Monday, 2 August 2010

August 1st

Swiss National Day.

Or, the day when all mannered and polite Swiss people loosen that top button and go nuts with fireworks.

Swiss National Day: it's loud.

For the past week, I have seen the signs that Swiss National Day was going to be upon us.

Banners were hung.

Store windows were decorated.

Cantonal flags were draped.

And also, fireworks stands were everywhere. Though I never bothered trying to get a picture of them.

You can buy fireworks from street vendors and grocery stores, and we aren't talking those puny and weak crackers that pop in the air a couple of meters and let out a pathetic green spark (though those are available).  We are talking serious rockets of volcanic light.

Front porch fun.

The neighbourhood kids were really excited about this one.

Did you know that children, age ten, are allowed to by certain fireworks and crackers?  The preferred choice seems to be those little red crackers that you light, then they let out the loud CRACK CRACK BOOM.

I've been listening to those go off since Thursday.

Dan and I celebrated August 1st by sitting down to a morning breakfast that consisted of some traditional August 1st birthday bread.

It was carbriffic.

Then we went into Bern and stood in line so that we could take a free tour of parliament.

It was about a fifteen minute line-up, which was awesome because it meant we had fifteen minutes to enjoy these spectacular views as we waited.

Once inside, we basically just had to clear the equivalent of airport security, and then we were free to wander at our leisure.  There were no guided tours occurring (go during certain weekdays for those), but some rooms did have people giving presentations.  The building was beautiful, and like most spectacular buildings in Europe, there was artistic attention to detail.

The dome.

The room where stuff happens!

This is like a "Where's Waldo?" puzzle.  Do you see her?

Ink wells!  This room is so old, the desks still have ink well holders.

It's stuff like this that appeals to my nostalgic side.

The important room for the important leaders.

Where they sit.

When we finished our tour, we each received a free chocolate bar of our choice!  A regular sized, free bar!

Dan's nutty, and I'm bittersweet.

When we got outside, the fountains in front of parliament were putting on a show and the children ran shrieking through the mini-geysers in delight.

I totally wanted to run through these too.

As there wasn't much happening around Bern at 11:00 in the morning, we decided to head home for a few hours.  Later in the evening this same plaza that shoots water would be lined with hundreds and hundreds of tiny tea candles, and there would be a parade of lanterns. 

Our goal was to return for these, and then head up to the local mountain to catch the fireworks show.

That was our goal.

Mother Nature washed that goal out by slashing the rain clouds, unleashing the wind demons, and pulling through a numbing chill.

To say I was upset about this would be an understatement.

At about 9:45, the torrential rain subsided to a more manageable drizzle but we were too late to head up to the mountain.  The people in our neighbourhood poured out of their homes, and started going crazy with their fireworks and crackers, making up for lost hours.

It was so cool.  Looking out my balcony there were these volcanic fireworks everywhere, lighting up the sky and people's yards.  Looking out my back window, I could see into Bern and see people's own fireworks popping into the foggy sky. Of course the anthem to all this was the loud crackers that BOOMED with explosions of noise.

Dan instructed me to grab my rain jacket and shoes, because we were going in search of the neighbourhood bonfire.

What's that you ask?  A bonfire? 

Oh yes, HUGE bonfires are the tradition and all villages burn one.  At one point in our search, we got high enough that we could see three bonfires burning in the surrounding distance.

We found ours at last, and Dan let out a little groan of disappointment.

"Oh man, it's not a big one."

Apparently some are bigger than this!

And as the bonfire spewed it's orange flames and heat, fireworks were being set off beside it.

Who knew Swiss people were such pyros?  Both of the technic and maniac variety.

This display was taking place in a farmer's field.  There was a beer garden to the left of this fury of light, as well as a radio station pumping out some high energy music.

It was really cool to be there.

As luck would have it, this field had a perfect view of the night sky right over the mountain we had hoped to visit.  As a result, we got to enjoy our planned fireworks show after all.

And the radio station that was pumping out the night's playlist? Well, it also happened to be playing the planned music that accompanied the mountain firework show.

How cool is that?  It makes perfect sense to have your radio switched on, laying in the grass looking up at the sky, and as each explosion bursts into colour your radio is playing the matching tune.

It was so cool.

A toast to you, Switzerland! I really dig your society of pyrotechnic and maniac enthusiasts, and thanks for inviting me to the party.

Happy 719th birthday, and don't worry, you don't look a day over twenty.


Ivo Serentha and Friends said...

Compliments for your blog and pictures included, I invite you to see the photo blog,

Each week released a new album

Greetings from Italy


Kristi said...

Yeah, so...I didn't get the memo that the August 1st fireworks begin at 12:01 AM on August 1st. I thought it was Armageddon outside my flat or a Chicago mobster was lost and was so pissed off about it that he opened fire. We did just fly in from Atlanta that morning, so I take no responsibility for my initial interpretations.

Habebi said...

Ohhhhh fun!! Reminds me a bit of what happens in Oklahoma for the 4th of July You're allowed to buy fireworks in the state, but, only if you're older than 18. However, I've seen plenty of under 18 year olds selling them, so, don't ask me! And there's no fireworks within city limits, but, not everyone listens to that lol. Oh and definitely no bonfires with fireworks beside it... people are paranoid around here!

Loved the pictures of the parliment building, the ink wells are fantastic! And free chocolate after the 'tour'?? Yes please! Where you're at in Switzerland is just gorgeous, but, I think everytime I see pictures of a different part of Switzerland it's still gorgeous. No wonder the country doesn't look a day over 20. ;-)

Ais said...

Nice pictures Cait :)

Mom and Dad said...

Fabulous pictures Cait; especially of the fireworks! We're jealous :-(
P.S. Your mother took me on a 60 km bike ride today that turned out to be almost 70! I'm so tired I can hardly type.

BUT your dad did fabulous and had a great ride :-) ps it was good for him lol....

T said...

I seen her!!!

Love, love, love the pictures! A lantern parade would have been pretty awesome to see too, but it looks like you still had an amazing day as is!

I especially love that they have bon fires there, it reminds me of the good old days where they would have a Christmas tree burning by the fire hall in Cache Creek and everyone would get hot chocolate and hay rides. Sadly, they are deemed "too dangerous" now and the trees go to some unknown location.

Thanks for sharing yet again Caitie!

Caitie said...

Oh Dad, haven't you learned by now that before engaging in ANY outdoor activity with Mom, you must first draw up a contract to stipulate down to the minute and kilometer what you will be doing, and for how long. I'll never forget the time our 'quick little walk' turned into a five hour excursion that I was so unprepared for, my feet went numb.

And Mom, I'm with Dad on this one. 70km! Was this the Tour de Kamloops or something? Was Lance Armstrong whispering in your ear? You are one crazy lady ;-)

mom said...

Hey, it wasn't my fault. I honestly thought the ride was 60 kms because that is what my other cycling buddies told me and dad was ready for 60. However, they were wrong! But we did have a good ride.