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.

Celebrating Switzerland’s birthday

Saturday was the 1st of August (what? How did that happen?!), which in Switzerland means Bundesfeier or Swiss National Day. Supposedly, 1 August was the date on which the original three cantons, Uri, Schywz (which gave Switzerland its name) and Unterwalden (which no longer exists as a canton) signed the Federal Charter of 1291. Unlike in Germany, where Reunification Day is a solemn occasion, in Switzerland National Day means fireworks! Lots of fireworks! And Basel isn’t content with just celebrating on one evening… the unofficial fireworks display (unofficial in the sense of not on the right day, they were organised by official people!) was on Friday evening on the Rhine then there was a second celebration in the Bruderholz area of the city on the actual day. We attended both, but I got the feeling most people only went to the celebration on the Rhine… things were certainly a lot more crowded there anyway!

Our first stop on Friday evening was at Marktplatz. The town hall was all decked out in Switzerland and Basel-Stadt flags, there were food stands, and a Dixieland band was playing. We each purchased a sausage then ate it while watching the band for a bit before moving on.

On the banks of the Rhine, there’s a statue of a boy holding a fish (don’t ask me why!). Some revellers had decked him out in a Swiss flag for the national holiday:

BundesfeierLots of people go all out for the national holiday. There were flags, bunting and lanterns in red and white everywhere!

Bundesfeier

We found ourselves a spot next to a stand selling Basel beer (very tasty, by the way). It wasn’t too crowded there – the Mittlere Brücke and the opposite side of the river seemed to be where most of the crowds were gathered – and we could see both sets of fireworks. A selection of photos:

After the fireworks, we walked down to the next bridge, crossed over to see what was on the other side of the river (lots of loud music, cocktails and a much younger audience!), ate raclette from one of the stands there and then headed home.

The next night, we went to the official celebrations for Basel-Stadt in a field up on the Bruderholz. Our own town was holding its own celebrations, but we chose not to go as there weren’t any fireworks (the place they would have been set off was subject to a ban due to them being too close to the woods after the extremely dry weather we’d been having – ironically, it was raining when we left the house!). Being official, these celebrations involved a speech by the president of the Gemeinderat (municipal council), but also various forms of entertainment, including presentations by the Schweizer Tambouren und Pfeiferverband (Swiss drummers’ and fifers assocation). They were very good, with even the youngest performers keeping perfect time! The final group of drummers wore skeleton masks and played with fire, which was kind of fun.

In between drummers drumming and pipers piping, people in traditional dress danced and we ate yet more sausages. Also, I couldn’t resist the Swiss cows on sticks being sold at the cake stand!

After the speech by the official and the drummers’ final performance, there was a fire show then two singers performed what they called “a tribute to the national anthem”. I think the organisers had expected them to actually sing the national anthem, which is why the progamme for the events had the text printed on the back, but oh well! What they actually sang was something weird in English with one line from the national anthem in each of the national languages in between. Not what I was expecting! Then, finally, those who weren’t already standing out in the field headed over to the bonfire to watch the main event… fireworks! Actually, people had been setting off their own fireworks all evening (there was an official area for it), even before it got dark, but of course only “official” people are allowed the really impressive ones!

The fireworks went on for about 20 minutes, after which we headed off to find a tram that would take us home – we had walked across the fields to get to the event, but I didn’t fancy taking the same route back in the dark!

Yesterday, I read that there is also a regular fireworks display over the Rhine Falls on 31 July, so I’ve now decided I need to see that one some day. A fireworks display over the largest plain falls in Europe has to be pretty spectacular! (And by the way, if anyone would like to explain to this idiot what a “plain waterfall” is that would be fabulous 😉 ).

It’s Monday, so I’m linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey again for the latest edition of Monday Escapes.

Packing my Suitcase

A Photo an Hour: Christmas Dinner Day

When Jane from Is That You, Darling said she was going to be hosting her next Photo an Hour session on the sam day I was making my annual Christmas dinner for friends, I knew immediately I would have to join in. Every year I post a few photos of the turkey or the food-laden table… this year, you’ll be getting a behind-the-scense look, so to speak. I couldn’t always stop what I was doing straight away, so most of my photos were actually taken at 10 or quarter past the hour, but I’m labelling them with the full hour anyway…

8 am. Up far too early on a Saturday! But my new slippers almost make up for that 🙂

Elmo slippers

9 a.m. A large cup of tea is needed before I can face starting all the cooking!

Large tea

10 a.m. Making a list of timings and foods so I don’t forget anything! (Now you get to see my terrible handwriting…). The list says “sweet potato dip” but I ended up doing an avocadon one instead because Jan didn’t go shopping early enough.

To-do list

11 a.m. Decorating… because you can’t have Christmas dinner without making the flat look festive, too!

xmas decs

12 noon. This marks the start of a whole lot of photos taken in the kitchen. Look how sexy my apron is 😉

Apron selfie

1 p.m. Preparing the starter… could this be the biggest garlic clove EVER? (Pictured next to half a lemon for scale).

Garlic and lemon

2 p.m. Two dips down.. two more to go!

salas and bean dip

3 p.m. Chopping and peeling for the main course has commenced…

carrots

4 p.m. Time to make the stuffing. First step: Chop up the celery…

Chopped celery

5 p.m. Making progress! These pans contain potatoes, bread sauce and stuffing.

Pans

6 p.m. Time for the carrots to join the potatoes in the oven.

food in oven

7:30 p.m. (Because at 7 I was too busy taking things out of the oven and putting other things in bowls to take a photo). Most of the food is on the table… do you think I made enough? 😉

Christmas dinner

8 p.m. Dinner time! And a bonus photo for you… the actual “photo an hour” picture is the one on the right. Ten minutes earlier, I took a photo of my starter even though it wasn’t photo time yet.

… and that was the point where I stopped taking a photo and hour because I was too busy stuffing my face and chatting to my friends. I did take more photos of the evening, but most of them are of people and none of them were taken at an assigned hour.

And in case you were wondering, the verdict on my Christmas dinner was: delicious! (A special shout out goes to my friend K, who made an amazing sweet potato side dish and also provided dessert!)

Pancakes!

Tuesday was pancake day in the UK and Ireland (and also Australia, New Zealand and Canada, it seems).

This is one of the few English traditions that Jan and I keep alive. He’s not a fan of the German carnival – which mostly involves people dressing up, getting drunk and acting like idiots – so when I mentioned that our Shrove Tuesday tradition consisted of stuffing yourself with pancakes (supposedly to get rid of all the fatty/sweet/unhealthy things in your cupboards before giving up everything for Lent) he was all for it.

Pancakes

Pancakes may be the easiest thing in the world to make. My batter consists of 200 g flour, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs and 500 ml of milk. That is it. Really, I could make pancakes any day of the year – I always have those ingredients in the house!

Some people choose to eat pancakes for breakfast on pancake day. Not me! That’s waaaay too much effort first thing in the morning. (I have to leave the house at 10 past 7. Sticking some bread in the toaster is the most you’ll get out of me at that time!). Instead, we have pancakes for tea – and by that I mean the entire meal consists of pancakes, not just dessert. This year, I decided on a chicken, bacon and leek mixture for the savoury filling.

Chicken, bacon and leek

Of course, we had sweet fillings, too – including the classic sugar and lemon juice. As a child, it would never have occurred to me to put anything else on a sweet pancake! I also put out some chocolate hazelnut spread, some vanilla extract and some caramel flavoured syrup.

Sweet stuff

English pancakes aren’t like American ones. They’re close to crêpes, although not as thin. They do need to be thin enough to roll up though! In the UK, we refer to the thicker, smaller type of pancakes as drop scones or Scotch pancakes.

Here’s one of my pancakes with filling on, waiting to be rolled up:

Pancake with chicken

The mixture made a total of 9 pancakes, so I had 4 and Jan had 5. Quite restrained for pancake day – usually I would make many, many more. After all, it’s tradition! 😉