Saturday, 23 February 2008

Basler Fasnacht - Morgestraich

Basel celebrates its Carnival, called the Basler Fashnacht in German, one week after everyone else, possibly to differentiate itself from the Catholic carnival celebrations elsewhere. Basel would be our furthest trip within Switzerland, and we hired a car so we could see some of the countryside as we traveled North from Lac LĂ©man.

Switzerland isn't a very big country, and it only took us about three hours of driving to get from Vevey to Basel, stopping on the way at Augusta Raurica, a Roman settlement that is the oldest in Switzerland. Having already been to Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, however, it was difficult to get too excited about the ruins at Augusta Raurica.

After stopping to see the Action Painting exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler Riehen, we continued up to Basel and parked our little fortwo Smart car near the gates of the old town and wandered in on foot. There was already groups of masked people marching through town, playing piccolos and carrying the covered lanterns that would be lit up at 4am the next morning for Morgestraich (an essential part of the festival) .

Linda has a friend in Basel, with whom she had worked before, and we met up with them for a delicious dinner and generous helpings of red wine. We went to bed completely stuffed and perhaps a little drunk. When we woke up at 3:30am the next morning to walk into town and see the lanterns we may even have still been a little tipsy as we didn't feel as cold as you might expect at 4am in the middle of winter in Switzerland.

The town was completely packed with people, both masked and unmasked, and at 4am precisely the lights in town went out, the lanterns turned on, and the music started playing. It was a complete crush of people and it took us forever to push our way down through the narrow streets to the town square. It was amazing the lantern carriers and their escorts were able to make any headway themselves and there was a fair amount of shoving involved in their progress.

In 2002 the Basler Stadtwerke turned the streetlights off too early at
03:59am. Nonetheless Fasnacht went on until Thursday 4:00am. Therefore the 2002 Fasnacht lasted 1 minute longer that usual.

With the dark and the crowds it wasn't until the following days when we saw the lanterns all lined up that we got an appreciation for the scale of the event.

After about an hour and a half of this we decided it was time to call it a night. I think it is accurate to say the Morgestraich is something you really have to do if you come to the Basler Fasnacht, but probably just the once.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Spring comes Early to Vevey

On Saturday we took advantage of the sunny weather to take a walk through the area around Vevey.

This was not only because of the weather, but also because we had begun to feel like we had neglected our 'home town' in our determination to see Switzerland and surrounding countries.

We walked West from Vevey to Corseaux where we found a really nice little beach. We stayed there a while sitting in the sun, and it was even warm enough for me to take off my jumper!

It was nice to take a break from our usual hectic routine, and although we may complain that there isn't as much snow as expected, it's hard to moan about a nice sunny day at the beach!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Le Carnival des Bolzes - Fribourg

Last weekend was the start of the Carnival celebrations. I had thought Carnival was something that only happens in Rio, but it turns out to be religious celebration linked to Ash Wednesday (or, more relevantly from Linda's perspective, pancake Tuesday).

We did some research on the Internet and asked around about the various celebrations, in the end deciding to go to Fribourg because we had heard it was a nice town and they had a fun sounding itinerary, culminating in the burning of a giant figure in the town square. So we bought our tickets and caught the train through the fog and snowy landscape up to Fribourg.

Once there we could see Fribourg was a lovely little town and we slowly wandered downthrough the streets towards the lower part of town near the river where the celebrations were centred. We found a square where some bands were lined up to play some energetic music with colourful costumes.

For the rest of the afternoon we wandered back and forth between the celebrations, other parts of the town, and further afield. Gradually the celebrations built up until the town was packed with people and floats where lead along the roads that were quickly being covered in layers of coloured confetti.

The climax came after dark when they held a mock trial of Rababou, a fictional character held responsible for all the crimes of the past year, whom they then set fire to in the form of an effigy of wire and straw.

It took a little while for the fire to catch properly, but once it did it ripped up the figure setting off firecrackers as it went. At the same time a canon was fired more confetti into the crowd.

After the fire died down it suddenly got very cold. We had seen some men setting up fireworks on the hill above the town but the prospect of waiting outside for them to go off did not appeal very much. We sheltered in a bar and had hot drinks to thaw ourselves off.

As always seems to happen to us in Switzerland, the heating and gentle motion of the train on the way home soon had us feeling quite drowsy and, although we were home relatively early, it was all we could do to prop ourselves up on the couch and watch some tv before going to bed.

After the success of this Carnival, we will be heading up to Basel for their Carnival, which is held a week after the others and is meant to be the biggest in Switzerland.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Snowing in Vevey

Today when I was wandering home from sending off my nephew's birthday present (sorry Edward, it will be a little late), I noticed little flecks of ice amongst the rain that had started to fall.

By the time I was in Place Scanavin near the apartment it was really coming down quite hard and, while everyone else had run for cover, I stood in the square so Linda could take a photo of me.

This was quite exciting because, while there is plenty of snow in the mountains all around us, we hadn't had much snow actually in Vevey where we live. The fact that we live in the 'Swiss Riviera' should have meant this was not surprising to us but anyway it didn't quite match our expectations of what living in Switzerland would be like.

I even made a small video!