Well, it's February, and here in Switzerland, that means

Basel Fasnacht is one of Switzerland's most famous events, but the carnival may be unfamiliar to visitors. Basel's streets are filled with colorful carnival costumes and the sound of drums and piccolos, plus the weird and wonderful "Guggen" music played by the brass bands. The haunting enactments of medieval rituals are among the highlights: the dance of death (Totentanz) and the masquerade (Mummenschanz). www.fasnacht.ch

This page includes a couple of paragraphs I wrote describing my first Morgenstraich. Also, I have:

Mon, Feb 26, 1996


We got up at 1 a.m. to go to Basel for Morgenstraich. We drove to Lenzburg to take the special 2:10 train, which was pretty full. By the time we stopped in Liestal, it was standing-room only. When we got to Basel, we saw Düdi and her parents, so we followed them through town. We got a spot on the side of the road, watched the crowd swell, and waited for the clock to strike 4 a.m. The groups started getting in place and lighting their lanterns, and at 4 all the lights in the city went out.

The drums started it off, then the piccolos kicked in. Then 25,000 people marched and played while 300,000 watched. Each group makes a float/lantern/painting and elaborate costumes with papier maché masks, big hats, matching lanterns on their heads, etc. It starts out as a massive crowd along and in the streets. After 15 to 30 minutes, people go to restaurants and have Mehlsuppe and Käsewäje or Zwibelwäje, which is burnt flour soup with cheese, and cheese or onion quiche.

The festival lasts until daybreak, which is about three hours. The musicians take breaks, and leave their lanterns on the curb. Big drums and masks line the alleys, as the participants eat their soup. Sometimes they stand to watch the others, masks pushed to the top of their head so they can smoke, while their feathers tickle those behind them.

There is no order to it. No barricades, no parade routes, no police. Groups march up and down the streets, sometimes having to stop for another group to go by. Sometimes groups dwindle down to just a few people, still wandering the streets with drum and fife, as the sun comes up, lanterns go out, and we go home.

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