Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade

Coming down from the highs of the winter holidays can leave you a bit gloomy. For a month we toasted Gluhwein mugs at Christmas markets, had a long Christmas week, and then a week later lit up the skies with wild fireworks. If you can luckily get through dull January, in Germany you can look forward to the very boisterous Fasching! After having such an incredible experience last year, I recommend you to attend Schramberg’s Fasching 2016 this  February 7. 

A Different Experience

103659 with daughter Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

When living in the United States, the only pre-Lent celebration I attended was New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Then after moving to Wiesbaden, I learned about dressing like cowboys, clowns, animals and other silly costumes while catching candy from vibrant parade floats. However, going to this festive event in Schramberg was a totally different and awesome experience!

Located in the Swabian-Alemannic area of Germany, the town of Schramberg calls this colorful celebration “Fastnacht.” This word comes from the old German word ‘fasen’ which means to me be foolish, wild or silly.

In order to get there before the festivities began, last year our day started early in the morning on the road. Once arriving, we found plenty of parking in the outskirts of town as the Altstadt (Old Town) was blocked off for Fastnacht. When walking around, to my surprise we learned about the town’s first event of the day called ‘Da-Bach-Na-Fahrt’.

The Boat Race

103749 Ghostbuster Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

For Da-Bach-Na-Fahrt participants build their own rafts for a hysterical but highly competitive boat race! Each year there are 40 decorated rafts that strive to make the 500 meter river course. On display before the event began, fest goers could walk around and check out the creative rafts. You can tell so much time and work had gone into making them. There were clever creations from Star Wars to Barbie to Never-ending Story!

103852 plane Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
104316 Dark Vader Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
104324 Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

With people packed along the river to watch the race, the floats made their way up the river. The lucky people were the ones who could get a spot right on the river.

110629 daughter Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
125206 crowd on river Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

Then they were off! The floats zipped passed us as we stood right at an area after a small waterfall! Not making the rough waters after a small decline, sometimes the floats fell apart. Burr! It was a cold day and the water must have been freezing for them!

131448 crowd on river Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
131928 Scottish on river Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
132324 on river Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

The race went on for quite a while, so I went and got yummy funnel cake at a vendor’s stand.

134601 daughter eating food Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

The Street Parade

Right after the boat races, we went to find a spot to stand and watch the parade. As a seasoned veteran of going every year as a child to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I know the best spot to find is in front of a tree or a sign post so nobody can push up on you from behind when the parade starts.

The street parade started out like any other parade with floats, confetti and bands.

145002 human puppets Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma
150404 trumpet band Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

Then group after group came the traditional Swabian-Alemannic Fastnacht wooden masks!

145256 witch Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

While you had to work for your candy most of the time, the people of the parade were very interactive with the crowd. As the fest-goers would yell “Hexe!” (Witch), the parade participants would go and get right in the fest-goers’ face as they kept screaming at them.

145410 dog costumes Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

Groups of the masked witches were very mischievous as they would steal the hats or tie the shoelaces together of the teenagers. Teenage girls were also grabbed and thrown in the parade’s jail. The girls were let out a few minutes later down the parade route.

150156 Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

The cats would come by and rub their fur wands on you, then give you a piece of bread out of their baskets. (I know this sounds like something right out of Alice in Wonderland.)

154401 cat costumes parade Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

Receiving a lot of attention, young kids were given candy directly rather than thrown at them like other parades. My daughter didn’t know what to make of the scary mask, but she liked the candy offer.

155227 costume cat with kid parade Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

The most mischievous group of the parade came at the end and looked like black devils. This mischievous characters left the parade route, one sat on the food vendor’s roof and one actually went into someone’s house on the second floor!

160709 parade and house Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

I will never forget the fun way the Swabian-Alemannic celebrates Fastnacht! To have a fun and totally different experience, head to Schramberg this February 7!

How to Get There

150512 parade Gemma Schramberg Fastnacht Boat Race and Parade© Gemma

Schamberg is just over 3 hours south of Wiesbaden, 1 hour and 2o minutes southwest of Stuttgart and under three hours south of Kaiserslautern.

Author’s Profile: Gemma is a mom, a veteran and an Army civilian living in Wiesbaden, Germany. With New Jersey roots, she is enjoying her extended European vacation.

Featured Image Photo Credit: © Gemma

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