The start of the Fasnacht, Basle’s Carnival, is less than a week from now. We got to experience the magic of this amazing array and display of movement, sounds and colours for the first time two years ago. I am almost ashamed of that, but I do have an excuse: the date (Monday after Ash Wednesday) usually clashes with the first school term of the year in Geneva (whose February school holidays are usually a week earlier than Basle City’s, as Switzerland is a confederation of states — ‘cantons’ as we call them –, each one being responsible for its own educational and judicial systems, police forces, etc.). Then when I worked as a teacher of English and history in Genevese high schools, it was the same problem; in my next jobs, I was too busy with the positions I held either in Geneva, Lausanne or Zurich.
However, thanks to my wife who spurred me to take her there, we did get to enjoy what can only be described as the quintessence of Swiss festivals. Not only is it extremely popular (in the sense that it attracts large crowds and that it is organised, staged and performed by the people of Basle), but it is free of the scourge of other such mass events: commercialism. In other words, the true festive spirit, untainted by money, still prevails — just as it should!
Some of the many floats, often satirical, in keeping with the Roman origin of the carnival
In short, I hope we shall be able to make it to the city centre of Basle on 23 February before Morgenstreich (morning strike), i.e. when the lights are turned off at 4 a.m. sharp and the parade begins, led by the pipers and the drummers, who are followed by other members of the cliques wearing elaborate masks and costumes and either carrying lanterns or trailing satirical floats.
But this is only the first part of the festival, which starts again a couple of hours later and lasts for 72 hours in all. Here are four more photos of the carnival, all shot on Monday afternoon.