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The most famous Basel event is the carnival ( or Basler Fasnacht as it's name is in german). It is a lot different from all other big carnivals in Europe. It starts at 4 o'clock in the morning with the so called Morgestraich on the Monday morning after Ash Wednesday, or if you want, 6 weeks before Easter Monday. So, the date changes from year to year. Normally, the hotels are fully booked during this week. Make sure that you book months in advance in order to get your hotel room.
The street lamps are switched off at 4 am precisely and in the fully crowded streets only the lights of the 10 ft big lanterns and from thousands small lanterns on the head oft the active participants are seen. Thousands of drummers divided in approx. 200 groups and the same quantity of piccolo flute players are creating a smashing athmosphere. Please do not spoil this athmosphere by using flash lights when taking pictures. This is an absolute NO NO! ( and the no-flash pictures reflect much more the unique athmosphere, by the way). It is common to round up the morning with a breakfast containing onion pie (Ziibelewaije), brown flour soup (Mählsuppe) and a good glass of wine or beer.
Generally during the three days, every active participant is wearing a costume covering the whole body, sometimes similar to those in Venice, but always wearing a mask! The air is full of drum beating sounds and piccolos playing both very old marches and modern medleys. In addition there are 80 Brass Bands, totalling the number of actives to approx. 15'000, not to forget the 500'000 visitors during the three most important days in Basel. Please do not try to "participate" by colouring your face or wearing a plastic nose. The local's reactions would be rather negative if not rude, as they are eager to preserve their carnival unique and old alemmanic style. Please, don't take it serious. Apart from that they will be as helpful as they are during the rest of the year. Just ask them in case you would like to know more about a detail. They will explain it to you and mostly invite you for a drink.
In the afternoon. The groups parade in costumes, which are made especially for this year's fasnacht and refer to a sujet (the satirical treatment of a national or international event). It is common that you wear the carnival badge in copper, silver or gold. By buying this badge you support the education of young drummers and pipers with your donation. ( and it is a beautiful souvenir).
DO buy a badge, DO ask local people for additional information (most of them speak english), DO have fun and celebrate.
DON't drink too much (unlike other carnivals the locals don't), DO ABSOLUTELY NOT use flashlights at the Morgestraich, DO NOT try to pass your way through performing groups (might be dangerous, give way, please). Thank you.
The next carnivals start on 14th March 2011, 27th February 2012, 18th February 2013, 10th March 2014, 23rd February 2015
End of October to beginning of November the autumn fair takes place. 300 attractions wait for you, beginning with the vendors of local specialities, sweets and roasted chestnuts and ending at huge Rollercoasters, flying carpets, scooters or giant steel wheels with cabines, similar to the Millenium in London or the Prater wheel in Vienna.
some impressions: http://www.mybasel.ch in german
Starting at the beginning of December this relatively young event has become a special attraction for tourists. The whole city is wrapped in Christmas decoration. On some places, such as Barfüsserplatz and Claraplatz folks sell everything that belongs to christmas, including spicy hot wine and sweets. Charming, peaceful athmosphere, but mostly no snow, unfortunately.
click here: http://www.baslerweihnacht.ch click on the pics to enlarge
Every year, on a Friday evening in late January the city is crowded by more than 100'000 visitors at the Museums night. 30 Museums are open the whole night. There are special performances and attractions as well as stands with food and drinks related to the topic; i.e. visiting the aquariums of the zoo and eating Sushi. No joke! The museums are linked by a shuttle service until 2 o'clock a.m. The ticket is 20 Francs and includes admittance to all museums as well as the shuttle service by boat, tram or bus.
This is also the ideal event to meet locals and have a good chat. Make sure you do not suffer from claustrophobia, as the museums can be very crowded. No danger though.
The Basel Tattoo
After the groupleader of the Basel Top Secret Drum Corps, Erik Julliard, had enjoyed the thrilling athmosphere of the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, he had the idea to organize a similar, smaller, event of this kind in Basel.
Since 2006, groups and the best military bands and Guards from Britain, continental Europe,Asia, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as Switzerland (of course) and overseas perform at an amazingly sucessful top-quality event in Basel.( i.e. in 2008 the musicians came from 11 countries on 4 continents). Meanwhile the Basel Tattoo is the second biggest open air event for this kind of music worldwide.
The 100'000 available tickets are sold out months in advance, that means within a few days in December when the internet ticket box opens So, be quick! The arena, situated in the court of the former military barracks on the northern banks of river Rhine offers 9'000 seats to the audience, which is coming from all over Europe. The quality of the performances is a delight for all those who are interested in modern and tradional miltary band music, especially in Scottish bagpipes and drums ( which Basel folks deeply love ). The parade on Saturday afternoon through the city is ,of course, free and another reason for a "family party", when Basel folks and foreign guests have fun until late night.
The Basel Tattoo is taking place second part of July. One week. 11 performances.