Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bern and Fasnacht

We spent about six hours on the train from Montpellier to Bern on Thursday evening, arriving at Bumpliz Nord (the station near Helen's house in west Bern) about 11:45 p.m. There was Sabine waiting for us at the station. Bill and I had successfully navigated three trains in three stations with one big suitcase and one small one each. The Geneva connection was about 30 minutes, so no problem; but the one in Bern to the local train was only four minutes. We were lucky and very pleased to see Sabine. Bill drove "home," and we were in bed by midnight. Thomas was out with the band, but Helen was under the weather with the beginnings of a bad cold. She has since made a rapid recovery.

After a Swiss late breakfast, Bill and I went by tram into Bern and visited the new Bear Park where the new baby bears have just come out of hibernation. They were playing on the bank of their canal while their mother snoozed in the warm sunshine. They have been re-named Berna and Ursina because upon closer examination by the vet, it was found they are both females. The new park is built along the banks of the Are River that runs through the city.

The beginnings of Fasnacht were apparent on the streets in the afternoon as vendors assembled stalls and people began to appear in costumes. Any kind of costume is encouraged. It is not like Carnivale in Venice where everyone wears masks and formal clothes. There were some really innovative costumes, some homemade and others purchased at great cost. Friday afternoon is most popular for children, and there were lots of them on the streets with parents. Everyone was throwing confetti and having a wonderful time.

Friday evening we went back into Bern with Helen and Sabine. Thomas had gone ahead. They have gorgeous costumes made by a well-know costume maker. We joined the band at the Ratskeller Restaurant for dinner. We couldn't understand a word of the comedy and the satirical routines, but it was a festive and friendly event. What a treat to be with such good friends and talented musicians. Everyone was warm and welcoming. Then, to the streets and the crazy costumes, incredible bands on every corner, food and drink vendors lining the streets, and people of every age enjoying the biggest outdoor party I've ever seen.

Here's Sabine in her costume. She began to come out of some of it as the restaurant warmed up. Part of Helen and Thomas's band are playing a welcome as we arrive at the restaurant.

We go back downtown for the big parade this afternoon and then more party tonight. I'll take lots more pictures and try for a video or two.

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