Last week I told you about the absurdly early start of the Carnival in Basel.
This week I thought I’d tell you about what Basel and the carnival is actually like in daylight. I’m calling this day 2, but day 1 actually included part of day 2. So this is technically just part of Day 2. Are we all clear?
Then I’ll begin.
“Day 2” began with lunch, not breakfast, because we already had that, with wine, at the end of “Day 1”, are you following?
During the carnival many restaurants in the city centre are closed, so we walked a little bit away from the heart of the action to have lunch at Les Garecons. Les Garecons is located in the German railway station in Basel, which may seem like an inauspicious place to go for lunch but a) everywhere is shut (see above) and b) It’s actually very nice and all historic and stuff.
The translations on the website are a little hard to understand, but from what I can work out the German Railway station is situated in Basel, but actually operated by the German Railway company, the only station in the network off German soil. It features a customs border in the tunnel between the platforms and the station hall. The building itself was completed in 1911 and is all high ceilings and quite grand.
The menu wasn’t extensive, but I had a huge burger, which wasn’t even a burger, it was steak in a bun, and a beer which came with a pretzel hung on a little plastic hook. That was enough to start my day well. All I really need is for my drinks to come with bonus snacks.
The food did also come on wooden boards instead of plates, but I feel that was balanced out by the tiny plastic pretzel hook, so I am happy to recommend this as a lunch destination should you ever go to Basel (you should.)
After lunch is where the fun REALLY started. We’d been told that there was a parade in the afternoon, but I didn’t really know what to expect.
We wandered back towards our hotel and found ourselves in the middle of it. I stopped to watch, and somehow manage to lose the other 4 bloggers. I think they went to find somewhere to have a coffee, but I was standing in the rain staring at the parade like an over-excited 6-year-old. I wasn’t worried, we had a WhatsApp group and I had Google Maps. So I decided just to walk into the city and enjoy the carnival.
The daytime parades are a lot more festive than the morning lantern parade. There are the same groups marching in masks, playing drums and piccolo, but this time they are accompanied by what we would call floats, but if you call them that it draws a look of confusion from the locals. Large vehicles, some were tractors with flat beds on the back, others buses or trucks, from which masked people threw confetti, sweets, tangerines, flowers, and, er, leeks and potatoes.
One big difference I noticed between the parades here and what would happen in a similar event in the UK, is that the roads weren’t fenced off. There was one busy intersection with some crowd control barriers, but generally the roads were still open. People lined the pavements, but if you wanted to cross the road people just nipped between the groups in the parade. I thought this was all rather lovely and self organising.
It took me a couple of hours to walk the half a mile into town. I collected sweets and got covered in confetti and I admired the imaginative costumes of the marchers.
The weather on Tuesday was pretty appalling, but it didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm one bit. I had an umbrella, but in the crowds it was a little annoying.
At one point, while I was stood with a huge inane grin on my face watching the parade go by, a woman turned to me, crammed a huge bar of chocolate into her mouth, and then started screaming at me. She was pointing at my umbrella and her shopping bag on the floor while strands of chocolate spittle came from her mouth. I have absolutely no idea what she was saying, maybe my umbrella dripped in her shopping bag? Honestly I have no clue. So I dealt with the situation in the same way I always deal with these situations (some of you may remember the toilets in Munich), which is to pull a face that looks a lot like the “shocked” emoji, shout “SORRY” really loud in English and run away.
After that I gave up on the umbrella and decided I’d just get a bit wet.
Apart from chocolate lady the atmosphere in the crowd was amazing. People walked along side the “floats” with their arms outstretched to collect whatever was being given away or thrown. I spotted one handing out plastic glasses with “Basel” written on it, and became desperate to add it to my collection of travel tat, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get in the right place to nab one.
Children were particularly keen to grab the sweets that were being thrown into the crowds and would scrabble on the floor to collect them from amongst the confetti.
The confetti is a BIG thing. You know those little boxes you buy for weddings? Basel Fasnacht LAUGHS in the face of your confetti. Here confetti comes in sacks about the size of a sack of coal. It’s also all one colour. My prior reading gave me the information that the single colour confetti thrown by the parades indicates that is is clean. If someone at Fasnacht is throwing multi coloured confetti it means they swept it up off the floor. Ew. Considering some of the places I had confetti end up, knowing it was clean was something of a relief.
After 2 hours, slightly damp, covered in confetti, grinning like an idiot and with pockets full of sweets, I decided it was time to try and locate my travelling companions.
They were having a coffee, and taking much more attractive photos of it than I would have managed.
By now it was about 4pm. Having been up half the night we were all feeling pretty exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel to refresh ourselves and decide what to do with the evening. On the way back I enlisted some help to attempt to get an outfit photo, even though my outfit wasn’t all that exciting.
We managed to grab this one on a street with Swiss flags, but further attempts were derailed by a man in a monkey mask with a drum. Obviously.
Brightly coloured wall was slightly more successful. Though I think my poor damp camera was suffering from some condensation issues.
We wandered back to the hotel through rainy confetti filled streets. I bought Gluhwein from a street stall, and added an extra shot of Amaretto because I was feeling impulsive.
The main parade was over, but groups of masked people still marched and the streets were still filled with people, confetti and the sound of drums and piccolo. I was far more over-excited than a woman in her late 30s has any right to be.
Once back at the hotel I sat in a chair by the window with a cup of mint tea and watched the fun still happening on the streets outside. There was some WhatsApp discussion on what to do with the evening. Dinner was not included in our itinerary, which had somewhat worried me as Switzerland is expensive. It had been suggested that we head to old town in the evening and buy street food. I had spotted bratwurst, bread and mustard was only about 4 francs, and I thought that might be a cheap and fun option, but general consensus in the group was that everyone was tired and wanted to eat in the hotel. Our group also contained many people with specific food requirements like gluten free and vegetarian, so street food was a bit of a complicated option. So, hotel it was.
We had a nice dinner, but it wasn’t really very, well, Swiss, so I decided I wanted to pop over to a bar across the road after dinner for a beer. It looked suitably Swiss, it sold fondue, though having already eaten (and it being meant to serve at least 2) I didn’t have any of that.
The bar was very local, full of tired people who had been parading the streets all day and a harassed waitress serving food to large tables. I had a large bog standard lager type beer at the very Swiss price of around £6, and then retired to bed where I was lulled to sleep by the sound of drums and piccolos, which seemed to finally stop some time around 2:30am.
And thus ends day 2 in Basel, in which I got wet and covered in confetti.
I have one more day to tell you about, so come back later this week to find out about how I got confetti in my pants and bought a biscuit. I can tell you’re excited.