(Onion Market)

November 24, 2003

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     Every year on the 4th Monday in November, there is a market/festival in Berne. It's called Ziebelemärit, or Onion Market. The common story about the history of this market has to do with Berne giving 'onion selling' rights to the city of Fribourg in thanks for helping with the reconstruction of the city of Berne after a major fire. However, it seems as if no one knows the real history. If you're interested in reading more about it, read the page on this link from the canton of Berne...




     The market starts early in the morning when the streets are still dark with night. There are booths everywhere on the cobble stoned roads and alleys in the old section of Berne. Although some of the booths sell the things you would expect to see in a market - homemade goods, natural products, etc - most are dedicated to selling wreaths and hanging displays made from onions and dried flowers. The restaurants and bars serve special onion pies and cheese pies and many of the booths sell glühwein, which is hot punch made from red wine, cinnamon and other spices.

     There is also quite a bit of good natured fun. You can buy special plastic hammers that you can use to hit total strangers on the head with or you can buy bags of colored confetti to throw on people as they walk by you.  People of all ages participate in this and most just laugh when you 'get' them.  By the time the sun comes up and the market becomes clear with daylight, the normally drab streets are covered with millions of pieces of multi-colored confetti.

     I went to my first Ziebelemärit with Herbert in 1999 and either I was too tired or too new to Switzerland to take it all in. But I remembered that I enjoyed it. (After I caught on to why people were hitting me on the head.)

     This year, Laurence and Andreas asked me if I wanted to join them and I quickly said yes. They picked me up at 4:30 in the morning. I wasn't thrilled about having to get up at 3:30am to get ready, but I knew that if you really wanted to experience Ziebelemärit, you needed to rise long before the sun did. Laurence and Andreas are the perfect people to go to Ziebelemärit  with. They appreciate the culture and are definitely not to shy to have fun with all the playing around. Although I slept in the car on the way home, I enjoyed my time at the market this year, even more than my first year.


    I'd like to thanks Laurence and Andreas for sharing their photos. Half of the photo credits go to them.

    If the photos look a little dark, please remember that we were there before the sun came up. 


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1 - At 5am, we started our fun at the Ziebelemärit by meeting Andreas's mom, his sister and her boyfriend for coffee and onion pie. The restaurants are so crowded that it was hard to find space to sit and we all had to crowd around a small table.   2 - Although there are many handcrafted items for sale as well as the typical products you see at a market, most of the booths were focus on onions. All of the onions are display as beautiful wreaths or hanging arrangements.   3 - It wouldn't seem like Switzerland without wine, even at the Ziebelemärit. Wine and onions - it almost seemed to make sense at 5:30 in the morning.
4 - This is a photo of me standing next to a booth that sold candy. Notice the brightly colored hanging things. There are also a staple of the Ziebelemärit. They're small candies wrapped in colored plastic that you wear around your neck.   5 - If I hadn't known that the market was all about onions, I might have guessed that the focus was confetti. Everywhere you look you can buy bags of confetti for a couple of francs. You throw them in the air as strangers walk by and if you're gutzy like Laurence, you walk right up to a stranger, with your hands behind your back, look them in the eye and POOF, throw both handfuls in their face. The older people just smile, but the younger ones will engage in a counter attack. Laurence was even able to get me doing this, but I usually said, "sorry" afterwords.   6 - Everyone walking around the Ziebelemärit has confetti on their head and shoulders. If you try to brush it off, someone will throw more in a matter of seconds. If you click on this photo, you'll see that this women is smiling, as everyone seems to be happy.
7 - Confetti is not the only thing you can buy that adds to the fun. They also sell small plastic hammers that are used to hit strangers on the head. The first year I went to Ziebelemärit with Herbert, this disturbed me. But this year, I realized that it doesn't even hurt. The hammer heads are designed like a small accordian that softens the blow to  a point that you barely feel it. The two young boys in this photo had gotten me and then Laurence asked them to come back and do it again for a photo. Unfortunately, another guy walked by at the same time.   8 - Laurence, Andreas's mother and Andreas with confetti flying in the air.   9 - After the sun came up, we decided that it was time to leave. We had coffee at Starbucks before heading back to our cars. Along the way, we stopped to take this group photo.


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