Basler-Fasnacht 2012 : A Swiss Carnival that starts in the dark

When S from Scwingen in Switzerland invited me along for  the carnival ‘Basler-Fascnacht‘ (listed as one of the top fifty local festivities in Europe) happening in Basel, I knew I couldn’t give it a miss for this would be a fitting way to end my Swiss adventures literally with a big bang!

The Carnival of Basel (German: Basler Fasnacht) is the biggest carnival in Switzerland and takes place annually on the Monday, after Ash Wednesday in Basel.  It starts precisely at 4:00 am with an elaborate ceremony called Morgestraich and the carnival lasts for exactly 72 hours and, therefore, ends on Thursday morning at 4:00 am.

We were up all night catching the overnight train from Geneva to Basel.  We arrived into Basel at about 3.20am all blurry-eyed, but felt an adrenaline rush because the crowds were all in high spirits, and after finding a nice spot along the crowded streets, we were all ready to dwell in the festivities.

At exactly 4am, all the lights in the old town of Basel are turned off and the Morgestraich marks the beginning of the Carnival.  With the command “Morgestraich, vorwärts marsch!” (“Morgestraich, forward march!”) from the drum majors, all cliques begin to march and play their instruments.

Approximately 18,000 revelers participate in this grand carnival by wearing a costume with a mask.

Masks of clowns, cartoon characters, animals and public figures (politicians and other celebrities) are modeled.  I think some of the most striking masks I’ve seen are that of the pipers and drummers-cliques for it’s equipped with a head lantern.

The cliques play their way through the downtown by marching with their flutes (piccolos) and their drums.

A clique usually consists of a large Zugslaterne (parade lanterns) that are wheel-mounted or carried by 2 to 3 people in front of the clique followed by participants wearing the head-mounted Kopflaterne (head lanterns), pipers and drummers.

The cliques often follow no particular route when they march.  It is said that they often take the path that’s always ahead of them so it’s not unusual to find a path that crosses several cliques. If that’s the case, the clique simply waits until the other has passed.  Be sure to steer clear in the way of a clique as a spectator else you will be pushed away.  Happened to me and S as we got trigger-happy taking photos of the clique.

Also from 4 am on Monday, many restaurants and bars in the old town open their doors and remain open for the following 72 hours.

After watching the parade for about an hour, we decided to head to the famed Brauner Mutz beer-hall to sample some of the traditional Basler carnival specialties such as flour soup and Käsewähe (a quiche-like baked dish). There, we had to share our table with a group of guys who couldn’t help making fun of us when we whipped out our cameras to take pictures of the food.  S had to explain to them that we are doing this for our blogs.  Not sure if they understood but loads of laughter were shared amongst the group.

After the break, we continued to dwell in the merry-making by the marching cliques and explored the old town further while waiting for dawn to break.

As the kids marched on, one of them cheekily whipped out a peace sign as I snapped the picture.

The character ‘Chucky’ immediately came to mind when I saw this clique marched passed me.  Definitely sent chills down my spine!  Brrr….

I couldn’t pass this photo-op with this reveler from the carnival.  I mean, check out his costume!  Fun and naughty all rolled into one.

We were looking forward to the fun parts of the carnival that included the Confetti attacks but was later told that this would only happen in the later part of the carnival.  I guess if you do plan to make it for the Basler-Fascnacht, I would recommend that you stay in Basel for the full duration of the carnival.  In that way, you could participate fully the various parts of the festivities.

Thanks S once again for the wonderful gift and inviting me to join you at this amazing carnival!

Elaborate costumes at the Carnival of Venice

The Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy.  The Carnival starts 58 days before Easter and ends on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday.

The seemingly serene and quaint Venice seem to come alive with the endless buzzing activity during this time as people decked out in traditional Venetian costumes and covered with beautifully decorated masks roamed along the streets of Venice.  Despite the cold spell hitting most of Europe during this period, festivities for the Carnival continued with all the merry-making.

It was my first visit to Venice but the Man who had been to Venice many years back said what a world of difference Venice is during the Carnival.

Just look at the sea of people captured in this shot.  It’s said that about 3,000,000 people visit Venice each day for the Carnival.  3 million?!  Whoa!!  Didn’t really help that we were in Venice on the last weekend of the Carnival so there were naturally more curious people (like us) wanting to soak in the Carnival atmosphere.

It also felt like the paparazzi turned up in full force.  If you happen to be in costume and walking around the streets, it’s your moment to be a star for people will be merrily snapping your shots.  Also, don’t be alarmed if you have strangers coming up to you and wanting to take a photo with you.  Just put on your best smile behind that painted face.  🙂

As for me, I definitely played the role of the paparazzi during the Carnival pretty well stopping at every possible chance I could to take photos of these amazing costumes.  So, are you ready to feast your eyes on these gorgeous and elaborate costumes?

Lady in gold definitely did a wonderful job of posing for the cameras.  Love her graceful hand gestures.

The duo that came as Angel and Demon.  Do you see someone trying to sneak in the picture? ;p

I classify the above lot of costumes as somewhat the darker costumes.  A little scary but definitely the lot that commanded a sense of presence as they weaved in and out of the mad crowds on the streets.

Don’t be fooled by the demure or macho exterior of the outfit for sometimes what lies beneath may just be a man instead of a woman and vice versa.  We saw many feminine costumes being donned by men.  I think they are just game enough to be putting on a frock for this big festival.

And I really loved these whimsical lot of costumes, thought they were fun and a cheery lot!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the visual treat of costumes that I took during the Carnevale di Venezia.  Being in Venice during the Carnevale di Venezia definitely was memorable and a fitting way to end my love affair with all things Italian before we pack our bags and head back to Singapore.

Cavalchina Grand Ball 2012

Carnivale de Venezia was simply I.N.S.A.N.E!!!  I didn’t get round to seeing much of Venice for it was simply too crowded!  More on amazing costumes that we saw at carnival later!  First, I wanted to share with you some pictures from the Grand Calvalchina Ball that we attended.

Remember this post where I was fretting about what to wear?  Well, I finally went with buying a long evening gown at BCBG.  Thankfully the sales were still on then and I managed to get the dress at a whopping 60% off the original price.  I couldn’t imagine paying full price for the dress, it simply was above and beyond my budget.  Pardon the pictures, couldn’t seem to be able to get a nice one for the lighting at the pre-dinner cocktail and at the event was simply poor.

Next up, the mask!  The choices for masks were simply mind-boggling!  I didn’t know which one to get, but I eventually settled for a rather simple and elegant one with black feathers.  Prices for a Venetian mask can range from EUR 2 and above depending on how elaborate the design is.

And presenting the Man’s outfit for the evening.  His mask was super fancy if I may add.

The Gran Ballo della Cavalchina or “Grand Cavalchina Ball” is considered to be the most exclusive and spectacular of the many masked balls and carnival related events that occur during the Carnival of Venice, Italy.  Held annually, at the world-renowned Teatro La Fenice or La Fenice theatre, the elegant grand ballroom is specially transformed into a masquerade ball for one night only.  The evening program also boasts a wide array of staged performances by period costumed clowns, acrobats and live musicians.

Apparently, James Blunt was performing at the event but no one in our group knew about it for we were tucked away upstairs having dinner instead.  Darn!

Having said that, many of our friends still had an amazing time.  It was such a grand affair and I had a wonderful evening just by looking at those elaborate costumes.  People really dressed up to the nines for this ball, some with costumes and some (like me) with formal wear, and they were up on their feet partying.  As for me, the walk from our pre-dinner cocktail to the Teatro La Fenice (approximately 1.8km) in my 3.5 inch heels really ‘killed’ me.  I was too beat to even stand when we reached to the theater, preferring just to take a back-seat for a good part of the evening.

And yup, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  Traditional costumes are always safe but you could also go as a modern-day movie character if you fancy.  This guy from our group came dressed up as an Avatar for the ball.  I heard it took him about 5 hours to do his hair and then paint his body blue.  Whoa!  Now that’s effort!