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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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