I was surprised to find a tradition here so alive which was almost extinct in some other parts of the German-speaking world. For long time, it was a tradition to bake and give away little men baked with sweet bun dough on St. Nicholas' day (December 6th). They were often decorated with raisins and recieved a non-eatable pipe. Known as „Stutenkerle“ or „Weckmann“ in other regions, they are called Grättimaa in Basel – and were for sale quite everywhere.
I am astonished to see that VT's opulent Basel travel guide does not, so far, contain much about Basel's so special carnival. The Fasnacht is the most famous event in the city.
Basel locals, please forgive an outsider, who has never really been 'in' it, the description from an outsider's point of view. My experience is limited to two visits on Wednesday for the Courtège. I have to admit that I have not seen the Morgestraich - yet. For 2010, I have just booked myself a room for three nights and then I will be there and see it all.
Basel celebrates its carnival one week later than the usual carnival date. How come? The Lent is officially 40 days. When counting from Ash Wednesday to Easter you end up with 46 days, not 40. At some point in history the catholic church decided that Sundays are holidays and shall not be counted as fasting days, so the duration of the Lent is counted as 40 days plus 6 Sundays. Protestant Basel and other parts of Northwestern Switzerland refused to join and stuck with the old date, 40 days before Easter including the Sundays.
The event begins in the earliest hours of the morning on Monday after Ash Wednesday. At 4 a.m. all the lights in the city are turned off and the Morgestraich starts in the dark streets. Masked groups play flutes and drums and present their illuminated lanterns for the first time.
After a rest, the big daytime parade, the Courtège, starts at 1:30 p.m. Two circle routes, one clockwise, one counter-clockwise, lead through the city centre.
Map of Courtège route
Tuesday is the day of the children and the Guggemusik bands. In the evening, the Schnitzelbängg invade the pubs of the city to tell about last year's events - profound language skills in Baslerdytsch are required.
Wednesday sees another Courtège parade, again at 1:30 p.m. If staying up all night and being in the streets at 4 in the morning feels too much for you, the Courtèges are an easier and also interesting option to see a bit of Basler Fasnacht in comfortable daytime hours.
More photos in my travelogues...
Website: www.fasnachts-comite.ch (in English)
the "Bird Griffin" - Vogel Gryff seems to be yet another of the dragons in Basel.
It is one of the three Signs of the three "Ehrengesellschaften" of Basel. Guilds would be the english word (thank you JTF). They come from the old Zuenfte, where the Workers of Basel were put together. That was some sort of a union to help the workers.
The three Ehrengesellschaften / guilds are:
Rebhaus, Greifen and Haeren. They are represented at the "Vogel Gryff" Event through: the "Wild Maa" (wild man), "Vogel Gryff" (the Bird Griffin) and the Leu (Lion).
The Vogel Gryff is a thing of the smaller Basel (Kleinbasel).
The three Representants in their costumes are coming together, dancing in front of several buildings and going down the Rhine until the Middle Bridge on a raft.
The Gryff is not really a bird. It is that fabulous animal like seen in the newest Harry Potter, and it is often shown with four legs.A Griffin like in Griffindor
This "Vogel Gryff" festival is a tradition with many aspects.
When they are dancing, three Uelis are collecting money. The Uelis, that also belong to the three Ehrengesellschaften, are or white/green. There is a forth one white/black since 1937. They were collecting money for the widows and orphans of the members of the unions (there wasn't always the social state like today). Today the money they get (also over shecks) is still used for social institutions in the smaller Basel.
Another interesting thing is the Wild Man (see tip there).
The bigger Basel didn't like this festival, so they made and hung up a face that is showing its tongue to the smaller Basel. The "Laellekoenig" (Tongue - king). You can find that face on the Middle bridge looking at the side of the smaller Basel....
Start of this local event is around 10:30 (depends on the water in the Rhine)
2005 it will be on January 13th.
(The website is only in german)
Basel became a center for Reformation studies and Humanism. At the University library one can see among other things manuscripts of the religious reformers Martin Luther, Erasmus, Huldrych Zwingli, and Philipp Melanchthon.
University Library, Schönbeinstrasse 18-20.
Phone: +41 +61 267 3100; Fax: +41 +61 267 3103
I noticed there are some mailboxes in Basel with special design. One of them I saw at the former city gate Spalentor, another next to the so called Stadthaus (corner Schneidergasse and Totengässlein), and yet another in Riehen near the parish church.
They were designed by Melchior Berri (1801-54), one of the most important architects of Classicism in Switzerland. He built e.g. the building for the Museum on Natural History close to the Münster church. He also created the stamp called Basler Dybli (Dybli = Basel dialect for pigeon). The "Dybli" is to see on the mailbox as well (see picture).
The Basel Autumn Fair (Herbstmess) is the oldest and largest fun fair in Switzerland, going back to the 15th century. It is great fun for young and old, families, groups of kids as well as seniors.
You'll see antique carousels as well as top-modern highflyers (see pics 1 and 4), booths selling things from delicious food (cheese, meat, chocolate etc) to anything you need or do not need. The fair is spread all over the old town to both sides of the river. I particularly liked the Petersplatz area right in front of my hotel. Not too loud, good food, beautiful antique carousel (pic 1). The young crowds prefered the Münsterplatz, Kasernenareal, Barfüsserplatz where the top-modern and more exciting attractions were.
The fair begins 14 days prior to St. Martin's Day and ends the third Sunday evening afterward. It is open at Petersplatz 11 - 20 h, at the other places until 22 h, on Fridays and Saturdays until 23 h.
While walking around Basel I discovered the Laeckerli Huus with its famous Laeckerli, which is a kind of original Basel speciality.
"Lecker" means "delicious" in German. That small gingerbread biscuit is composed of many ingredients like honey, almonds, nuts, orangeat, zitronat, kirsch and some spices.
The name " Laeckerli" emerges only around 1720, however the popular biscuit was offered already much earlier in good "Bürgerhaeusern" during Advent time.
Nowadays Laeckerli are consumed year round in the Basel area and you can find several stores in the city.
One of the shops, where you can buy it in all variations and gift-wrap:
Laeckerli Huus, Gerbergasse 57
Opening times Mon-Thu: 9am - 8pm, Fri: 9am - 10pm, Sat: 8am - 5pm,
Basel's Christmas market takes place in Barfüßerplatz and around Barfüßerkirche. It is an enjoyable market. The stalls offer a lot of unique arts and crafts in good quality, in addition to a wide variety of food and drink.
The only disadvantage: the lanes between the rows of stalls are narrow, too narrow for normal late afternoon crowds. They fill up quickly and then squeezing through is not pleasant any more. Come in daytime hours, before about 3 p.m.
St Nikolaus ("Samichlaus") Day, December 6, is an important event in Basel. It's worth visiting the city on that day if you want some additional pre-Christmas flair and do some Nikolaus-spotting. The Nikolaus's dress is usually the same as Santa Claus's. Only those who 'work' for churches will wear a more bishop-like outfit that resembles more the original Saint Nikolaus, bsihop of Myra.
The city is full of Santa Clauses that day. They are everywhere. In the shops, of course, for advertising reasons. In boats on the Rhine. In the streets. On horse-drawn carriages. Visiting churches. And... on motorbikes. Not any plain average motorbikes but heavy Harley Davidsons.
At 5 p.m. the city centre stops its shopping activities, people line up on the sidewalks to see the "Harley Niggi-Näggi" parade. I guess it's a local Harley club who does the parade. Some two dozen bikers dress up and decorate their bikes with incredible imagination.
See my travelogues for more pictures.
The carnival is the largest spectacle of Basel since 1376 according to the earliest records. The procession is beginning on the Monday following the Ash Wednesday and last until three day every year. It begins with the traditional Morgenstraich parade. For three days, the city is in turmoil, living to the sound of thousands of piccolos, drums and an atmosphere like no other. On the carnival also the "Kingdom of Lepmuria" probably takes part, which of course is no real place just a carnival group.
There is a scheduled pick up time for all your disposables. Locals would put them out in the curb and the bags must be purchased from the city itself. Prices vary based on the size of the these bags.
In the U.S. or at least where I live, the city provides a huge barrell where we can dump as much trash as we want and the city dumptruck will come once a week to empty the barrell.
The first of August is the National holiday.
On this day most shops are closed - as if it was a sunday.
Most festivities will be held on the evening before, though. Maybe because the next day (August 2nd) we have to work normally again.
So on 31st July in the evening there are fireworks in many cities all over switzerland.
If you want to see the (quite big) one in Basel, you just have to go to the border of the Rhine or one of the brides.
Many stands will provide you with food and drink.
If you rather like to have it more quiet, choose one of the suburban villages. Some of them, like Muttenz have high fires. That is they make big fires on the top of the hills. (See picture).
To get there you will have to walk a bit, though. Uphill. No cars allowed. Bring your own food and drink.
On the plus side you can watch the fireworks in the city and the villages around from up here.
Go for this crazy festival when all the lights are switched off and baslers stay up all night to welcome in lent listening to trommlers (drummers) and pfiffers (piccolo players) make an unholy racket. don't forget the massive lanterns and crazy costumes. the one time swiss people really let their hair down and cover the streets in mountains of confetti, to be duly swept clean within a couple of hours of the road cleaners getting out there every day....
Unique fun, a whole town gets converted, noisy, colorful, nuts...it's mainly a street festival. It takes place every year at the end of February or early March (6 weeks before Easter). It starts at 4 am on Monday morning with the Morgestraich, a huge road parade alit with dozens of themed lanterns, and continues for 3 days and nights until Thursday morning at 4 am. Certainly worth a trip or a large detour, the most fascinating event in Europe at this time of the year.
I am not much into football (or soccer as the americans say), but it is really hard in these times to get around it.
FCB, that is our local Football Club, is playing well enough to attract a lot of fans.
They are Schweizermeister (best swiss football club) this year and 2002. 4-5 players do also play in the National Team.
So, do not be astounded to find the flag in red, blue and yellow almost everywhere - even on the Rathaus on the Market Place (see pic).
Its not only the flag, almost every third car from Basel and surrroundings has the sticker on it.
When they have a match at their local stadion (St. Jakob), the area is closed for cars - and you better not need a parking space right then.