Floats and lanterns

After the Morgenstreich on Monday morning, Basel’s Fasnacht  continues with the first Cortège (parade) on Monday afternoon. Obviously I had to work then so I missed it. Tuesday afternoon is the time of the Kinderfasnacht, children’s carnival, the time to get the youngest citizens involved in the traditions of the town. Children who are too young to join cliques and wear the giant masks dress in costumes (often home made), join in with parades, hand out sweets and throw confetti. Tuesday is also the time of the small groups – people in costumes and musicians get together to wander around town, playing music, without being in an organised parade.

DSCN5552

Having a German employer means Fasnacht is not a holiday for me, so I missed most of what I described above. By the time I went into town after work last night, most people were already heading home. Many of the participants had already taken off their masks and started drinking and only a few musicians were still playing. In fact, the main clues that it wasn’t a normal day was that town was much more crowded than usual, no trams or buses were running in the town centre and there was confetti all over the floor!

I may have missed most of the action, but there were two things I wanted to go into town for: the exhibition of floats at Kaserne and the lantern exhibition at Münsterplatz. I started by heading to Kaserne so I could see the floats before it got too dark.

There were some pretty impressive floats – some of them were huge!

Baselstäbe (Basel staffs) were again a common image, along with various other aspects of Basel life. Every float had its own theme, and many of them had amusing little slogans or rhymes. Here’s one especially for you, Linda!

DSCN5566
“As long as it’s vegan, everything else is irrelevant” (literally: everything else is sausage)

This clique was clearly against veganism! Here’s another photo I took of their float:

DSCN5569
“Vegetarians are barbaric! I mean, a pig can run away, but what about a salad?”

A few more float pictures:

By the time I’d finished walking around the float display, it was starting to get dark, so I decided it was time to head over to the lanterns. The same Swiss girl who told us where to stand for the Morgenstreich also advised me to get to the lanterns for around 6 p.m. – any later and it gets too crowded to move around! So that’s precisely what I did.

Some of the lanterns I recognised from the Morgenstreich, others were entirely new to me – unsurprisingly. Apparently there are over 200!

They looked quite impressive all gathered together on Münsterplatz.

The float at Kaserne wasn’t the only thing taking a shot at veganism:

DSCN5681
“Being vegan is in, but does it make sense? Once all the carrots have been eaten, there’ll only be grass left to eat!”

My camera battery ran out before I even came close to seeing all the lanterns, but here are a few of my favourite ones that I did manage to get:

Even for people who don’t like Fasnacht/carnival/whatever itself, I can highly, highly recommend the lantern exhibition! You don’t have to attend the parade – just look on this as a large open-air art gallery. The exhibition is over for this year, but get it marked in your calendar for next year (7th March 2017 will be the date of the exhibitions).

By the time I’d finished looking at all the lanterns, my hands were freezing, so I headed off back through the confetti-covered streets to find a tram stop that was still in use. Along the way, I just about managed to get my camera to work again for long enough to take this (terrible) photo:

DSCN5695

Balls in the Tinguely fountain. Of course.

This afternoon there’s another big, official parade throughout the entire town and then this evening the individual cliques have their own march through the streets and alleyways of the old town (maybe I’ll make it to that?). Then, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, all the cliques meet again in the town centre to say goodbye to Fasnacht. When the clocks strik 4 a.m., the drey scheenschte Dääg (three nicest days) are officially over, precisely 72 hours after they began.

My first “Morgenstreich”

DSCN5415

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 😉

DSCN5402

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.

Lion King lantern

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!

Packing my Suitcase