14 March 2015

The Red Nose Is Real

She didn’t believe I was “real”, whatever that meant. So I challenged her, also to prove to myself that I do exist: I’d give her five minutes of my time on the bridge next to the central railway station – and then I’d start my Sunday walk. She didn’t turn up – so much for the challenge. Maybe I was too ugly looking for her to dare approaching me. Had I forgotten to take away my mask)? Or maybe she didn’t exist. But my attention had simultaneously been attracted by the people swarming towards the lake. I set forth and followed them, only to be soon reminded of a tradition that is well alive every winter in villages and towns across Alemannic Switzerland: the carnival (or “Fasnacht”).

Sebastian with a (red) nose

I had a bit forgotten about it, because of my frequent travels, also because I don’t always get out on weekends (when would I have the time to write and read and process photos otherwise?!). Yet it’s a fond memory of those first few years after I moved to Switzerland, discovering this tranquil country and its peculiarities, sometimes contradictory, which gradually made me attached to this adopted homeland (but where really is home?). Carnivals abound, celebrating the time before the start of religious fasting or alternatively welcoming the springtime, shooing evil ghosts and dark spirits away.

Monster at the carnival in Zürich
Still orange but not a monster at the carnival in Zürich
Cats at the carnival in Zürich
Musician at the carnival in Zürich

Just a year ago, I had attended the slightly disappointing Saint Patrick’s Day in San Francisco. But the carnivals in Switzerland are truly joyful and musical moments, completely involving locals, hot drinks distributed and sweets thrown from the parade chariots, both free of charge which must be pretty much the only free things in Switzerland together with the air one breathes and the city bikes during the summer season. And unlike Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade (bizarrely having nothing to do with Shrove Tuesday, especially considering it’s a gay and lesbian festival – maybe it’s because French sounds better?!), there’s enough space along the streets to get up close… the only thing is that you would probably not want to get up too close, for fear of being grabbed by some monster or tricked by some other jester.

Witches(?) at the carnival in Zürich
A child, a.k.a. another monster, at the carnival in Zürich
Not sure I want to have lunch with that dude
A musician at the carnival in Zürich
A musician at the carnival in Zürich

For some reason, Zürich’s parade always includes a delegation of Peruvian and Bolivian dancers which is certainly a surprising and contrasting scene. I can however assure you that the costumes and dance steps were completely faithful to Latin American tradition, for having witnessed one of those very festivals in Cusco. It suddenly makes me want to travel back there, on a motorcycle à la Ernesto Guevara... let me finalise that resignation letter.

Latin American dancer in Zürich
Latin American dancer in Zürich
Latin American dancer in Zürich

I didn’t get harpooned by a monster or thrown into a rolling bathtub full of confetti, thanks to my photo-taking strategy of hiding behind innocent children. I did grab one of those red noses though which now allow me to “trick or treat” single women at their homes. Oh wait, that sounds creepy. Okay, let’s just say next time you see a man with a camera and a red nose, that guy is “real” – his lame sense of humour too.

Latin American dancer in Zürich