Munot Ball

The Munot is a 16th century Roundel (circular fortification) at the center of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen. It is an undisputed landmark of the city. No other city in Switzerland has constructed a building of comparable beauty and magnanimity.

History goes like this- After Schaffhausen became a part of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1501, the council decided to strengthen the city’s fortifications. After years of planning, in 1589 the Munot was finally built. Soon after completion, doubts surfaced whether the Munot could withstand the ever-more powerful artillery. Luckily, only once, the Munot was militarily occupied: in 1799, during the French Revolution.

Now, it is a tourist attraction and hosts a number of events.

To enter the fortress, one has to climb quite a number of stairs (I don’t know how many exactly). The Interior of the fortress has a huge arch, which has a thick ceiling of about 4 meter, made of gravel and supported by nine pillars. Through 4 circular chambers, light falls into the casemates (a small room in the wall of a fortress, with openings from which guns or missiles could be fired, according to Google). The fortress is surrounded by Rose gardens and vineyards.

On top of the Fortress is a bell, which was mounted in September 1589. The Bell has a diameter of 90.5 cm; a height of 70 cm and a weight of 420 kg. It is rung every evening at 9 pm for 5 minutes by hand by the guardian of Munot. This guardian is responsible for the maintenance and order around the Munot, and also helping around during the events and taking care of the visitors.

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There is an open area at the top of the fortress, from where you can view the entire beautiful city of Schaffhausen and the river Rhine.

Breathtaking views of the city.

There are seating arrangements where visitors can relax and buy refreshments in the summer. This open area is where most of the cultural programs take place and one of them is the Munot ball.

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Between June and the end of August the traditional balls take place on the Munot.
The Quadrille, also called Française, is a ballroom dancing, which began in the 17th century in France and England for the first time. This traditional square dance is being celebrated in the Munot balls for over a 100 years. The Munot Club was formed several years ago; Members of the club can learn the Quadrille and take part in cultural programs. They also help the state in taking care of the Munot.

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This year in June, my mother-in-law and I decided to see the Munot ball; It was my first time. Casuals are a big no-no. So we both got dressed up for the occasion. But by the time we climbed the stairs and reached the top of the Munot, we were exhausted and soaking- wet. We had to pay 10 CHF (10.17 US Dollars) to enter the Ball. It was only 7 pm and hardly 10 people were around. The musicians were getting ready. The restaurant was doing its final preparations. We ordered some cold drinks and fries to eat. As we waited, we started checking out the dresses worn by the other ladies, remarking `Oh she looks good!` or `look what she has worn!`. As the people began gathering, I noticed that 70 to 80% of them were older than 60 years. It was fun to discover that there’s no age-limit to enjoy a bit of dancing!.

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When the music began, the couples took their positions around the periphery of the area and started ballroom-dancing. It was so beautiful! This was the ‘unofficial dance’ as the bell was not yet rung. At 9 pm sharp, after the bell was rung for 5 minutes, the Quadrille began. Quadrille is performed by 4 couples in a rectangular formation. Couples dance together in a figure or “set”, each dancer dancing to his or her partner and each couple dancing to the other couples in the set. You might have seen such dances in movies like Pride and Prejudice or Becoming Jane. The dance ended after 15 minutes with all the couples running around the periphery. Yes! Literally! Everything happened so fast, I could not capture it on my camera.. It was fun to watch though!

I had never seen such a beautifully-coordinated dance, with so many participants, in my life before. Though my mother-in-law and I did not take part in the dance, we had a great time watching it.

Love,

Madhurya

( I got all the information on the Munot and the Ball from this Website. I have translated it from German.)

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