Sunday, March 1, 2009

2009 Basel Fasnacht - die drey scheenschte Dääg

This Monday morning at 4 AM Central European Time, the Basel Fasnacht kicks off with the Morgestraich. The whole of the central part of the city goes dark, the cliques light their floats, the fifes start playing and the marching begins. I was there for the 2007 Fasnacht and the pictures in this post are from that year.

My friends and I found we needed a strategy for Morgestraich. Unlike the stereotype of the Swiss as being orderly, Morgestraich is anything but orderly. There are lots of people watching and lots of people in the cliques. We were in a crowd at the edge of Barfüsserplatz and had cliques coming at us from multiple directions. The head of the clique has a sort of a pike stick that is used to break through the crowd. We would dodge one and another would be coming at us from another direction! It was difficult to move around the center and finally we realized the best strategy was to march behind one of the cliques.

There’s lots of traditional food served – Basler Mehlsuppe (, kaisewaie, and zweiblewaie washed down with glasses of Warteck or Feldschlösschen beer. Lots of the beer.

The big parade goes off on Monday afternoon. The cliques have changed into costumes that match their theme and they mount their floats for the parade. The masks are works of art. Along the parade route, the cliques throw mimosas, oranges, candy, kisses and confetti. The rule is that you can’t throw anything on someone in a mask. There are smaller clique groups without floats. The biggest thing are the fife and drum corps and the brass bands (Guggemusik). Each of the large cliques have both musical groups. There must be terrific music schools and musicians in Basel given the number of corps and bands. I think the cliques offer music lessons. It is amazing how much effort is put into Fasnacht.

There are other parades on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday is the Kinder-Fasnacht parade. Tuesday evening is capped off by a Gugge-Musik concert in Barfüsserplatz. Not to be missed. All day long, every day, there are people out marching, playing fife and drum or band music. You can hear the shrill of the fife’s playing all night. The Gugge-Musik groups tour the bars and hotels and play for drinks! I don’t want to slight the Schnitzelbangg which are comic musical performances that highlight something that impacted Basel in the last year. They are all performed in Baseldytsch which I don’t understand.

I love Fasnacht but can’t be there every year. You can watch Fasnacht remotely through live web-cam broadcasts from cameras strategically placed around the city. Go to and click on the link for 2009 Fasnacht Live. Marktplatz/Rathaus or Barfüsserplatz would be the best choices. The best is in person and I’m looking forward to 2010.

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