Not only did I come face to face with the scary figures of the Tschäggättä … I even had my cold face rubbed with their icy gloves while I was in the village, not once but twice! urgggh … naughty Tschäggättä!
And who are the Tschäggättä?
This is one of the hundred plus Tschäggättä (hideous-looking figures, clad in furs and wearing masks carved from wood) that roamed the village in Wiler last Saturday! Quite scary looking is he not? Imagine seeing them at night … because … for a few days, every winter, these creatures will roam the streets in the evening to frighten off the unsuspected … especially women and children! Whoaahhh …. thankfully I do not live in that village when this takes place (in the old times, this lasted as long as 3 weeks)!
This was our first time attending this special winter carnival at the remote valley of Lötschental in the canton of Valais. I had wanted to go and see it for myself sooo much (after finding out about it a year ago) … that I was a little worried that I might not have recovered in time from my bout of flu. Well … I was not fully recovered but definitely well enough to make that 2.5-hour trip, changing trains at Brig and then to a Postbus at Goppenstein … and later braving the cold sunny day up in the mountain village of Wiler … in order to see the Tschäggättä! But it was worth the trip … because I enjoyed myself tremendously! 🙂
Although you might bump into some of these Tschäggättä on the streets after dark during the carnival week which starts from early February in the Lötschental, (a small valley in the German-speaking part of the canton of Valais) they can be seen roaming together in a well-organised procession on two occasions during the Carnival week.
Some claim that this pagan custom started as a courtship ritual with the bachelors wearing the wooden masks (mostly made from pine) to court the women in the village. But, over time, this custom has evolved and, today, even married men and children wear the mask, put on the fur skins and carry the big cow bells, too.
Before I share the photos that I took of the carnival or Fasnacht procession which started at 3.00pm last Saturday … I thought you might like to see how this mountain village of Wiler looks like. We arrived early … and so had plenty of time to take a walk through this small but beautiful mountain village … and, along the way, I got hijacked not long after reaching Wiler and then had my first taste of the icy glove of the Tschäggättä … even before the procession started! Was I unlucky or what? Regardless … it definitely made for a memorable first visit to the winter carnival in this mountain village lah! 😉
We had to change trains at Brig and then to a Postbus in Goppenstein in order to get to this village called Wiler. Thankfully although it was very cold, it was also a very sunny day. Not a single flake of snow fell on that day … pheww!!
I was just minding my own business taking photos of the surroundings after alighting from the bus when a member of this colourful band (which was on the same train from Brig and then bus as us and which later took part in the Fasnacht procession) started pulling me to walk beside him and even made me try to blow his trumpet several times … which I tried unsuccessfully!
Actually, I was hoping that the hubby would rescue me … but he was busy checking out the area and taking photos! ish, ish, ish …
Anyway after I managed to excuse myself away from this group … and after giving the hubby an earful for deserting me … we then took a little walk through this small village.
We had not been walking long … when we spotted a group of Tschäggättä coming our way. So engrossed was I trying to take photos of them prowling the village street that …
… I was caught off guard when one of these Tschäggättä suddenly shoved his cold glove at my face! Wooii!!
Luckily, these were young Tschäggättä (since as you can see they are no taller than I am!) … so I was able to escape quickly enough. I was less lucky during the procession itself … when a much older and bigger Tschäggättä decided to choose me as one of his victims! Given my size, I suppose I was really an easy target of these Tschäggättä … pfff!! 😦
There were more of them especially the young ones … coming down the street. But after having a taste of their glove, I tried to steer well clear of them during our walk through the village after that!
But still … you cannot escape seeing more of such scary masks and figurines decorating the external facades of the homes and buildings in this mountain village!
Some of these masks are really huge and are very, very old. It is hard to miss these masks as one walks through the village … and they are popular photo stops for the many visitors to the village on that day!
Below are more pictures of the village itself … which is quite pretty.
The village must look quite different in summer without the abundance of snow. And it is really a very small village that we covered most of it in less than an hour! Since there were still some time to kill before the start of the procession at 3.00pm, the hubby and I decided to go and warm ourselves at one of the restaurants not far from the bus stop and the cable car station. The restaurant was really crowded with both visitors as well as some of the participants who had come to take refuge from the cold while waiting for the procession to start.
More on the carnival procession in the next entry!
Related entry on the Tschäggättä carnival:
- On the trail of the Tschäggättä …
- Fasnacht Carnival Procession in Lötschental 2013 …
- Carnival Swiss style, Tschäggättu procession 2013