Last time I posted was over a month ago, and I was in the process of writing my end of year report for university – I’m very pleased to say this is now all finished and submitted! To celebrate with me, Bill flew out and we spent a fantastic weekend in Paris practising the art of the flâneur.
Being only three hours away by train, I don’t know why I hadn’t visited Paris already! When asked if they like Paris, people often claim that they love the city but find the Parisiennes to be rude – this was far from my experience, as everyone we encountered was friendly and very patient with my bad French.
Having never explored Paris before I was keen to take in all the touristy sites, and in our brief visit we managed to see a lot. We stumbled into the Grand Carnival in Montmartre, walked the Champs-Élysées, and ate an inadvisable amount of macarons.
After quite a few successive weekends in the lab working on my report, a trip to Paris was just what I needed. I’ve got a few months ahead of me without any uni work, so expect some exciting posts on the following:
- A super fun design collaboration with the excellent Versatyl & Pilgrim of New Street Records for their new single, Lessons/Underground Sound – follow them on all the social medias so you don’t miss it!
- Complaints about camping and snarky comments about all the acts I get to catch at Eurockéennes Festival next weekend!
- A guest post exchange with the fabulous ALMSEE, who’s fresh off the plane from Trek America – find out more about her travels on her blog!
- A picky vegetarian restaurant review for my follow chemistry student Greg of the brilliantly named new food blog Boy Who Eats – I can’t wait to get back to Birmingham and check out some of his recommendations for myself!
Of course you can also find the usual travel snaps and self-important ramblings right here – I’ve got two months left in Basel, so I’m hoping to explore the surrounding area some more before flying home to England! As usual, I’d love to here where you think I should go – I’m currently thinking Milan for next month – so let me know in the comments!
This week in Basel it was Fasnacht!
Fasnacht is the spring festival in Basel – it’s a bit like Mardis Gras, and takes place a week after Shrove Tuesday. It lasts exactly 72 hours, running from 4am on the Monday to 4am on the Thursday. It’s INSANE. Some Fasnacht facts (Fas-facts?) I’ve been told over the last few days which I can’t confirm but sound good:
- 1 in 7 Baslers is an active “Fasnachtler” – Fasnachtlers are members of the marching bands which patrol the city in full costume throughout the festival.
- Some people stay up for the WHOLE 72 hours. (how???)
- Fasnacht is supposed to “chase away the ghosts of the winter” – the sun has been out in Basel this week, so clearly it works.
The official Fasnacht website doesn’t offer a lot of clues as to its origins, other than that, “the terrible earthquake of 1356 which destroyed large parts of the city and many official archives”, so there’s no real record of the festival’s beginning.
The profits from these badges help to fund Fasnacht, so it’s bad form to be seen without one. You can even buy a gold version! The design this year is based on the new tower at Roche, where I work. A surprising choice, as not all the locals are big fans of the tower; it’s set to be the tallest building in Switzerland when it’s completed, so it’s pretty big on the Basel skyline.
Before Basel Fasnacht is Chienbäse, which takes place in Liestal. “Cheinbäse” is the name for the bundles of pinewood which are traditionally set alight and carried through the old cobbled streets of the town.
These seem pretty impressive. Then you see the bonfires:
It gets pretty warm! The procession gets on for about an hour, with the bonfires getting taller and hotter until the whole street is filled with smoke. This happens the Sunday night before Fasnacht begins in Basel, so I left smelling of woodsmoke and opted to stay up all night for the 4am start.
Fasnacht in Basel begins with Morgenstraich.
At 4am on the Monday of Fasnacht, all the lights in the city are switched off, and the laterns belonging to the various “cliques” are illuminated. They then parade around the city into the morning, playing the traditional Fasnacht tune on piccolos.
The next day, things get very different. Large brass marching bands assemble to play Guggenmusik, often discordant versions of pop songs or standards (I heard the Pink Panther Theme A LOT). Waggis appear, showering everyone with confetti, flowers, and increasingly strange gifts – on separate occasions, I saw fruit, cuddly toys, scarves, cakes, lighters, cans of cider, leeks, potatoes and bulbs of garlic handed out. In my bag at the end of the day I had sheets and sheets of stickers, a white rose, a bag of popcorn and a lemon.
Many of the costumes and lanterns featured jokes, mostly about politics or social issues. Being written in the Swiss German dialect, the majority of these went right over my head. However, I think everyone can appreciate this topless Putin costume:
After an exhausting weekend, I was back to work on Tuesday – no 72 hour partying for me. Despite the rain, I can definitely see why the locals call Fasnacht die drey scheenschte Dääg, or “the three most beautiful days”.
As usual, I’ve been using my stack of uni reading as an excuse to go and drink coffee in pretty cities near Basel under the pretence of “studying”. This week, Freiburg:
Freiburg is a small German city on the edge of the Black Forest. I’d visited Freiburg once before, but on a Sunday; as with Basel, Freiburg is pretty much closed on a Sunday so it was great to see it on a busier day. Even if it was a bit grey:
The weather did nothing to deter the stallholders, however; the Freiburg Münstermarkt has existed in one form or another since the town was granted market rights in 1120, so a bit of rain wasn’t about to stop it. There are huge flower stalls, as well as vegetables, handicrafts, and all kinds of exciting food stands.
I even found a stall full of mysterious vegan treats! They’re made from nuts, dates, dark chocolate and dried fruit. I got a few to try, which went well with my coffee on the train home.
I spent the rest of the day exploring Freiburg. The city is full of beautiful cobbled side streets, lined with pastel coloured buildings and “Bächle” – tiny canals set into the ground.
All in all, a great place to get lost for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. On the train back to Basel I encountered a group of Fasnachtlers who were already gearing up for the festivities, which begins this evening! I’ll be at Chienbäse and Morgenstreich tonight – any advice would be greatly appreciated!