Chienbäse – the Liestal fire parade

This year Fasnacht, or carnival, took place in Basel from 6-8 March. But before that, Liestal (the capital of Basel-Landschaft) kicked things off with their own event on the Sunday night – the Chienbäse. Bäse is Swiss German for Besen, meaning broom and the Chien part is apparently to do with the type of wood they use  – I’ve just looked it up and Chienholz is pinewood. So it basically means “Pinewood brooms”. What the name doesn’t tell you is that said brooms are set on fire and then paraded around the town of Liestal, which is mostly made up of wooden buildings! They even go through a wooden gate/archway, which the fire brigade sprays with water in between each group. Crazy!

There were extra trains from Basel that evening, so we set off on the 6:15 p.m. train along with a friend who moved to Basel in December and some other people we’ve got to know here. Liestal was already pretty crowded when we arrived, but we managed to find a nice spot before the aforementioned wooden gate. Most people wanted to be in the town proper, after the gate, but I actually preferred being somewhere where I could run away if anything went wrong! I’m not sure I would have liked being stuck in the narrow old-town streets…

We waited for what seemed like forever, then some musicians and a few “normal” Fasnacht floats went by. This was followed by another period of waiting and waiting and waiting, then we finally spotted flames coming down hill!

The broom carriers approached the gate and began to go through:

Even in the fourth row, the heat was intense. I can’t even imagine how the people actually carrying the fire must have felt!

More and more groups of broom carriers passed by where we were standing:

We spied some sausages attached to one of the “brooms” (really more like bundles of wood in a rough broomish shape):

I wonder if they ate them afterwards?

After a few groups of people carrying brooms, entire floats or carts of wood started to go by. The flames were pretty high and we wondered how they were ever going to get through the archway!

Once the parade was over, we lost half our group! The rest of us went looking for a Fasnacht cellar to go into (where the groups hold their meetings), but the only one we found was full so we had a beer at a restaurant then wandered around for a while before taking a train back to Basel. There, three of us went for a coffee while the other two went home, then Jan, our friend and I met up with our Finnish friend again and the four of proceeded to stay up all night waiting for Morgestraich… but that’s another story for another time.

The Chienbäse is a totally crazy event… not at all what I would expect from the Swiss, with their reputation of being sensible! There aren’t even any barriers between the crowd and the flames, and although the fire brigade is there to tell people to get back, the front row is much closer to the action than I expect would be allowed in England! If you’re not afraid of fire and you find yourself near Basel around Fasnacht I can definitely recommend going. Wear something non-flammable that you don’t mind getting smoked (you will stink of bonfire afterwards!), avoid taking very young children and have fun!

Some information for anyone who may want to go in the future: Fasnacht in Basel takes place on the Monday-Wednesday of the week after everywhere else has its Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day)/Mardis Gras/Fat Tuesday/Fasching/Carnival (there are various possible explanations for this that I won’t go into right now), and the Chienbäse is on the Sunday night before the Monday of Fasnacht. The date for Chienbäse in 2018 is 18 February and in 2019 it’s on 10 March.

What do you think? Would you like to go to a fire parade?

 

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Wooden watchers

I was off work last week, using up some holiday, but since Jan didn’t have any holiday left and had to work, I didn’t actually go anywhere. Instead I read, did some cleaning and explored the local area a bit. On one of the days, I went for a two hour walk and ended up in the woods near Allschwil. At first it was all trees and birdsong, but then I turned a corner and saw these guys:

no-evil

“Hear no evil” seems to have had a bit of an accident… and I’m not sure who their weird looking friend is!

I thought that was everything, but then further down the path I found a whole collection of wooden carvings, watching me from among the trees…

Later, I spotted this friendly looking fellow in an entirely different part of the woods:

tree-man

A nice little local find that I really wasn’t expecting 🙂

What do you think of these wood carvings? Any favourites?

Hike from Sommerau to Läufelfingen

Hey guys! There have already been some great guesses for round two of What Am I Stitching. I’ll move on to round three soon, but in the meantime click the link if you still want to guess. For now, I’m going to tell you about a hike we went on in May. Yes, I’m slightly behind with my travel blogging…

We hadn’t been hiking for a while and we decided that May would be a good time to do it, before it got too hot (although the summer has also been mostly chilly so far, with the odd very hot day!). I got online – I like to use http://wanderungen.ch/ – and found a promising looking hike that wasn’t too far away, a discovery trail from Sommerau, along a small stream to a waterfall, then up the hill to a viewing tower on top of the Wisenberg mountain. From Basel SBB, we took the train, changed once in Sissach and arrived in Sommerau at 10:17 a.m.

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The start of the hike, near the train station in Sommerau

We walked along the little stream – called Chrindelbach – for about half an hour before reaching the Giessen waterfall; an appropriate name as giessen means “to pour”. The 18 km high waterfall marks the end of the valley – from there, it’s all uphill!

After the waterfall, the route leads out of the woods for a short while, past farms and fields of dandelions. One farm had set up a little refreshment stand with a coffee machine and some other drinks. So cute!

After the dandelions, the path led back into the woods for a short distance, and in the middle of the trees we found the Wisenberg viewing tower. At around 25m tall, the top of viewing platform provides an amazing view over the trees. You can even see the Alps! (Although they were hard to capture with my camera. I did my best!).

Back down from the tower, we left the woods again and walked past another farm. This next photo is the most Swiss thing ever…. green field, cows, Alps. All that’s missing is a bar of chocolate 😉

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From there, we hiked past more farms, pretty flowers, lots of green and a few more animals until we reached Läufelfingen train station, where we had a beer (which I didn’t photograph) before taking the train back to Basel. Here are some photos from the last stage of our hike:

Now the tourist information part: the total hiking time was roughly 3 hours and 40 minutes. We took just over 4 hours from start to finish, including all the photo stops. You can also take a bus to Wisen and walk up to the tower from there, which will take about an hour.

This was my May 2016 trip for  Take 12 Trips 2016.

Allschwil, Basel-Landschaft

Okay, now I’ve finished telling you about New Zealand, it’s about time I recorded my last few outings for #take12trips 2016 (in case you missed it, I’m redoing the take 12 trips challenge).

There are two branches of the Müller drugstore chain in Basel that I know of, and both are equally awkward for me to get to! But sometimes I really want to, because they sell things that I can’t necessarily get at the supermarket (and also their shower gel is cheaper). One of those Müller branches is juuust in Allschwil, a town in the canton of Basel-Landschaft that borders on the Basel-Stadt (the city). (I promise there is a point to this story!). Usually I get there by walking to near the zoo, taking a bus that goes through part of Basel city and then walking for another 15 minutes to cross the border into Allschwil, but one day I decided I was going to walk as far as I could then take a bus the rest of the way. The result was that I ended up on a bus that went through the centre of Allschwil and discovered that it’s actually quite a pretty little town. I knew then that I would have to go there one day with my camera. The opportunity to do so came one day when Jan and I had been to IKEA, which meant I had a day ticket. Jan had a choir practice in the afternoon so I decided to make use of said day ticket and go an explore Allschwil. It was a fairly rainy day, but that actually worked to my advantage – fewer people around to tell me off for taking photos of their houses! (Not that that’s ever happened but I’m always afraid it will!). Here are some photos of the town centre:

I thought there were people standing outside the church, but when I got closer I saw that they weren’t real!

More photos:

Once you get away from the town centre, the buildings become fairly “ordinary” and there isn’t really anything to photograph, but it was worth the trip to see the half-timbered houses photographed. There is also a water tower in Allschwil, about a 25 minute walk from the centre. For the price of 2 CHF you can take a lift up and enjoy a view of Basel, the Black Forest and other surroundings. It’s only open on Sundays and bank holidays though, and my trip to Allschwil was on a Saturday so no water tower for me!

I enjoyed my trip to the centre of Alschwil, but I was left with just one question… why don’t I live in such a pretty house?!

Today I’m linking up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase.

Packing my Suitcase
Allschwil was my April trip for #take12trips 2016.

Two castles and a cathedral

On Saturday the sun was shining for the first time in what felt like weeks, so we thought we’d better make the most of it and go out for the afternoon (and it’s a good job we did – on Sunday the rain was back!).

I suggested that we could take a trip to Arlesheim in Basel-Landschaft to see the cathedral, which is famous for being the only “Dom” in Switzerland. For those who don’t speak German, I shall explain. Dom means cathedral, and the one in Arlesheim certainly isn’t the only cathedral in Switzerland, but the others are either called Kathedrale – as in the Kathedrale St. Mariä Himmelfahrt in Chur – or Münster (minster), such as the Basler Münster (Basel Minster). Not that I’ve personally ever understood the difference between a minster and a cathedral even in English, but there you have it!

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Arlesheim is a cute little village – well, of course it’s cute, this is Switzerland! I’ve yet to see a village that isn’t cute! The cathedral itself is also kind of cute – it doesn’t look big enough to be a cathedral! But I suppose size isn’t a criterion. I felt kind of bad taking photos inside because everyone else in there seemed to actually be praying. It didn’t stop me though… I just tried to take my photos respectfully.

After visiting the cathedral, which obviously didn’t take long, we decided to try and find a castle that we had spotted from the tram on the way to Arlesheim. It turned out to be very close to the village, at the top of a hill. To get there, we had to walk through the Erimitage (Hermitage), which you would expect to be some kind of religious building where hermits went to be along, but in this case is actually a landscaped garden. Apparently the original garden, which was destroyed, contained things like a suspension bridge, artificial tower ruins and a waterfall. These days, it’s basically a hill with steps that lead through various caves. It still looks pretty cool though!

The castle turned out to be Schloss Birseck. We couldn’t go inside because it’s not open yet (and wouldn’t have been on a Saturday anyway). The opening times are May to October on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

The Birs, by the way, is a small river – a tributary to the Rhine – and Eck (or Ecke) means corner. So presumably the castle is in a corner of the Birs. There’s also an area of Basel called Birsfelden, meaning Birs Fields.

Across the road from Schloss Birseck, we saw a sign pointing to Burg Reichenstein, another castle. After about a 10 minute walk – during which I very much regretted my choice of thick tights and a winter coat (the temperature was more like mid-September than early-February!) – we found this second castle.

A sign on the gate told us that a private function was currently in progress at the castle and only invited guests were allowed in, so after taking some photos of the outside we headed back down the hill via a different route, this time through the woods. My research tells me that, while you can book the castle for events, it’s not generally open to the public. There is a picnic area beside the castle with a public grill for barbecues – you just bring your own meat and (I presume) coal!

On a sunny day, Arlesheim and its surrounding castles are well worth a visit, and there’s even the option of taking a slightly longer walk (about 30-40 minutes) through the woods to visit a third castle – the ruins of Schloss Dorneck in nearby Dornach. In fact, I might even suggest that to Jan as a hike for us at some point…

Okay, that’s enough advertising Basel-Landschaft as a tourist destination for one day 😉 It’s time for lunch!

Laufen, Basel-Landschaft

Last month we decided to go and watch a choir perform at a church in Laufen, which just happens to be the nearest town to where Jan works. I’d never actually been there before, so I jumped at the chance to see where he walks most mornings (sometimes he gets off the train in a neighbouring town since his work is between the two). Laufen is small (population just over 5,500) but it has a very pretty old town, and luckily we arrived for the concert before it got dark. Here are some photos:

The concert itself was in the Katharinenkirche (St Catherine’s Church). No matter what setting I put my camera on, I couldn’t managed to get a decent photo inside. Behold:

Grr, I should be able to use my camera by now!

There isn’t really a great deal to do in Laufen itself so you couldn’t really spend a whole day there, but various hiking routes pass by, start or end there – for example, you could start in Flüh and finish in Laufen, ending your afternoon of hiking with a look around Laufen’s old town followed by a meal.

I’m linking this post up with Monday Escapes (and yes, I am aware that today is Tuesday!)

Packing my Suitcase

Hiking from Sissach to Liestal

I will get Saturday’s photo an hour post up soon, but first it’s time for another Monday Escape with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey

Jan has been determined to go hiking since we arrived in Basel, so a few weekends ago we did just that. I found a route that started in Sissach (about 20 minutes train ride away) and ended in Liestal, the capital of the half canton Basellandschaft (the capital of Basel-Stadt is, of course, Basel itself). Warning: another long, photo-heavy post ahead… the scenery is just too beautiful to resist!

The first part of the route took us from Sissach train station up to the Sissacher Fluh (a Fluh, sometimes spelled Flüh or Flue, is a rock face or cliff). That part was the steepest climb and took us about an hour.

The view from the top was well worth the climb!

You could even see Basel from up there (you can tell it’s Basel by the wedge-shaped building):

There’s a restaurant at the top, also named Sissacher Fluh. We stopped there for a cool drink and some lunch, and decided to share the Fluh platter which looked like this:

Sissacher FluhIt also came with delicious bread.

After lunch, it was time to head back down the other side of the hill. There was a kind of sculpture trail set up on the hillside, which was mostly weird and a bit pointless, but there was on sculpture I really liked:

Those of you who are connected with Confuzzledom on Facebook may have noticed that one of the moles is the new profile picture for the page. The title of the sculpture was something about politicians and looking to the future (obviously a play on the fact that moles are practically blind and can’t see very far).

This part of the route led from the Sissacher Fluh to the village of Hersberg, past another village called Nusshof. Have some more pictures:

In Hersberg, we saw some horses and stopped to refill our water bottle.

Next it was on through the woods and up the hill to Schleifenberg, which meant another hour of hiking.

Finally, we reached the top of the Schleifenberg, where there’s a viewing tower. The tower is 30m high, and after climbing up the first few levels you find yourself coming out of the trees to spectacular views. It costs 50 rappen to get into the tower and no change is given so make sure you have a 1/2 franc piece on you! Trust me, you are not going to want to miss these views! My camera could not do it justice at all – partly because it can’t cope with clouds, but mostly because it just can’t see as far as my eyes can!

Directly below us, at the base of the Schleifenberg, we could see our destination – Liestal. We still had just under an hour of walking to go before we got there though, so we decided to stop for a quick drink. We had a beer each and watched some bug (beetle?) that was crawling around the picnic bench.

On the way back down to Liestal, we came across more wildlife: hornets, a snake and a lizard (who I didn’t manage to get a photo of before he ran away):

Jan took the final hornet picture here – I wasn’t willing to get that close!

Finally, just as we were about to leave the woods and enter Liestal, we spotted a very interesting looking tree…

LiestalI don’t know how well you can see, but the roots form a kind of cave under the earth above. I actually had my photo taken inside, but it’s on Jan’s phone so I can’t access it now.
Then, just after seeing the tree, we finally reached the outskirts of Liestal.

First glimpse of Liestal
First glimpse of Liestal

With a population of just over 14,000, although it’s the capital of Basellandschaft, Liestal is not exactly large. It’s an industrial town, but it has a very pretty old town centre, which we walked around for a while.

There are three museums in Liestal (the cantonal museum for Basellandschaft, a town museum for Liestal and an organ museum), but being late afternoon on a Saturday in a small town, all of them were closed – as were the shops. By that time we were tired out from our long hike (13 km, in case anyone was wondering) so we left Liestal and took the train back home. My leg muscles hated me the next morning, but it was worth it for the gorgeous we saw along the way. I still can’t believe all of this is literally on my doorstep!

My Travel Monkey