Saturday was the 1st of August (what? How did that happen?!), which in Switzerland means Bundesfeier or Swiss National Day. Supposedly, 1 August was the date on which the original three cantons, Uri, Schywz (which gave Switzerland its name) and Unterwalden (which no longer exists as a canton) signed the Federal Charter of 1291. Unlike in Germany, where Reunification Day is a solemn occasion, in Switzerland National Day means fireworks! Lots of fireworks! And Basel isn’t content with just celebrating on one evening… the unofficial fireworks display (unofficial in the sense of not on the right day, they were organised by official people!) was on Friday evening on the Rhine then there was a second celebration in the Bruderholz area of the city on the actual day. We attended both, but I got the feeling most people only went to the celebration on the Rhine… things were certainly a lot more crowded there anyway!
Our first stop on Friday evening was at Marktplatz. The town hall was all decked out in Switzerland and Basel-Stadt flags, there were food stands, and a Dixieland band was playing. We each purchased a sausage then ate it while watching the band for a bit before moving on.
On the banks of the Rhine, there’s a statue of a boy holding a fish (don’t ask me why!). Some revellers had decked him out in a Swiss flag for the national holiday:
We found ourselves a spot next to a stand selling Basel beer (very tasty, by the way). It wasn’t too crowded there – the Mittlere Brücke and the opposite side of the river seemed to be where most of the crowds were gathered – and we could see both sets of fireworks. A selection of photos:
After the fireworks, we walked down to the next bridge, crossed over to see what was on the other side of the river (lots of loud music, cocktails and a much younger audience!), ate raclette from one of the stands there and then headed home.
The next night, we went to the official celebrations for Basel-Stadt in a field up on the Bruderholz. Our own town was holding its own celebrations, but we chose not to go as there weren’t any fireworks (the place they would have been set off was subject to a ban due to them being too close to the woods after the extremely dry weather we’d been having – ironically, it was raining when we left the house!). Being official, these celebrations involved a speech by the president of the Gemeinderat (municipal council), but also various forms of entertainment, including presentations by the Schweizer Tambouren und Pfeiferverband (Swiss drummers’ and fifers assocation). They were very good, with even the youngest performers keeping perfect time! The final group of drummers wore skeleton masks and played with fire, which was kind of fun.
In between drummers drumming and pipers piping, people in traditional dress danced and we ate yet more sausages. Also, I couldn’t resist the Swiss cows on sticks being sold at the cake stand!
After the speech by the official and the drummers’ final performance, there was a fire show then two singers performed what they called “a tribute to the national anthem”. I think the organisers had expected them to actually sing the national anthem, which is why the progamme for the events had the text printed on the back, but oh well! What they actually sang was something weird in English with one line from the national anthem in each of the national languages in between. Not what I was expecting! Then, finally, those who weren’t already standing out in the field headed over to the bonfire to watch the main event… fireworks! Actually, people had been setting off their own fireworks all evening (there was an official area for it), even before it got dark, but of course only “official” people are allowed the really impressive ones!
The fireworks went on for about 20 minutes, after which we headed off to find a tram that would take us home – we had walked across the fields to get to the event, but I didn’t fancy taking the same route back in the dark!
Yesterday, I read that there is also a regular fireworks display over the Rhine Falls on 31 July, so I’ve now decided I need to see that one some day. A fireworks display over the largest plain falls in Europe has to be pretty spectacular! (And by the way, if anyone would like to explain to this idiot what a “plain waterfall” is that would be fabulous ;-) ).