Sunday, February 22, 2009

Am Zibelemärit

November 2008:

Every year in Bern, there is a festival called Zibelemärit (Onion Market (EN DE)). Last November, I managed to drag the family out. The prior year, I had guests in from America (Hi mom!), and we spent the day in Fribourg, wandering around instead. Since this was likely the last opportunity for me to experience this unique festival in Bern, I had to take part in it. The warnings from everybody else who has been there before is usually "Get out by noon!" Of course, we did not follow this advice, instead; getting in just before noon.

This is a festival unlike anything else I have ever seen. Just about anybody who has a booth in Bern, sets up one along the streets; so street after street has store vendors selling their stuff; anywhere from the traditional kitsch trap of any touristy place, to food, to just about anything having to do something with onions. The city is quite crowded as the streets hold just about as many people as can get crammed in.

The Swiss, usually a rather "reserved" type of people, let loose on this day. They carry confetti, and throw it at passers-by in the street. The curlier the hair on the target, the better. The ammunition for the confetti assaults are sold by the bag-full by many street vendors on this day. Also popular with the kids, are plastic hammers that make an adorable squeak sound when you hit somebody on the head with them.

Me? I'm busy finding the Glühwein (Mulled Wine), a very thick, red, citrusey wine that is served undrinkably hot at first. As the cold November day wears on, the wine cools to a more drinkable temperature.

The kids all got armed with bags of confetti, and start throwing handfuls at the strangers in the street. This is OK, as the strangers in the street throw back their own bags of confetti in retaliation. By noon, the streets are covered in a thin paste of rained-on-smooshed-up yucky muddy confetti, that sticks to your feet.

Every once in a while, Joey would get a face-full of confetti thrown in under the rain shield on the jog stroller he was riding in, and would get very upset. He did not enjoy the day so much, as his view was not much more than lots of butts, and an occasional blast of confetti to the face. I don't think he enjoyed his day until the tram ride home.

At our lunch break, the rain came. The good news about the rain, is that it chased away a lot of the people on the street, giving me that window of opportunity to get food from the street vendors, without having to wait in a long line. I got a bowl of Rösti, which Stacy took a taste of, and immediately decided she needed a bowl of her own. Jake had a similar reaction, and actually ended up eating two bowls for himself.

We managed to escape the city center around 2 PM, where I understand a huge confetti fight takes place at 4PM with all the kids who have confetti left to throw. We were finding confetti in our pockets for weeks, and still, in February, find an occasional small unexpected bit of confetti.

Here's the slideshow of Onion Market day:

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