It's Fasnacht in Switzerland! Late January through February, Protestant areas of the country celebrate the pre-Lenten festival season known as Fasnacht (the Swiss-German version of Carnival). Parades of costumed children, grotesquely-masked adults and "Cliques" of piccolos and drums parade through streets in towns large and small, passing out candy and dumping loads of paper confetti.
|Morgenstreich, photo courtesy of news.ch|
|Top: drums and masks waiting outside a pub|
Bottom: a Clique marching through the Altstadt
After a warm lunch and break from the weather at the Manor self-service restaurant, we found a less-crowded spot on the long parade route. We also purchased an official Basel Fasnact Badge - a must for parade participants and observers alike. The city funds the massive festival with the proceeds of badge sales and, more importantly, your treatment during the interactive parade is highly dependent on whether or not you display this year's badge!
And the parade kicked off!
The costumes and masks are amazing. The masks are calling Larve and are hand-crafted especially for the parade. Costume and parade float themes are typically satirical and often political. We understood a few (those with obvious pictures and costumes were easiest), but many were written in the local dialect of Swiss-German and were quite far over our head. Luckily understanding is not required to enjoy.
|Sometimes wearing a pin means you get to ride in the float with a gorilla!|
According to some sources, Basel Fasnacht began the tradition of throwing confetti!
|A badge-wearer receives flowers from this parade float.|
Children also participate in the Basel Fasnacht parade. Their costumes are simpler, sometimes they play instruments and they are often handing out paper copies of poems and stories. We took one from most of the young paraders - how could we say no to such cuties? But the poems were written in the Basel dialect of Swiss-German and we couldn't understand very much of it!
|Our haul of Fasnacht parade goodies. |
Not pictured: loads of fruit and a few
Want to plan your own visit to Basel's Fasnacht? Here are a few tips and links to help.
- The Fasnacht Comite has a website available in English. It has great information including each year's parade schedule and route maps.
- Trains run frequently between the Zurich and Basel Hauptbahnhofs and there are additional early-morning trains that arrive in time for Morganstreich! Details from SBB are here.
- Once you arrive, buy a badge! Vendors walk around the pre-parade crowds selling them, but once the parade begins, they're tricker to find. The badges range in price based on the metal. We purchased the least expensive pin at 8chf. Well-worth the flowers, candy and fun!
Have you been to Fasnacht? Share your tips in the comments!