At the start of Lent every year the population of this sensible Swiss city in which I live goes bonkers for three days and nights. Fasnacht, the Basel Carnival, is one of the largest street events in Europe. Last year I missed it because of work so I was determined to experience the real thing this year.
At 4am we are hanging around in the town centre surrounded by loads of other onlookers as well as folks dressed as animals, medieval burgers, clowns, zombies, spacemen etc. as well as floats, banners, and musicians when all the lights in the city are turned off. The is the start of the Morgenstreicht - when the different bands ("cliques") start their marches around the city, lit by lanterns, and accompanied by piccolos and drums. It looks like chaos but I am told that each clique has a carefully planned route.
The cliques have spent months preparing their costumes, lanterns and routines. The themes are a mixture of political, comic and bizarre. Mixed in with Donald Trump and Angela Merkel we spot lanterns about multi-nationals, big pharma, cyber-warfare and Roger Federer. After watching the parades for a while we start to notice that it is really cold and head back for a few more hours in bed. We stop off at the bakery for a snack but miss out on the traditional Mehlsuppe (flour soup) which the more traditional participants are getting stuck into.
At lunchtime we are back for the "Cortege" - the Carnival procession around the town. This time the pipe and drum bands are joined by big carnival floats and 'Gugge' brass bands. The wagon occupants throw sweets, fruit and flowers into the crowd along with big hand fulls of confetti - so that after a while you are covered in multicoloured paper spots! There are thousands of participants - every time one huge band goes past another comes along. One of my favourites was the Mad Max style Gugge band (below) - the fact that they were belting out Seven Nation Army from the White Stripes on the bass might have had something to do with it.
The celebrating continues late into the night on the Monday. On Tuesday is the Children's carnival which I miss as I am back at work but on Wednesday there is another Cortege. Some colleagues at work tell me that the Wednesday night is one of the most fun and relaxed so I am back with a friend. Waiting to meet up outside the smart Trois Rois hotel - which has set up a hugely popular carnival bar, the Drei Waggis, I watch a continuing stream of bands and participants in fancy dress. Then we set off into the Marktplatz to watch more entertainment.
My rather average quality phone video below shows some of the parade on the Wednesday evening and below that you can see a selection from photos from the Monday event.