I know you've got a few questions in your head.
‘Why does it happen every 10 years?'
‘What is this all about?'
‘How do you pronounce Badenfahrt, anyway?'
Here's the question you should ask before the above.
Why are we talking about Badenfahrt now, of all times?
Because it's happening this month, after a gap of 10 years! That's the only reason why it would be relevant in the current scenario, anyway, right?
So, here are the answers to the rest of your questions.
Badenfahrt, is a festival that happens every ten years, in the small town of Baden, in Switzerland. It is probably the only time when the population of the town—a humble 16,000—blows to a whopping million. Yes, you heard that right.
So, what's the big deal about the Badenfahrt festival anyway?
The little spa town of Baden has a history of luring travelers in for its entertainment factor, as well as its larger-than-life and greater-than-divine wellness essence. The spas of Baden have remained popular since they were well into the Middle Ages when such luxuries were limited to certain dignitaries, only. In history, it has been recounted several times as to how fearful Protestants from Zurich fled to the town that was inherently Catholic, and promised an escape that was only relevant to the residents of the town at the time.
Then, in 1847, Switzerland got its first railway line that connected it to almost every other prominent city and town. The line, called Spanischbrötli-Bahn went from Zurich to Baden, connecting the small town, known for its magical bathing cure to a larger area. Travellers from Zurich began coming in for a crazy experience that included, but was not limited to, eating pastries, enjoy the thermal spas and make merry.
The Badenfahrt of the 19th century was all about riding the rail to Baden and making the most of the town. The festival, itself got its name from a book by author David Hess, who wrote a 586-page volume about the ‘bathing cure' in Baden and the historical morality of the city and its time. Over time, Badenfahrt became much more than just an experience outside of Zurich, to escape to.
Badenfahrt became the one time when the Swiss in the area became expressive, emotive and creative; in every way that they ever could. American writer, Chantal Panozzo, described the festival as a transformation, in her book, “99 Ways To Travel Switzerland Like A Local”. The festival is the one time, the Swiss will actually mix, mingle and socialize with foreigners and neighbours, alike—something they're not so accustomed, or choosy of doing, on a normal Swiss day.
And so, it became that every 10 years, the quiet therapeutic town of Baden let loose and raved on for 10 straight days, with Swiss-German rap music blaring out of speakers across the town till 5 in the morning. Beer bottles and sausage sticks would be the most prominent things in the hands of everyone on the streets.
The last time the city hosted Badenfahrt was back in August 2007. This year, the festival, which is in its 11th edition, is being held between 18th and 27th August, with the theme of the festival being ‘Versus', which means, ‘in contrast, or comparison, to'. The motto of the festival this year is to allow festival attendees to experience the contrasting elements off the city; pitting Baden's stark opposites against one another to form what only becomes a more scenic and enthralling experience. Because, opposites attract, like that. So, picture the noisy festival versus the idyllic Limmat River, the modern industrial side of Baden versus the cobblestoned old town, the Swiss people at the festival versus the Swiss people not at the festival, and much more. It's a 10-day fiesta complete, with parades, fireworks, carnival rides, performance arenas and entertainment stages with music and dance acts keeping the audiences thoroughly captivated, from one moment to the next; from one day to the next.
The food also remains a major highlight of the festival with the Swiss pulling out the big guns in cuisine elaboration, presentation and palate. According to sources at Independent UK, it is believed that this time around, the festival will feature a main food structure, to be situated near the Schlossbergplatz that is costing up to £80,927, approximately. The festival is reportedly going to feature replicas of Greek temples, along with sand beaches, the Eiffel Tower, and Japanese Gardens—all rolled into one concise town.
All this and more till the last hour of the 10th day; that is, 12 o' clock. And as soon as the clock strikes 12 at midnight, the spell breaks, the music dies down, the parade stops marching, the replicas and stalls fall silent, as the sweepers arrive to clean up the 10-day mess, the attendees disperse to go back to their regular routine lives and it all turns to normalcy—much like the fabled Cinderella fairytale. Who knows? Maybe the legend of Cinderella and her fairy godmother were born during the time of the Badenfahrt… One can only surmise.
In retrospect, I say, that if there is only one part of Switzerland that you should definitely experience, then it is the little town of Baden, during Badenfahrt, when even the Swiss come alive—in spirit and body. As Panozzo says, it's the best time to experience Swiss culture and people, in their real, live elements, no holds barred and all arms open!
See you at Badenfahrt? Maybe in 10 years…