Basel, Switzerand’s Carnival celebration, Fasnacht, starts with the Morgestraich parade at four o’clock on the Monday morning after Ash Wednesday. When clocks strike four, the entire city goes black. When the streetlights go out, a magical atmosphere envelops the city and the tens of thousands assembled to watch gasp.
Lanterns are lit and fife and drum music starts to waft through the streets. Masked marchers in strange, whimsical costumes, and large caricature heads form eerie processions through the streets.
Each group has their own costume, theme music and immense float-like lantern (that requires four large men to carry them).
Some marchers carry colorful lanterns attached to the ends of long poles.
Floats and marchers displaying large caricature heads often lampoon regional and national politicians. Many of this year’s themes were financial.
Although the streets are crowded, the atmosphere is warm, festive and mysterious. At five o’clock the city lights come back on, marchers and spectators take a break and warm themselves at inns and taverns. With all the bizarrely costumed patrons, it slightly resembles the bar in Star Wars.
Popular foods include: Basler Mehlsuppe/Carnival Soup (a thick brown flour soup), Zwiebelwähe (onion tart) and Fastenwähe, a caraway-seed pretzel.
Basel’s Carnival festival, Fasnacht, is one of Europe’s top 50 festivals and does not disappoint. The atmosphere is magical and the experience unforgettable.
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