today, with a large parade where the protagonist is a huge colorful lake fish made of papier-mâché, where children climb playfully in turn. For proposals and packages, see the page: http://www.bodensee.eu/prenotare/pacchetti. information: www.lagodicostanza.eu