Recent doings #16

Another month has passed (it’s already April!), and that means it’s time to link up with Kristin and Gretch to talk about what I’ve been up to recently.

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Here are my March doings:

Reading. So many books. So, so many. First, I finished the bonus round for Erin’s challenge. Plus I read The Day of the Triffids intending for it to be my book for “a genre you rarely read” (science fiction), except then I had to change it because I didn’t have 5 previously chosen books on my list. And I read the next three books in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, two of them on the same day. That’s how much I love them! In total I read 16 books in March and started another.

Watching. Some film called “Planet 51” that Jan found while flicking through channels. It was cute. Also Come Dine With Me (guilty pleasure!) and I recently discovered the Father Brown TV series so I’ve been watching that occasionally, when I manage to catch it.

Learning. About Wales, but no Welsh yet because I haven’t got to the language portion of my OU course. Also to loom knit – my latest hobby. I have made a few practice hats that wouldn’t even fit a newborn and also one sock for myself. It is recognisably a sock and even fits me, but I haven’t made the second one yet because I ran out of wool – or I suppose I should say yarn now like people who know what they’re talking about.

Celebrating. Jan’s birthday, on the 1st of the month. Not that we celebrated much since he doesn’t care about his birthday (weird, right?) and went to work, but he got gifts and I baked cupcakes so there’s that.

Attending. Fasnacht stuff, including the fire parade in Liestal and the 4 a.m. parade (“Morgestraich”) in Basel.

Trump lantern
Morgestraich. Trump featured on quite a few lanterns…

Eating. Do you know what… you can just look here if you haven’t already. That’s basically our diet, with a few other dishes thrown in (three bean chilli, various soup/broth type things, curry, cottage pie…).

Drinking. I’ve kind of given up on the caffeine avoidance and been drinking a lot of ordinary black tea… I will get better at that again, but lately I’ve been so tired that a proper cuppa in the afternoon has been the only thing that kept me going long enough to actually make dinner!

Buying. Uhh… what haven’t I been buying more like? Books, wool (yarn), crafting supplies, a turtle necklace (too cute to resist!), a Mother’s Day gift for my mam. I have been very bad and I should feel bad, but I really don’t. Must curb my spending this month though…

Seeing. Or hearing? I’m never sure what to say when it comes to concerts! Anyway, we finally saw The King’s Singers, which I gave Jan tickets for at Christmas but the concert was only this month. Plus Jan performed with his choir so of course I went to one of those performances (but not all 4 because seeing the same concert four times would have been slightly excessive!)

Hosting. One friend who came to stay for the weekend just to see us and then four people from Jan’s former choir who came to watch him perform with his current choir.

And I think that’s all. At least nothing else comes to mind. It should give you a pretty good idea of how I spent my time in March anyway.

What have you been doing recently?

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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?

 

Friday letters

The fact that it is Friday is so confusing to me this week! I had three more holiday days from last year that needed to be used before the end of the month and this week was Fasnacht (Basel carnival), so it seemed like a good time to take them, with the result that I went back to work yesterday and now it’s already Friday! While a two day working week is quite relaxing, it is apparently too much for my brain to take in… yesterday I spent 3 or 4 hours totally convinced it was Monday. Hmm. Oh well, on with the letters.

Mail box

Dear Fasnacht. So, you’re over for another year. As fun as you were, I must admit I will be glad to be able to go into town without being confetti bombed! (And to no longer constantly be hoovering said confetti up from my floor!)

Dear body. I do not understand how it took you a month to shed 1.5 kg and a mere three days to put every single gram of that back on. Fasnacht has a lot to answer for!

Dear Jillian Michaels DVD. I have big plans to get you out and start doing your workouts again. Unfortunately so far the project seems to have stopped at the planning stage 😉

Dear self. I know Goodreads is tempting, but you really do not need to be adding any more books to your wish list. Read the ones you’ve got on your shelves first!

Dear OU. It’s been a long time since I last tried one of your short courses. I hope I’m still disciplined enough to do the work! At least this is one I can do at my own pace – and I have a whole 6 months so that should be doable…

That’s all folks. Have a great weekend!

 

A Photo an Hour: 20 February 2016

A small miracle happened this weekend… I actually remembered to take part in photo an hour! (Unlike in January, when I remembered it right up until the night before then ignored my camera entirely in the morning). It was Fasnacht day in my small town, so I actually did something other than sit on the sofa for a change. It still wasn’t the most exciting of days, but you can’t have everything 😉

10 a.m. Awake… ish. Can’t function until I have a cup of tea!

11 a.m. Cross stitching. Can’t show you what I’m working on yet 😉

12 noon. Finishing cuppa number 2 before going for a shower.

1 p.m. (ish). I was actually in the shower at 1, so more like 20 past. Getting dressed for the day.

2 p.m. It was raining and not much was happening, so we decided to eat something before the parade started. I chose meat on a stick (sorry vegetarians).

3 p.m. Parade time! And the rain had actually stopped.

4 p.m. “Who’s going to clean up all the confetti before the trams get going again?”

4.30 p.m. Bonus photo because I didn’t take an even number. My loot from the parade! A group with an anti-vegan float gave me the sausage 😀 Not pictured: the world’s smallest carrot and my flowers (which were already in vases). Jan got even moooore sweets, two oranges and a leek.

5 p.m. We thought we’d pop back out to see what was happening post-parade. It turned out there wasn’t much point in being there if you weren’t part of one of the groups, so we quickly came home. This is my hat after I removed the confetti! Some lingered…

6 p.m. Back home drinking more tea. The yellow flowers in the background are from the Fasnacht parade.

7 p.m. Time to make tea!

8 p.m. Tea time! Bratkartofflen (potato fritters) with sausage plus fish and spinach. An odd combination, but it worked.

9 p.m. Having a beer while watching what turned out to be an awesome episode of Farscape. We’re nearly finished now… what will I do when there are no more episodes?!

10 p.m. Off to read a book in bed. I love my starry PJs!

I should really have taken another photo at 11, which is when I put down my book and turned out the light, but the camera was across the room and I was lazy… hence the bonus photo earlier in the post to keep things even 😉

What did you all get up to on Saturday?

 

The final day of Fasnacht

I didn’t have a chance to post this yesterday, so today you get my final Fasnacht 2016 post instead of Friday letters.

Immediately after the Morgenstreich on Monday, Jan had to go to Germany for work. He got back on Wednesday evening, so I suggested that we meet in town to see what was going on. The official parade was over, but lots of groups were still wandering (or driving) around town, handing out sweets and flowers, getting rid of the last of their confetti and playing music. It took me nearly 20 minutes to cross the Mittlere Brücker (Middle Bridge) to get to where I was meeting Jan!

Above: walking through relatively empty side streets to get across town.
Below: the chaos I encountered on reaching the bridge!

We met at Claraplatz and then had a slow wander back towards town to see what we could find. There was confetti everywhere! I pity whoever had to clean it all up!

Eventually we decided to find a Cliquenkeller (clique’s cellar) to go into. They’re only open to the public on Fasnacht and occasionally for tours. They sell relatively cheap food, so we each had some Wienerli mit Härdäpfelsalat (that’s Wiener/Frankfurter sausages with potato salad to you and me!).

Another tradition at Fasnacht is the Schnitzelbangg or Schnitzelbank, which is a type of rhyming song with a comedic twist. The singers of such songs, known as Schnitzelbänkler, go into the various Cliquenkeller in the evenings during Fasnacht and perform. Just before we left, such a group came in. They called themselves Schnitzelpunk and carried an electric guitar with a mini amp – not very traditional but great fun! They stayed for one song, so we did too.

Schnitzelpunk in the Cliquenkeller

Apologies for the crap photo!

I assume everybody else carried on partying well into the night, making the most of the last few hours of Fasnacht. We, however, had to work the next day, so we left the Cliquenkeller and went to catch a tram home.

I have also learned that the small town we live in is actually having its Fasnacht celebrations on Saturday (the three Fasnacht days aren’t public holidays outside of Basel-Stadt), so we will get to see a parade after all, albeit a slightly smaller one!

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.

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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!

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“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:

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“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:

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“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:

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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”

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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 😉

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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