Basler Fasnacht – Carnival in Switzerland
It’s my ambition to visit as many carnivals in as many countries as possible. I find carnival celebrations irresistible because they give such a deep insight into the belief and culture of other people. Every day life is fine, but what shows their true natures is the way how they let down their hair.
Last year it was the carnival in Venice and this year I went to Basel in Switzerland. It could not have been more different. First of all, the Fasnacht starts later than any other carnival which has to do with religion. The three days of quite ‘serious’ festivities started today and nothing much else dominates the city.
At 4am this morning carnival started with the Morgestraich. At 4am on the dot, the city is plunged into darkness. Out of the dark you only hear the sound of pipes and drums and then a huge procession, the courtege, emerges. Masked figures, illuminated by torches, wind their way through the densely packed streets, five deep lined with silent and awed spectators, who have often arrived at midnight to secure their place.
Eerie and fascinating like nothing I have ever seen. Afterwards, you warm up in one of the many ‘baizes’, Cafes or restaurants and devour a specialty: Mehlsuppe, ‘flour soup’ which is a thick dskr brown soup into which cheese is melted. I think it has about 1000 calories per spoonful, but who is counting.
Unlike in other carnivals, people are spectators, not participants unless they belong to one of the many cliques. Groups of them or single men or women walk the streets all day long, beating drums or blowing a pipe. No other instruments are heard.
In the afternoon, parades wind their way along the streets and in the evening the various cliques have their reunions where satirical speeches are given, making fun or criticizing politicians and other celebrities. For an outsider it’s difficult to follow because they are given in Schwyzerdütsch, the local language.
Enjoy a few pictures to give an impression of a very different carnival.