Saturday, December 13, 2008

On weapons, soup and church bells

During Escalade weekend, the city of Geneva and the Compagnie de 1602 put on a wide range of activities in the Old Town. The loudest is, without a doubt, the firing of the cannon Falco from the street overlooking the Parc des Bastions. The cannon is a reproduction based on contemporary descriptions of those used in 17th-century warfare in the region. Members of the Compagnie de 1602 explain and demonstrate the workings of the cannon: how to load, clean and fire it.

Once you get up in the Old Town proper, there are little stands selling soup and mulled wine on nearly every corner. And you're bound to run across these guys sooner or later:

They're members of the city's drum and fife corps. The fife players must have awesome lungs... they walk up and down the hilly streets all afternoon as they play!

Near the cathedral there are demonstrations of street defense. First, soldiers carrying muskets and pikes take formation behind a rolling barricade.

See those two holes cut out in the barricade? Here's what they're for:

After each shot is fired, the barricade is pushed farther up the street. The pikemen keep the enemy at bay while the musketeers fire.

Hm. There must not be much danger coming our way at the moment.

See how long the pikes are? They weigh 14 pounds each.

Pikemen also defended the cannons of the city. This is one of their defense formations:

See all the spectators in the background? The Old Town is full to bursting of people during Escalade.

While all these demonstrations are going on, there are tons of little stands all over the Old Town selling vegetable soup, vin chaud, and plenty of little Escalade souvenirs. A major hub of activity is the courtyard in front of the cathedral:

I don't think the churchbells quit ringing today!

All in all, a fun way to spend a Saturday.

PS. Remember how "Escalade" comes from the French verb "escalader", or "to climb"? Here's a depiction of l'Escalade under the eaves of a building on the street where the old armory used to be:


MrsTina said...

You got some great photos! I couldn't get around the crowds to get great shots!

Princess Cat's Pajamas said...

I was really lucky... I didn't have a program with me, and I just sort of stumbled upon each of the events as they were starting. Each time the security people hustled me over to the front of the barricades, so I got a better view than the people who had been standing there waiting... oops!