03 July, 2012

Fasnet in Rottenburg am Neckar and Rottweil

Earlier this year I went to two very different Fasnet parades in nearby towns. Fasnet is the equivalent of Carnival in Southern Germany. It is celebrated the week before the beginning of Lent and, as I learned during my visits to Rottenburg am Neckar and Rottweil, it can be celebrated in very different ways.

I'm no expert on Fasnet parades. For details, you'll have to do research on your own. According to the Wikipedia article on Fasnet, it is a symbol of driving the evil spirits of winter out of the town. These spirits can take many different forms. In Rottenburg a. N., there are scary-looking witches that dump straw on you or vice-versa (yes, they also dumped people in buckets of straw).

Witches in Rothenburg am Neckar

But, there are also nice wood fairies (Narren) that gave kids candy. And occasionally there was a band playing "Guggenmusik." The Fasnet parade in Rottenburg had a much different feel than any parades I had been to in the US. There was significantly more interaction between the paraders and the spectators, the straw being one example. At first, I thought of it as rude that a complete stranger dressed up as a witch would dump straw on my head, but after a while I realized that it was all quite friendly.

In Rottenburg, the parade is open to Vereine (clubs) from different towns. A Verein might be a pack of witches or a troupe of fairies or a marching band. Each one has their own signature costume. Membership to a Verein of this type is gained by invitation only. The fairy troupes also have sets of bells that they wear over their shoulders. Here's a picture of one such fairy troupe:


The atmosphere at the Fasnet parade in Rottweil was completely different. First of all, it was not open to clubs from different towns, so the variety of fairy characters was limited. There is a list with pictures and German descriptions of the seven types of costumes here on the Rottweil City website. Each Narr had its own personality and interacted with the crowd accordingly. For example, the Federahannes carried long wooden poles with cow tails attached to one end with which they caressed bystanders' cheeks. It was quite bizarre to be approached by such a gruesome visage only to be gently petted on the cheek.


Other notable characters of the Rottweiler Fasnet were the Rössle (horse) and drivers. There were nine sets of horse and drivers throughout the parade. Each "horse" having two drivers who used very loud bull whips in order to keep him in line. Here's a picture of one of the trios:

Horse and Drivers

...but a video would be much better in this case:

In the above video, you can also see one of the marching bands that was at the parade in Rottweil. There were maybe four different bands present and they all alternated playing the same song. I didn't get a chance to ask a local what the song was, but I'm guessing it's some sort of town anthem. You also may notice in the video, that they are brandishing those whips right under the spectators' noses; another thing that would probably be avoided in the USA. But these guys knew how to handle their whips and I didn't see a single stroke fall astray.

Rottweil is a charming town in its own regard with wide streets and close-packed, half-timber buildings. A beautiful backdrop for a unique cultural experience.


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