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Swiss blow up huge snowman in mountains for first time

AFP logo AFP 4/20/2021 AFP
a mountain with smoke coming out of it: The snowman Boeoegg burns on a mountain pass in Switzerland as party of Zurich spring festival © Fabrice COFFRINI The snowman Boeoegg burns on a mountain pass in Switzerland as party of Zurich spring festival

A giant snowman brandishing a pitchfork exploded in a blaze of fireworks atop a pyre on a snowy mountain pass named Devil's Bridge on Monday, the first time the spring festival ceremony has been held outside the Swiss city of Zurich.

a close up of a snow covered mountain: The snowman effigy burns before the fire has reached his fireworks-stuffed head © Fabrice COFFRINI The snowman effigy burns before the fire has reached his fireworks-stuffed head

That the snowman effigy named Boeoegg blew up fairly quickly was taken to herald a "great summer" ahead, a positive outcome after last year's festivities were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The burning of Boeoegg -- the climax of Zurich's traditional spring holiday Sechselaeuten -- is normally held in the city centre, but coronavirus restrictions meant that was not possible this year.

Instead the snowman was sent 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Zurich and installed on the famed Devil's Bridge in Schoellenen Gorge, the site of dramatic battles between French and Russian troops in 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars.

a pile of snow: The massive pyre holding Boeoegg is set alight, as TV viewers wait to see how long it takes for his head to explode © Fabrice COFFRINI The massive pyre holding Boeoegg is set alight, as TV viewers wait to see how long it takes for his head to explode

Boeoegg -- who represents the evils of winter -- normally holds a broom, but given the bridge's name, this year he was handed a pitchfork.

Local tradition says that the time between the lighting of Boeoegg's pyre and the explosion of his fireworks-stuffed head predicts what the coming summer will be like.

a building covered in snow: The traditional winter man known as the "Böögg" is set on fire in the heart of the Swiss mountains, near the St Gotthard Pass. © Eloi ROUYER The traditional winter man known as the "Böögg" is set on fire in the heart of the Swiss mountains, near the St Gotthard Pass.

This year it took a relatively speedy 12 minutes and 57 seconds, despite the improvised pyre being exposed to freezing cold and wind in the heart of the mountains.

While a decent time, it is still significantly more than the record of five minutes, 42 seconds recorded during a heatwave in 2003.

Boeoegg's speedy demise prompted debate on local channel TeleZuri, broadcasting the event, with a spectator commenting: "I think it will be a great summer."

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