I realise I haven’t updated the blog in quite some time. I never wrote anything about our experience at Basler Fasnacht, and lots of stuff has happened since then. Instead of trying to catch up on everything, I’m going to just going to jump into the here and now; starting with yesterday…
Every year on the 3rd Monday of April, the city of Zürich celebrates its very own Spring holiday called “Sächsilüüte” (or in Standard German: Sechseläuten”). The name literally translates to the six o’clock ringing of the bells. In earlier times there were strict city ordinances that meant the working day was regulated to end at the tolling of the six o’clock bells – but only in summer. The festival was therefore a celebration of the warmer seasons and the free-time that comes with them. For a more in-depth understanding of the festival, I really suggest you check out the Wikipedia page – it’s worth the read!
This year was especially important to us, because the guest Kanton (who is allowed to present itself alongside the city’s guilds) was our very own Glarnerland. As the old marketing phrase goes – “Glarnerland macht schön” (The Glarnerland makes you beautiful) – and so it did! The weather yesterday was an absolute stunner – a real spring day.
Most of the shops were closed by the time we got there around 2pm, but the cafes and bars were bursting at the seams. The main streets: Bahnhofstrasse, Limmatquai, Uraniastrasse etc, were all closed so the procession could start at 3pm sharp. Guilds made their way down to Sechseläutenplatz by Bellevue with their horses in preparation for the main event: the burning of the Böögg at 6 o’clock. We met with some friends and locals before heading down to the festivities. The great thing about these kinds of traditional festivals is that you see all sorts of people along the way. Despite its somewhat elitist rules and origins, the celebration really is a “Folksfest”.
When we got down to Bellevue, we gave up trying to push through the dense crowd. Instead, we perched ourselves on the windowsill of a shop in an alleyway with a view of the Böögg. To explain, the Böögg (literally: Boogeyman) is a giant snowman-like figure that is packed with fireworks and burnt on a massive pyre. The faster the head of the Böögg explodes, the better the summer will be. We watched as the pyre burst into flames at exactly 6pm. Guildsmen on horses galloped around the pyre, creating a kind of vortex which pushed the flames up towards to Böögg. At only seven minutes past the hour, the Böög’s legs had already caught alight. At nine past, the fireworks in the body began to explode and the excitement in the crown was palpable. It took only nine minutes and 57 seconds for the Böög’s head to burst.
Crowds across the city were elated with the Böögg’s news of a hot summer. We joined others on the walk back through the alleyways to get burgers and drinks. Unlike Basler Fasnacht, Sächsilüüte only lasts one day and lots of families were keen to head back home to rest. On our return journey there was construction on the local rail-line. Luckily there was a replacement bus with plenty a drunk Glarner praising themselves for our contribution to the successful celebrations in Zürich, and kindly wishing us a good night as we hopped off at Netstal station.