For most people, carnival/Fastnacht/Fasching was last week, but here in Basel it’s just getting started. Supposedly, this is because at some point the Catholic church started excluding Sundays from lent, which meant Ash Wednesday was earlier. Basel never changed, so their Fasnacht starts a week later than everyone else’s. Personally, I think they just like to be different 😉
The first event of the Basler Fastnacht is the Morgenstreich, or Morgestraich in Basel German. Most of the parades and things will be taking place in the afternoon, while I’m at work, so Morgenstreich was the only thing I could really attend. All I had to do was get up early… very early. I was out of bed by 2 a.m. and on a tram at 2.58. For the next hour, people slowly gathered in town then, at precisely 4 a.m., the street lights went out and the parade got underway! Each Clique (formation or group) carries a large lantern, and the individual participants also have little head lanterns,.while some participants also carry lanterns on sticks. Although all the participants are also in costume, the lanterns are the main focus of the Morgenstreich, and are supposed to be the only source of light. So it should be obvious that camera flashes are not desired! Unfortunately plenty of people did not get that message, and whenever there was a bright flash, it totally destroyed the atmosphere. I, of course, made sure the flash was off on my camera, so the photos below may not be the best, but they should give you some idea of what we saw.
While the participants were on the move, they also played drums and pipes – the whole inner city was one big festival of noise (I pity anyone who was trying to sleep in the flats around there!). Common themes on the lanterns included basilisks and Baselstäbe (Basel staffs), but there were also pop culture references and political images – the lanterns we saw were far from all the ones involved! All the lanterns are on display outside the cathedral tomorrow (Tuesday) evening and I will definitely be going along to have a look at a few more of them!
After about an hour of wandering around, we felt a bit peckish so we popped into a restaurant for some traditional Mehlsuppe – those of you who speak German may have already translated that as flour soup, and that’s precisely what it is. It literally consists of roasted flour, onions and beef stock, with some grated cheese sprinkled on top to serve! Slightly bizarre, but actually quite tasty. Along with Mehlsuppe, traditional foods that are eaten during carnival are Zwiebelwähe and Käsewähe, i.e. onion tart and cheese tart.
Once it started to get light, the various participant groups gradually drifted off towards their clique cellars, and those of us who aren’t employed in Basel Stadt (where the entire three days of Fasnacht are holidays) headed off to start our day’s work.
All in all, I enjoyed my first Morgenstreich. The atmosphere was great, the lanterns were very impressive and it was actually worth getting up in the middle of the night for! I’ve never been a particular fan of carnival/Fasching in Germany, but the atmosphere this morning felt entirely different. Carnival seems to be all about getting drunk and making a fool of yourself, while this morning’s event was a chance for the lantern makers to showcase their art. If you ever find yourself in Basel on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, I can recommend this event, but please remember to switch off the flash on your camera!
I think this post deserves to be linked up with Monday Escapes, because it’s certainly a break from my normal Monday morning activities!