The French "Escalade" (English : scaling or climbing) is a celebration commemorating an ill-fated attempt to scale the walls that once surrounded Geneva. On the night of December 11, 1602, the Duke of Savoy tried to seize the city with ladders. Legend has it, that a pot of boiling soup stopped the incursion. Geneva's Old Town provides the best vantage point. Its narrow, winding streets fill up with revellers singing "CE QU'E LAINO", which commemorates the events of 1602 in old Genevese dialect. Children in Halloween-like costumes roam the local bistros asking for a treat, while members of the "Company of 1602" patrol on horseback in period costumes complete with pikes and lances. Demonstrations of period armaments take place in the Parc des Bastions. The alarm is sounded at the Cathedral and the fife and drum corps marches on parade.
On Sunday, a torchlight procession through darkened streets in the Old Town leads to a bonfire in Cathedral square. One of the surprises of the "Escalade" is the Passage Monetier, open to the public only once a year. This takes visitors along the base of the old fortification walls under the Cathedral, offering a palpable look at Old Geneva. Those who brave the passage at night receive cups of hot wine to ward off the cold.