The Faces of Fasnacht
After waxing poetic about the beauty of Switzerland’s gray skies, which dominate throughout the entire winter, what was this? Just yesterday, there was a perfectly blue sky, not a cloud in sight, not nearly freezing temperatures and the streets of Zürich overflowing with people, reminiscent of the summer’s wild Street Parade. You’d think I put my summer album in Photoshop and simply added a few jackets here and there, and whitened the mountains in the distance a bit. Restaurants with tables outside filled, people sitting in the sun reading, families picnicking, friends playing catch with a frisbee or kicking around a soccer ball. Runners like myself taking advantage as well, no need for extra layers, hat or gloves – just a bandana to wipe the sweat from my brow.
And what perfect timing for that beautiful weather. Perhaps a thank you is in order – to the Mardi Gras gods of course! It’s Carnival here in Switzerland, Fasnacht as they call it. And I know, I know, Zürich is not quite the most happening spot for Carnival. Better off partying the nights away in Lucerne or admiring the customs and traditional music in Basel. That will be Fasnacht 2010 for me. And I will be there, at 4am in Basel when it all begins… next year. This year, I stayed loyal to my new hometown. Carnival in Zürich it was. And while it may not live up to Rio di Janeiro or New Orleans, or even its fellow Swiss cities, there was still fun to be had, lots of loud music to enjoy, colorful costumes of all sorts to gaze at and as always, tasty delights to devour.
The gray skies came back for today’s parade, but I don’t think anyone noticed. They were all too busy admiring each other’s creative outfits, fun makeup and props. Each group that marched through the old town had a specific theme and costume to go with. Crowds lined the street to watch, many dressed up themselves, the theme there being “anything goes.” Put a puppet on your head, and you’re ready for Fasnacht!
Children took part as well, some dressed up like the adults, marching along in the parade. Others watched, dressed up as clowns, various animals or simply wearing funny wigs. No matter the outfit, they were all armed with confetti! Just like Bern’s Onion Festival, kids had their hands at all times in huge bags of colorful confetti. They threw it on the groups marching by in the parade, on their parents and friends and on just about everyone that came within a 10 foot radius!
And oh the food! Any festival or event in Zürich is a good excuse to fill the streets with yet more wurst stands, tables piled high with candied nuts and cakes, raclette stands and large vats of Glühwein. Just make sure to get your fill on Fasnachtchüechli, rounds of dough flattened and deep fried, then covered in powdered sugar. A Carnival specialty not to be missed,… nor properly pronounced!