Thursday, March 05, 2009
Carnival in Basel
I have never been a big fan of Baden’s carnival, probably since I live in its center and can’t escape it, but I really enjoyed Fasnacht in Basel.
For one thing, it had more creative costumes and masks. For another, it actually seemed like the “musicians” rehearsed ahead of time. A Basel local confirmed this. The bands are allowed to practice up to three weeks beforehand in designated areas of the city.
There are two kinds of music at Fasnacht in Basel: traditional and Guggen. I preferred the traditional music myself, which consisted of fife and drum bands in groups from 2-25 who wandered the streets with no shame in running you over should you somehow fail to see or hear them coming.
Guggenmusik is normally too loud and obnoxious for my tastes, as it consists of mainly brass instruments played by large bands from a stage, which during Carnival in Baden, is typically right below my window.
The other thing I loved, besides the lantern display in front of the cathedral that was one part art show-one part political statement, was that the entire city of Basel was carpeted in confetti. I got doused with my own good dose, as it is tradition that unless you buy a Basel Fasnacht pin and display it proudly (the Swiss love festival pins—don’t get me started on them), you are fare game to get covered in confetti.
But the real novelty of the confetti carpet is that it’s so un-Swiss. Normally, even stray leaves are swept up the moment they dare decide to cross with a sidewalk, so the fact that so much colorful confetti was allowed to be thrown about the city not to mention allowed to stay around for more than five minutes before a street sweeper appeared was really something else. I loved it and took many photos of my feet, amazed that they could be standing among such creative clutter and still be in Switzerland.
Sadly, I’m sure by today there’s not a trace of confetti to be found. I’m sure that the street sweepers have done their religious duty. And I’m sure that overnight, Basel has become yet again a city of serious people wearing black coats and walking on perfectly clean sidewalks under a coordinating grey sky.
But at least now I know where to go once a year in Switzerland to find its real spirit—even if the people have to put on masks to be brave enough to reveal it.