Today was AMAZING! We decided to go into Luzern early because the sky was overcast and we figured it wouldn’t be a good view on top of Mt Pilatus. That was the best decision of the trip! (Thank you Donna!) We started our time in Luzern with a tour led by Bonnie, but that quickly dissolved after a brief history of the city was interrupted by an incredible carnival being held in the city. The costumes were so detailed and colorful – everything from ogres to princesses. There were several marching bands parading through the narrow city streets, floats with music blasting from their speakers, and people everywhere throwing confetti, cheering, eating and drinking. I have never experienced anything like it – I just walked through the streets with a goofy grin on my face.
Luzern’s carnival is centered on the figure of Fritschi, mentioned as early as 1443 and later subsumed into the legends surrounding a victory at the Battle of Ragaz on March 6, 1446. (March 6 was the day of Fridolin, patron saint of Glarus, and Fritschi is a diminutive of Fridolin.) Originally Fritschi was a life size straw doll carried through Luzern accompanied by Fritschene, his “wife”; these days a costumed couple take their place. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, the two were joined on parade by a nanny, a jester named Bajazzo and some musicians.
To this day, Fritschi begins Luzern’s carnival, at 5am on the morning of Dirty Thursday, when he and his entourage lean out of an upper window of the Rathaus on Kornmarkt as a cannon signals the start of festivities. From breakfast time onwards, bands of masked and costumed musicians, dancers and acrobats roam the Old Town streets, some performing Guggenmusig – comical oompah played on a handful of dented trombones and percussion – while others set up stages to give impromptu gigs to the promenading costumed crowds. The highlight of the day is the evening Fritschi parade, where Fritschi, Fritschene and the rest are paraded through the Old Town and around Löwenplatz, all the while flinging oranges out to carousing onlookers.
Every so often we ducked into shops and bought loads of Swiss chocolate, picked up our engraved Swiss Army knives, and confetti. We danced to the music, threw our own confetti, met with locals and ate great food from the vendors lining the streets. I think next year Lowell’s Winterfest needs to add some costumes into the mix!
After a long morning and afternoon in Luzern, we went to the Mt. Pilatus area. Some of us decided to go up to the top, and the view was absolutely worth it! It was a 45-minute ride each way that consisted of a gondola ride and a cable car. We watched the folks below us sledding down the mountain, the city disappearing as we rose higher and higher, and skiers deftly gliding down the slopes. At one point the clouds around the cable car were so thick you could only see the cables vanishing into the sky. However, the trip was well worth it – as we broke through the clouds, the most incredible view of the Swiss Alps rose before us. Though it was cold, we climbed the stairs to the top of Mt. Pilatus, and took in the breathtaking, 360-degree view of the most amazing mountains I have ever witnessed. They seemed endless! I hope one day Kendra and I can come back here and hike through the Swiss Alps.
We had another dinner of chicken tonight. Everyone was exhausted from the day’s events – most of the kids are already settled into their hotel rooms. Tomorrow we are off on a journey through Germany’s Black Forest. I am excited to say what the day brings!