Nazausgraben is the Nom de plume of one Andrew Bellenkes. A retired senior Navy officer and still very active writer, educator and classical musician (conductor, singer, organist), Dr. Bellenkes and his wife live in their more than century-old family home located in Pinswang, Austria…a lovely village nestled in a verdant valley surrounded by the majestic northwest Tirolean Alps.  

It was more than two decades ago when, during a visit to Austria,  that Dr. Bellenkes adopted the pen name ‘Nazausgraben’. Unusually, it is the name of an event rather than that of a person.

Every five years (since the 16th century) during the months between the Feast of the Three Kings (Dreikönigstag) and Ash Wednesday (Aschemittwoche), the Tirolean village of Telfs celebrates their own version of ‘Carnival’ (Fasnacht).

The period of festivities culminating in the Schleicherlaufen (a large parade that attracts approximately 20,000 spectators) starts late on Dreikönigstag. A large pile of sand suddenly and quite mysteriously appears seemingly out of the chilled deep purple late evening sky. At a given time, the townsfolk and many visitors gather around the pile and wait for the dignitaries to arrive. These include the Mayor (the Chairman of the Carnival…dressed in rather odd formal eveningwear), who  is joined on a makeshift riser by a rather masculine homely woman (it is, of course, one of the male villagers) and a host of other noteables from the village.

It seems that the ‘woman’ is the mother of a 4 year old boy named ‘The Naz’. Apparently, during the years when Carnival is not so celebrated, Naz remains buried in a small coffin under the sand pile. On this evening, after a round of ‘solemn’ satirical and at times biting political speeches delivered by the Mayor, it is announced that Naz is to be exhumed…removed from his grave (ausgraben), ergo, this event is called Naz Ausgraben. You can find a video of the 2010 Nazausgraben ceremony at: http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=Cmacw9XxyRs&feature=related

Upon emerging from his sandy tomb, Naz is greeted by wild shouts from the spectators of, “The Naz lives! Let Carnival commence!”

Naz (a rather homely large puppet) is cradled in the arms by his loving mother. She is overwhelmed with joy to see her never-ageing boy after so long. None the worse for wear after being in such grave circumstances, Naz takes the evening’s brouhaha in stride. His cherubic smile is only facade, however, for it becomes quickly apparent that being buried for five years has taken its toll on Naz’ behavior. He smokes, spits and utters all sorts of nonsense…wreaking abit of havoc on the festivities. Still, all in attendance rejoice, as the Naz Ausgraben signals the beginning of many weeks of pre-Lenten celebration.

Then, after weeks of unending ‘Fest und Feier’….on the final evening of Carnival, a tearful ceremony of great mourning takes place. Naz is required to return to his coffin and once again be buried under the deep, soft sand; his brief sojourn at an end. The Mayor, Naz’ mother and all of the accompanying dignitaries weep openly as Naz smokes and spits his last. It will be five years before his sightless plastic eyes once again behold the crowds of strange and wonderfully odd figures that populate this much beloved ancient bit of living Tirolean history.


  1. A beautiful and interesting blog site.

  2. Andy – A glorious day that you shared with us, detailed enough to worship and relax with you. Thank you so much. Peggy

  3. Andy and Susi – I hope you are doing well. I finally got around to digitizing the video I took when Elizabeth was born and was reminded how great you both were to our family. I hope we can reconnect. Best wishes! Don Parcher

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