This small town on Lake Zurich must be ‘the’ place in the world to celebrate the humble turnip or sugar beet. It has nothing to do with eating – the custom of Turnip Fair is said to be based on a legend according to which, in the mid 19th century, the wives of farmers living in the hills above Richterswil used turnip lamps to find their way home from evening church services in the wintertime, and it symbolically marks the transition from autumn to winter.
A few days before the Fair, practically the entire population of Richterswil, from schoolchildren to their great-grandparents, produce roughly 26 tonnes of turnip lamps; a specially developed hollowing-machine makes the job a bit easier.
The focal point is a spectacular evening procession of glittering floats, each one a vast ‘sculpture’ or ‘picture’ made using thousands of candles and, yes, turnips. Put together by local clubs, schools and societies, the artworks that caught my eye this year ranged from tigers and aliens to the Swiss footy coach.
As well as the parade itself, turnip lamps also serve to decorate local houses and public buildings along the route which looks magically like a fairytale brought to life… even in the rain. Wonderful.