Narrensprung in Rottweil Germany
Cradling mugs of ale and wearing goofy grins, the citizenry of Rottweil, Germany hoot like crazed owls. In the icy air, they form a spirited throng, weaving about, planting kisses, and crowing “Hu-hu-hu! Hu-hu-hu!” in a cartoon falsetto. I’m hoarse from all this hu-huing, but it’s better than my lousy German.
I’ve come for Narrensprung, or Fools Jump. Here at the edge of the Black Forest, the Swabian rituals of Carnival have changed little in hundreds of years – it’s a world apart from the spectacles of Cologne, or Basel.
Founded by the Romans in 73 A.D. as a military outpost and trading center, Rottweil’s heritage shows in its tidy prosperity, ruins of temples and baths, and famous export and namesake, the rottweiller. This sturdy canine descends from herding dogs bred by Roman cattle farmers. As the settlement evolved, so too did the role of rottweillers, becoming draft animals and butchers’shop companions.
“Ich bin ein rottweiller” is the bumpersticker of choice. Garlands in the official town colors, yellow and black, hang from windows and across doors, while rottweiller effigies, plastic and plush, guard doorways and stare from store windows.
Rooted in pagan practices and augmented by Catholic pre-Lenten fervor, winter must be expelled. After a formal declaration, the icy cobbled streets fill with celebrants to witness the last grand procession of “fools” in carved masks and kaleidoscopically colored costumes.
Each narren does his part: the bennerrössle prance astride hobbyhorses; the gschell , draped in clanking bells the size of bocce balls, provide rhythm and toss candy. The guller, a lone strutting rooster, is fertility.
Clutching a cup of steamy, sweet glüwein, I dodge revelers disguised as rabbits and frogs. Suddenly, a mess of stinky sweet horsehair is being dangled across my face. A federahannes, grunting lecherously, is dusting winter away with a long tufted pole. Just as suddenly, he’s vaulting above us all, balanced on that pole, feathered cape flying.