World through my eyes
When winter slowly departs, carnival revelers live it up in the Upper Rhine Valley. This is when witches, devils, and other bizarre characters celebrate the fifth season. With bells, jingles, and elaborate costumes, they parade through the lanes on Shrove Tuesday to drive away the spirits of winter.
In contrast to the Rhenish carnival, the Swabian-Alemannic custom reminds people of the local sagas and stories. The guilds follow strict rules here. Whether at the Morgenstraich procession, on Shrove Tuesday (Fastnacht, also called Schmotzigen Dunschdig), or on Ash Wednesday: The cities and towns are in an exceptional state for almost a week. Colorful parades attract a costumed audience that hopes for bonbons and sweets, which the carnival revelers throw into the crowd. Wearing disguises as they approach the viewers, their hand-carved masks are regional works of art.
The master clockmakers, who produce the famous cuckoo clocks, are also skillful. They follow an organ-building tradition that is more than 350 years old and makes music boxes around the entire globe possible. The residents of the Upper Rhine Valley are well-known for the best clockmaker handwork and present the history of the clock at 39 stations along the Clockmaker Street (Uhrmacherstrasse).
Many different dialects characterize the region in the tri-border area of Germany, France, and Switzerland. The Baden dialect (Badisch), Alsatian, Swiss German, and Alemannic meet here. The local peculiarities are celebrated in traditional costumes, and typical dances and specialties complete the revels at traditional events.
With the rush on the city hall on Dirty Tuesday (Schmutzigen Duunschtig), the hot phase of carnival (Fastnacht) is heralded in Freiburg. The city has celebrated the fifth season for centuries, and it was mentioned in a document for the first time in 1283. During the five-day street festival, the historic town center is transformed into a colorful sea of celebrating people. The highlight is the carnival procession on Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag), one of the biggest in all of Southern Germany. This is where the old and new fool’s guilds (Narrenzünfte) present their handmade costumes, which are called Häs.
The fool’s motley is traditionally taken out of the closet and dusted off on Three Kings Day (January 6). Which is what differentiates the Alemannic Fasnet carnival from the Rhenish carnival, which is already rung in by the campaign on November 11. They also have different origins: While the carnival culture from the Rhenish region is a satire on the French military, the Fasnet in the Upper Rhine Valley is based on ancient peasant and lower middle class customs that are intended to drive away the winter.
This can be observed especially well in Rottweil when a number of witches, devils, and other people in masks jump through the Black Gate to the city (Schwarze Stadttor) with resounding noise during the Fool’s Leap (Narrensprung) on Shrove Monday. They parade through the streets with bellows and whips and some of the onlookers land in the cages that many witches pull behind them – and are sent back to the ranks of the spectators with bonbons and other sweets after a while.