There’s an ancient Carnival parade in the traditional Swiss valley of Lötschental called the Tschaggatta. On February 7th more than 100 monsters roamed the valley villages from Blatten to Ferden. Clad in frightening hand carved wooden masks, larger-than-life furs, cowbells, and carrying sticks; they march through the valley and unleash a winter’s worth of mischief.
As intriguing as they are, it’s wise to stay out of the monsters’ way. Or you risk being thrown into the snow. Had I known that I wouldn’t have worn a bright pink bobble ball ski hat. I ate snow. Twice. In times past, onlookers who came too close would be doused with ash. Which made me grateful for just a dusting of white powder.
Dare I return, you’ll find me dressed in black, standing in the shadows where the monsters cannot see me. But I can see them.
One story of the origins of the Tschaggatta is that the monsters scare off evil spirits that arise from the long dark isolated winters of the past. Another legend is that bands of thieves living high in the valley descended in frightening masks to steal from the villagers. Either way, the church banned the Tschaggatta in 1865. But the monsters persevered. Today, with or without the church’s blessing, beginning February 3rd, the monsters get free drinks at bars.
For the Tschaggatta, I stayed at the three-star Hotel Lötschberg in the traditional village of Kippel. The monsters march right through its old town and the hotel is walking distance to Lauchernalp’s Wiler ski lift. The Lötschental valley isn’t only famous for its monsters. Winter enthusiasts have long enjoyed the open bowls of Lauchernalp’s ski paradise. You can ski and drink in views of more than forty 13,000 ft. peaks including, the “King of the Lötschental” the majestic Bietschhorn.
The village of Kippel is home to the famous Dorfkeller restaurant. Yet, had it not been completely booked that night, I would have missed out on the fantastic Restaurant Waliserkeller. Transported back in time, the walls were covered in Tschaggatta masks, Valais wine flowed, and after a long day tree skiing; I felt no guilt ordering the deliciously filling Fondue des Hauses. But the best was yet to come. Apricot liquor homemade by the watitress’ uncle. Not to mention, Restaurant Waliserkeller served the best gluhwein I ever drank. But the infamous uncle’s lips were sealed about his secret ingredients. Which is just another reason to return.
If I were to write a brochure for Lötschental, the headline would read “Come for the Skiing. Stay for the Monsters.”
Both are worth a second and third visit. Just leave your pink bobble ski hat at home.
*I was the guest of Lötschental Tourismus. All opinions expressed are explicitly my own.
*Photos are courtesy of Lötschental Tourismus.