Posted by: The Prince of Whales | March 17, 2011

Bonfire Night, Bregenzer Style


Hubble Bubble windy trouble

On Sunday it was morning coffee in Feldkirch, a charming medieval town in the Austrian Vorarlberg; lunch in Leichenstein, then back into the Austrian Bregenzerwald for a bit witch burning. In Raggal, the village where we are staying, they share a local tradition with many other villages, where a large bonfire,topped off with a witch, is built and set alight to chase the winter away.

The children from the village go round to every house, trick or treat style, chanting the words to scare the cold weather off before assembling with the entire village, its brass band, bier tent, wurststand and fire brigde to witness the climax of “Funken Sontag”.

It was so exciting, but then disaster. The night before the next village had gone ahead with their bonfire and inadvently set fire to the wooden roofs on a couple of nearby houses. The fire officer was nervous. The 40ft high tower of wood that formed our bonfire was “up wind” of a group of houses with old wooden roofs. Not normally a problem as at 1000m up in the alps, most roofs are still covered by a thick layer of snow, even in March.
This year’s warm weather has stripped all but the highest areas of snow. The warm Foehn wind has dried everything out and so the witch was spared, winter was not set alight and the party fizzled out early.

The next day I noticed the bonfire was gone; a great spectacle reduced to humble kindling, handed out around the village. I guess we will need to come back next year, when Easter is earlier and snow still forms its protective covering on the rooftops of the Bregenzerwald.

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