After last year’s lackluster parade in Zurich, I was beginning to think the Swiss just didn’t know how to do carnival. I mean, a correct carnival celebration does involve a certain amount of coming out of oneself, public silliness, and, (gasp!) messiness. Oh yes, I’ve heard about how in Basel there is ‘craziness’ in the form of costumed people telling jokes in local dialect in restaurants starting at 4 AM, but somehow that doesn’t exactly scream ‘good party’ to me (although if anyone wants to volunteer to interpret said Swiss German jokes for me one year, I’m there). Shouldn’t celebrations last until 4 AM, not start then?
Luckily the Swiss redeemed themselves this weekend in Bellinzona, the home of a five-day carnival celebration called Rabadan. The parade was a million times better than Zurich’s, with floats dedicated to all kinds of important themes, including (but not limited to) the Swiss Post, Pluto (the cartoon dog, not the former planet), Playboy, CSI, Scooby Doo, and EPO (a form of doping for cyclists, which I had never heard of before – see, it was educational, too!).
The celebrations include parades, confetti, marching bands, costumes, fried foods, drinking, silly-string, and more parades. Sunday’s parade went from 1:30 until around 4:30, after which the various floats and marching bands dispersed to various points around the old town, where they hosted dance parties or gave spontaneous concerts. The streets were covered in confetti, and the mood was light and fun. The woman behind the desk of one of the museums we went to lamented that carnevale made everyone crazy, but we didn’t find it to be such a bad thing. After all, it was only crazy by Swiss standards.
OK, so the costumes weren’t quite as beautiful or elegant as those at carnevale in Venice, but it also wasn’t as painfully crowded as Venice is during this time of year. Plus, Bellizona is a comfortable 2.5-hour train ride from Zurich. I highly recommend Rabadan to anyone who needs a dose of real carnival fun (and don’t worry, you can even be back in time for Zurich’s Fasnacht, which isn’t until the weekend after Fat Tuesday).
More about our weekend in Ticino coming soon…