No doubt about it, Fasnacht is the biggest event of the year in Basel. All hotel rooms are booked, trams are re-routed around the city-center, and many businesses close. People that have grown up in Basel either hate it or love it. The people that hate it go skiing in the Alps for the week, but the people that love it, call Fasnacht, "the three most beautiful days." Fasnacht is Basel's carnival. A time for the Baslers to let their hair down and act crazy. Keep in mind, I mean Swiss crazy. One could argue that Fasnacht's American counterpart is Mardi Gras, minus the excessive drinking and bodily exposure.
The big fires were HOT! When the guys pulling the cart decided to take a break right beside us, we had to turn our backs to the fire, because the heat was so intense. You can see the people in the background doing the same.
Keep in mind, these fires were being pulled down a street with medieval, wooden houses on either side.
Don't worry, the firemen were there to make sure the fire didn't get out of control!
Liestal's fire parade is a one-of-a-kind experience. Needless to say, we enjoyed it!
Okay. Let's get back to Fasnacht. Fasnacht begins at 4:00am with Morgestraich. Yes, 4:00am. What is Morgestraich? I'll let Maria explain.... (Maria disclaimer: Keep in mind that I woke up at 3:30AM and I'm a little out of it.)
If you didn't understand Maria's explanation, let me try to help. At 4:00am, all the lights in the city-center are turned off and the parade begins. The parade participants are members of the various Basel Cliques. The Clique members dress in crazy costumes, wear silly/scary masks, and typically play an instrument. The only light source for the parade comes from the Clique's lanterns. There are two types of lanterns: large lanterns pulled on carts or smaller lanterns worn on the head. The lanterns, often coordinated with their costumes and masks, portray the Clique's selected theme of the year. These themes typically address a current event and 2010's popular themes were UBS' greed, Gaddafi's craziness, and the new bike helmet law.
Not sure what the themes of these lanterns are. I think they're just supposed to look pretty.
After a morning of sleeping-in, another parade starts in the afternoon. Since it's light outside, there are no lanterns. However, the lanterns are replaced by floats. Clique members ride in the floats and throw various things at you.
Sometimes they throw confetti...
Sometimes they throw oranges...
Sometimes they just give out flowers to beautiful ladies...
Regardless of what they're throwing/giving out, there is always high demand.
One of the best parts of the parade is the bands!
Another great part of the parade is confetti! Native Baslers claim that the tradition of confetti began in Basel. Not sure if it's true, but there is no doubt that they know how to throw some confetti! However, they only sell single color bags of confetti in town, because an old Swiss lady gave Maria a stern lecture after Maria picked up confetti off of the street to throw at me. Maria learned the hard way that, "even Swiss children know that mixed confetti is dirty confetti."
Here I am trying to dodge confetti.
Maria was sad that none of the Clique members threw confetti at her, but pout and you will receive. Here's the before and after pictures.
Happy Wife = Happy Life.
Another great part of the parade was the costumes. Here's a sampling of some funny/silly costumes.
And here's a sampling of some of the more offensive, not-so politically correct costumes. I don't think that all of these costumes would fly in America, but maybe something is lost in translation. (These costumes are in no way endorsed by www.mariaandnateineurope.blogspot.com and simply represent the opinions of the depicted Cliques.)
After a long, fun afternoon of catching oranges and dodging confetti, it was time to make our way back home. Unfortunately, making our way back home was easier said than done.