Stumbling upon a Party

Saturday, March 12, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

After locating Zurich's only two letterboxes on a fitness trail in nearby Regensdorf this morning, we headed for the main part of the city to search for a place to plant a box we brought to leave here.  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.
Guggenmusik performers
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.
Guggenmusik performers parading
One of the key elements in this party on the prowl is the music, performed by groups called Guggenmusik. Guggenmusik, a Swiss and German tradition, refers to a band that plays music while dressed in carnival costumes.  Though their costumes are frivilous and fun, these are talented musicians, and their music has a professional sound.
Blue Guggenmusik group 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 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 above.

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.
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.
Lindenhof was a quiet place to escape the excitement and noise of the carnival.  Once we finally returned to our hotel, we discovered that we had ambled more than six miles today.  Our feet were not excited at the prospect of staying for the carnival parade tomorrow, so it's on to Venice.

If you didn't make it to Zuricarneval, check out one of their Guggenmusik groups for yourself.