Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Say Carnival, I Say Fuesent

Everywhere I turn, it’s Carnival. On a quick overnight trip to Cologne a few weekends ago, costumed revelers were already out on the streets making merry with local kölsch beer. In Luxembourg, storefront windows are dressed in Carnival themes; costumes have filled the aisles of Auchan and other stores all over town, students just returned to classes this Monday after a week away for Carnival vacation, and I’ve spotted the occasional poster for a Carnival ball, in addition to eyeing tasty Carnival treats that have been on display in windows of bakeries in town.

In Luxembourg, Carnival is actually called Fuesent. Fuesent season in Luxembourg begins on February 2 with the Liichtmessdag/Candlemas Day holidays that I’ve blogged about here, and continues until Aschermëttwoch (Ash Wednesday), which falls this year on March 9. If there’s a holiday in Europe, you know that there are special pastries to accompany the celebration, which I’ve written about here

If you’re interested in attending a Fuesent/Carnival event in Luxembourg and you’re an out-of-the-loop American like me: read on. I’ve been busy investigating leads on upcoming can’t-miss events, and have compiled my findings for you here:

First off, a quick call to the Luxembourg Ville tourist office confirmed what you’ll also find on their web site: between now and Ash Wednesday, there are no Carnival events in Luxembourg Ville. So get your bus fare ready and prepare to celebrate in some of the country’s other fine cities!

(Before you read further, please keep in mind that start times for parades listed below refer to the start time of the parade at the beginning of the parade route. Depending on where you station yourself for the parade, it might take an hour or more for the cavalcade to reach you.)

March 4, 5 and 6 (Differdange)
It’s a big Megafuesend party in Differdange all weekend long with a “Fuesparty” on March 4, “Clochard’s Bal” on March 5 and a “Mini-Clochard’s Bal” on March 6. The helpful gentleman on the other end of the information line (+352 58 77 11900) will tell you that the biggest celebration is on Saturday, March 5; if you’re saving yourself for one big Fuesent celebration this weekend, this is the one.

Tickets to the March 5 Clochard’s Bal are 5,75€ in advance and can be purchased online at e-tickets.lu (direct Clochard's Bal ticket link here), or you can take your chances on tickets still being available at the door and pay 10€ to enter when you get there. The ball starts at 9pm and lasts until 3am on Saturday. Just be sure to check transportation times in advance if you’re traveling from outside Differdange, as the trains and buses will run on a normal schedule and will not be extended to accommodate the 3am end time of the party. 

All Megafuesend events take place at the center of Differdange on the market square.

Sunday, March 6, 2011 (Diekirch)
Celebrate Carnival in Diekirch with the 32nd annual Cavalcade de Diekirch on Sunday, March 6. The parade begins at 2:30pm, but you’ll want to arrive early, because the city is expecting 20-25,000 people to attend the celebration this year.
A ticket is required to view the parade route and can be purchased in advance for 5€ from Diekirch retailers, or at a parade entrance on the day of the event for 6€. Children under 12 enter for free. Hang on to that ticket after you enter, though, because it also doubles as a raffle ticket. The first place winner receives 400€…with that kind of money, you could wow even Lady Gaga with next year’s Carnival costume!

The friendly gentleman on the other end of the telephone line at the Diekirch Tourism Office told me that the celebration is “in the German model” and many people that attend dress in costume even if they are not participating in the parade. He also left me with these wise words about Sunday’s festivities, which apply to you, too: “Come and take a look at it. You won’t regret it!”

Wednesday, March 9 (Remich)
In Remich, the end of Carnival season is marked by the burning of a straw doll – a Stréimännchen, a male doll, or a Stréifrächen, a female doll, which is burned in leap years. The doll is hung from the bridge in Remich connecting Luxembourg and Germany over the Moselle River and is lit on fire every year on Ash Wednesday to mark the end of carnival, and also as a symbol of chasing away winter to welcome the spring.

The straw man procession will depart from Café Michels (renamed Café beim Fuesend for the occasion), at 7:30pm on Wednesday, March 9. Café Michels located at 2 rue de Luxembourg L-5551 Remich, or click here for a map. The straw man will be lit on fire once the procession reaches the top of the bridge over the Moselle.

If you don’t want to be part of the procession, you can probably get a good view by taking the bus to the “Remich, Gare routiere” stop and walking north along the river path just a bit. There are no celebrations after the Stréimännchen has burned, but the helpful lady answering phones at the commune assured me that the bars and restaurants will be open, so you should stick around and have a bite with the locals.

Sunday, March 13 (Schifflange)
The Schifflange cavalcade starts at 3pm on Sunday, March 13. Following the parade will be a large celebration outside the Schifflange City Hall (Hôtel de Ville).  ...And that’s about all the information I can round up. The organizer I spoke with at the Schifflange commune was quite friendly and cheerfully answered the questions I posed in poor French…I just couldn’t fully understand her response! So, I think there is a small fee for attending this cavalcade, but I can’t tell you exactly how much to expect to pay. If you speak a little French and want to call for more information, call +352 54 50 611.

(In previous years, it looks like information has been posted on this web site, but it has not been updated since 2010. Perhaps an updated site will be launched closer to the 13th?)

Sunday, March 27, 2011 (Esch-sur-Alzette)
Carnival festivities in Esch-sur-Alzette will be held on Sunday, March 27* and begin with a parade that starts from the Rue du Victor Hugo at about 2:30pm. The parade will wind through town (so, be patient if you are waiting toward the end of the parade route) and will culminate at around 4/4:30pm in a big celebration with music, food and drink on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. A helpful woman at the Esch Tourist Office told me that costumes are not required, but are of course encouraged. 

Entry to the parade and festivities is a 5€ ticket that can be purchased on the day of the event. This ticket also doubles as a raffle ticket, so if you don't win the Diekirch raffle, perhaps you'll have better luck in Esch-sur-Alzette. A press event will be held about the cavalcade this Friday, so stay tuned for more information in the Luxembourgish media.

*Note that March 27 is the correct date of the parade, contrary to information published on the Luxembourg Office of National Tourism web site (linked below), which lists the parade date as April 3. If you’d like more information, you can call the Esch Tourism Office at +352 54 16 37. Don’t worry: their English is excellent.

Sunday, April 3, 2011 (Remich and Pétange)

Cavalcade in Remich – April 3 at 2:30pm
The Remich cavalcade begins at 2:30pm on April 3 and will depart from the Route du Luxembourg at the top of Remich. The parade route winds through the town and ends at the Pavillon St Remy (49 Esplanade, Remich, on the Moselle), where there will be celebrating and costumed merry-making with music, food and drink. Costumes are not mandatory but, of course, are encouraged!

A description (in German) and map of the parade route can be found on the Remich cavalcade web site.

There is a 5€ entry fee to see the cavalcade and you can pay the entrance fee when you arrive on April 3. The “Remich-Gare routière” bus stop will once again be your best bet and is located on the Moselle next to the bridge, about a 10-15 minute walk south of the St. Remy Pavillion.

Cavalcade in Pétange – April 3 at 3:11pm
The annual Carnival celebration in Pétange is called the Karneval Gemeng Péiteng – or in short: Kagepe (KaGePe). There are several events that make up Kagepe, including balls, community events and revues. (Click here for the 2011 Kagepe event calendar.)

Side note: for those interested in seeing a Carnival revue performed entirely in Luxembourgish, the Pétange Kapesëtzung, I’m told that most shows are sold out but tickets are still available for the March 24 performance. Call +352 621 227 315 if you’d like to reserve a ticket (15€ in advance or 18€ at the door). Just be prepared to start the conversation in French to ask if someone is available who speaks English – or just put your bravest foot forward and book your tickets in French. (You can do it! Google Translate will help.)

For the less adventurous non-Luxembourgish speakers, the April 3 Cavalcade is the way to go. The parade starts at 3pm (or 3:11pm, to be precise) and entry is free. A large celebration will take place after the parade ends, and I mean large – more than 25,000 people attended the cavalcade last year and attendance is expected to be high once again this year. I’m sorry to say that I’ve been unable to find a parade route online and couldn’t keep my friend at the Kagepe information line on the phone long enough to tell me where the parade ends… But I’m pretty sure you’ll have no trouble finding the fun if you head to Pétange on April 3.

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