It was just as well we’d received warning that a canon would be blasting at 5am in downtown Lucerne last Thursday because I suspect Tim would have recanted his staunchly atheist state, thinking that the apocalypse was nigh. Hearing a canon and its reverberations across the lake and mountains was only the start – Dirty Thursday had begun.
Fasnacht is, basically, an epic party over the five day lead up to lent. The Old Town is filled with revellers warding off winter and cutting loose before Ash Wednesday. And I mean cutting loose. I’m not sure if they were all on acid, or simply European, but hoo boy – Fasnacht is nuts.
The party starts at 5am. Tim’s folks who are currently staying with us made their way down and came back, pumped with adrenalin (and acid?) at what they’d seen. Grotesquely gaudy masked brass bands – scores of them – wound the tiny streets, playing music while costumed hoards followed, dancing and casting confetti.
As we had built in babysitters, Tim and I made our way in to check it out that night, as the party warmed up again. We strolled through confetti littered street and got to town at about nine, to find Lucerne buzzing. People lined the streets – drinking, dancing, laughing – all consumed. Bands both small and large were dotted throughout the city. Some were perched in makeshift grandstands (the dudes below were pumping out ‘Come on Eileen’ on our arrival) and others snaked around the Old Town’s laneways. All wore some variation of the Fasnacht mask – oversized and grotesque. There was a definite gothic feel to the city. Every turn revealed a new sound or sight. At one stage, we turned a corner and heard a requiem being pumped out while I’m pretty sure the original Mozart stood, playing to a king and queen, atop a podium. I reiterate: trippy. As we wandered the streets (trying to find a beverage. Not having done our research we didn’t realise that the unfamiliar drinks being advertised were actually a Fasnacht special – local plum liquor, a bit of coffee, topped up with hot water. In hindsight, it could explain a few things) we saw aliens, angels, arabs, steampunk-themed people, prisoners, renaissance-styled people and more animal onesies than I’d hoped to see in this lifetime. And a super creepy Parisian (sorry, happy reveller, whoever you are). The party couple below thought Tim was an official photographer and demanded their snap was taken in numerous poses. After passing the ghostbuster car and some psychedelic mushrooms we really, really needed a drink ourselves, so retired to a nearby bar and let Dirty Thursday do its thing.
The party continued into the very early hours (happy, tuneless, party peeps woke us up heading home throughout the night)(in an aside, I’ve always liked lying in a toasty warm bed and hearing merry people making their way places) but on the following day – Switzerland being Switzerland – there was barely any evidence it had occurred at all. The weekend quietened down (although there were still animal onesies everywhere), but Fasnacht will return for Fat Monday and Tuesday today. The two days apparently merge into one long, even more epic, party. My punt is Lucerners will be happy to see the arrival of chaste lent, which I guess is entirely the point.