Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Escalade Geneve 2009 (Briefing)

Here I am in Hungary, full of holiday spirit -- and my aunt's wonderful creations (think cheese rolls and pumpkin pie, bejgli and mákos guba). So in keeping with the above mentioned spirit and also because for the first time in days I have a couple of quiet minutes, I'll write a short review, as promised a long long time ago.

In short: it was amazing. I'm really really (really) crazy about festivals but I'd never had so much fun in my life. Despite the (incredibly) cold weather the Escalade topped St Stephen's Day (August 20, also the anniversary of the Hungarian state) and the Carnival of Nice.

The "trick" I guess is quite obvious. It's very well done. Lots of programs; lots of sights to see (including a secret medieval passage open only during the festival) and lots of things to do. Also, the Compagnie (de 1602) makes sure that the whole thing is as authentic as could be and they keep things rolling (and rocking).

So the whole thing started with us eating part of our marmite, a delicious little cauldron made of dark chocolate and stuffed with nougats and marzipan fruit. Then we set out for the Old Town. The fun usually starts on Saturday afternoon and lasts till Sunday evening. I can't really tell you about all the events first of all because it was extremely cold and second because there were so many we just couldn't attend all.

What I enjoyed most was the stalls selling mulled wine and locally made (and thus special) sweets, the tour of the Cathedral and the marches with all the musicians. Medieval muskets were fired during the performances of the Compagnie and groups of drummers and pipers were marching the streets of the Old Town all Sunday (it was amazing how those little children managed to be walking up and down the whole day!).

The festival offers some special treats as well. Besides selling some specialties only available during the festival season, members of the Compagnie offered a special tour of the Cathedral and its towers. I was told that normally only part of the towers is open for visitors but on Sunday afternoon we could even ring the (huge) bells. I had so much fun looking down from those heights and jumping a little every time a bell (rang by some visitor) shook the wooden top of the tower.

On Sunday we had lunch at the Armures. I loved their fondue (one of the best in Geneva) and the atmosphere of the place. Members of the Compagnie coming ad going only added to it.

The festival ended with the huge bonfire in Court St Pierre being lit and the crowd cheering to the old song Ce qu'e Laino. By that time we felt frozen and were happy to march home following the drummers and pipers through the little streets only to get home and go through the hundreds of pictures we'd taken, drinking tea and thinking of the next Escalade de Geneve -- something we'd never miss.

This post does no credit to the festival. I couldn't put it into words how cool it was and how much fun we had. So I won't even try. But I do remember that before deciding to participate I was browsing the web for days and couldn't find any decent account of the events. Whether it's worth visiting or not, etc. Now I can tell you: if you're wondering whether to participate, stop. It's totally worth it.

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