Stumbling upon a Party

Saturday, March 12, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

3 MONTHS IN EUROPE, Days 10-12:  
Luxembourg to Zurich, Switzerland. 

On Thursday (day 10), we left Luxembourg and traveled by train through northern France to Switzerland, stopping overnight in the Swiss capital of Bern.  Friday morning we hopped a train to Interlaken where we transferred to the famed GoldenPass rail journey through the Swiss Alps.  Because of all the overblown hype we had read about this "exquisitely beautiful" scenic route (we're talking about you, Rick Steves), we found it to be a bit underwhelming though nice enough.  (Scene near Interlaken pictured above)
From Lucerne, the end of the GoldenPass route, we took another train to Zurich, the only Swiss city we had previously visited (in the early 1980s).  On Saturday morning, we found Zurich's only two letterboxes on a fitness trail in nearby Regensdorf and then headed for the main part of the city to search for a place to plant a box we brought to plant in the city.  As we walked toward city hall, we were lured up into the historic quarter by the sound of a band playing.  Ambling up the hill, we noticed that the cobblestone streets were littered with confetti and realized that something special was going on.

When we reached the small square where the band was playing, it was filled with people jostling for a better position for their cameras-- or their children-- to get a better look at the band.  By the time we were finally able to wrangle an opening, we understood why.  Though their music was spirited and lively to the ear, to fully appreciate this musical group, you needed to see them.  
A Zurich gugge band

We had stumbled upon Zuricarneval, Zurich's version of the Fastnacht.  Though pre-Lenten carnivals are often celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, as Mardi Gras and Rio's legendary Carneval are, Zurich's version occurs on the following weekend.
Gugge just want to have fun.

One of the key elements in this party on the prowl is the music, performed by groups called Gugge. Guggenmusik, a Swiss and German tradition, refers to a performance by a band that plays music while dressed in carnival costumes.  Though their costumes are frivilous, these are talented musicians, and their music has a professional sound.  Their goal is to have fun while making a spontaneous kind of music, which encourages people to dance and enjoy themselves.
Blue gugge waits to perform
Each of the groups has its own style of music, from brass bands to Caribbean steel drum groups. And each has a unique style of dress.  Though some groups that we saw had quite similar costumes, in most cases the individual performers displayed their own festive and sometimes bizaare interpretation of the theme.  The most interesting groups were very individualized while still being very coherent, like the blue group pictured here.  Fortunately, you don't have to go to Zuricarneval to experience this fun music genre.  You can always check out a Guggenmusik group on YouTube.

After wandering around the old town, following the parading musicians and the crowds, we found ourselves in Lindenhof, a hilltop gathering place since Roman times.  Today it is a popular place for recreation.  On this Saturday afternoon, we watched a gentlemen's game of chess.
Check, mate?
Friends, young and old, enjoyed games of petanque, whose objective is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball.  No doubt, it's much more difficult than it appears.  In fact, fans of the sport would like to see it become an Olympics event.
Petanque traces its origins to ancient Greece.
Lindenhof was a quiet place to escape the excitement of the carnival.  Later we discovered that we had ambled more than six miles today.  A fun day, but we were not tempted to stay for the carnival parade tomorrow; it's on to Venice.


The village of Giswil, as seen from the train
Swiss village of Leissigen, founded in 1285
Limnat River in Zurich