Ravenna: My history overview

“No, no, I only visit Ravenna in winter,” Ursula says. I take a break from my favorite winter activities which relate to skiing, take out my car and off we go in the beginning of March 2018 to explore Ravenna and its eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

When we arrived in Ravenna in the first week of March, winter was still present, as the snow heaps on the Piazza del Popolo show.

It was very cold and it was raining. Even the cyclists used their umbrellas. Fortunately, by the end of our week in Ravenna, we could again sit outside to enjoy our Italian espresso in the warm sun.

Before exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ravenna, let us get an overview of Ravenna’s history. It may not be complete, as I am not a historian, but it helped me to navigate in Ravenna and understand the background of the sites we visited.

Source: See references below, and sometimes I would use Dr. Google to verify my understanding.

To summarize, the eight sites of UNESCO World Heritage at Ravenna are:

  • from the Western Roman Empire (402-476): Mausoleum Galla Placidia and the Baptistery of the Orthodoxs.
  • from the Ostrogothic Rule (493-540): Mausoleum of Theoderic, Arian Baptistery, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (remodeled during Byzantine times) and the Archbishop’s Chapel.
  • from the Byzantine Rule (540-751): San Vitale and Sant’Apollinare in Classe (both started during Ostrogoth times, but then inaugurated in Byzantine times).

See, where you find the sites in Ravenna.

Source: Clementina Rizzardi: “Ravenna, Eight Monuments World Heritage”, Municipality of Ravenna.

Let us explore these eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the coming blogs.

Clementina Rizzardi: “Ravenna, Eight Monuments World Heritage”, Municipality of Ravenna
Carola Jäggi: Ravenna, “Kunst und Kultur einer spätantiken Residenzstadt”, Schnell+Steiner, Regensburg 2016
Jutta Dresken-Weiland: “Die frühchristlichen Mosaike von Ravenna”, Schnell+Steiner, Regensburg 2016.


Basel Carnival 2018 – about the lantern exhibition: Eating insects, figugegl and hol’s dr Geier

Let us come back to the lantern exhibition 2018 on the Cathedral Square with some cheerful topics: Eating insects, Figugegl and hol’s dr Geier.


Eating insects

Eating insects – this is a new gourmet trend that can be well expressed in the masks and fancy costumes matching the lanterns.

Look at this enticing menu made from insects. “Dä Börger isch feiner mit e paar Säggsbeiner” – “this (ham)-burger is more delicious with a few (animals with) six legs”.

Enjoy the barbecue at the edge of the plate: “Made, Würmer muesch uffspiesse, erscht denn kasch s’Ässe richtig gniesse” – “grubs, worms – this is what you have to skewer, only then you can enjoy your meal.”

This lantern plays with the words: “Dr Wurm isch dinne” – “the worm is inside”. Yes, the worm is inside the meal, but in German this means at the same time: “This is, where the rub or the problem is”.

At the cortège, the Pfluderi were disguised as grasshoppers assembling around this huge grasshopper. The verse says: “In dr Gourmetbaiz froogt e Maa, könnt ich d’Made saignant ha” – “in the restaurant a guest asks, whether he could have the grub rare”.



Many, many years ago, Figugegl was the publicity for Fondue, one of the Swiss national meals (melted cheese). Figugegl was an acronym: „Fondue isch guet und git e gueti Luune“ or “Fondue is good and gives good humour”. The Gassegotter replaced “Fondue” with “Fitness” which leads to “Fitness isch gsund und git e gueti Luune” or “Fitness is good and gives good humour”.

The Gassegotter comment the trend for extreme slimness by recommending that „äs birebitzli rund isch gsund“ or “a little bit “round” is healthy”.


Hol’s dr Geier – Basel first

Trump says „USA first“. On this lantern I found „Basel zerscht“ or “Basel first” , along with – „hol’s dr geier“ or “the vulture may grab it”.

Well, the vulture might be a sign for bankruptcy, but… “D’Roche Schuublaade sin no lang nyt lär, das fräit e jede-n-Aggtionär“ or “the drawers of Roche will not be empty for many years, this makes every shareholder happy”.

In addition I find here a tought about the lantern exhibition at the Münsterplatz or Cathedral Square: „Dä Münschterplatzz (isch) schön, Ladärne dört obe schtön“ – “That Cathedral Square is beautiful – lanterns are standing up there.”

Yes I agree, the Cathedral Square is beautiful, in particular, when the lanterns are “up there”. And I agree: Basel first! – I look forward to next year’s lantern exhibition on Tuesday, March 12th 2019.


Basel Carnival 2018 – about the exhibition of lanterns: The world at risk

Let us come back to the lantern exhibition 2018 at the Cathedral Square. This time I will talk about the gloomy topic that largely dominated this year’s carnival: The world at risk.

This is, how the Giftschnaigge illustrate the subject “Risiko – risk” on their lantern: “D’Wält stoot uff em Spiil” – “The world is at stake”. The metapher for “at stake” in German is “auf dem Spiel” which relates to the politicians gambling. The punch with gambling only works in German.

Three politicians are on the lantern below, Kim Jong Un loving the United States (hm), Putin sitting on an innocent unicorn and Trump uttering something not very nice.

The Alte Stainlemer painted more abstract faces for Kim and Trump at PjöngJangeles alluding to the Olympic Games in South Korea and simultaneously to the competition about “Ballistic Games” between the two.

The other side of their lantern shows Kim and Trump competing to score. In the cortège or parade “incarnations” of the two competitors even perfomed their score mastering. In another “incarnation”, Trump and Kim played with a globe and from time to time placed it on a nuclear power plant tower.

The Schnurebegge say on their lantern: “Es dien die beide wirre Irre zünftig mit de Sääbel klirre” – “the two confused fools are jangling heavily with their swords”.

The group CCB (Central Club Basel) invented the new name “Corean Club Basel”. Kim presents a very explosive menu, it is “a bombe surprise”.

“Wenn die acht so wytermache, wird die Wält usenander krache” –  In case these eight guys will continue in this way, the world is going to break apart”. Do you recognize the eight faces that the Dupf Club assembeld in this balloon?

Some lanterns show visions of where we may end up, in case the politicians will continue in this way.

All very frightening, but this is what the Basel Carnival is about – discussing both cheerful AND gloomy topics. The Carnival acts as a catalyzer for good and bad feelings. In my next, third blog about the exhibition of lanterns, I will take up some more cheerful topics.

Basel and its Carnival – about the 2018 exhibition of lanterns: Fake news, digital world and sharing economy

Short overview of the Basler Fasnacht or Basel Carnival

This year the Basel Carnival took place from 19th to 21st of February 2018, for the first time as a Unesco World Heritage.

As always, it started with the Morgestraich – a word that cannot be translated. Look at this link from the Luzernerzeitung, to see how, on Monday at precisely 4 o’clock a.m., the lights go out, the drums and pipes start playing and the lanterns start to “walk” through the dark night. This is the magic moment that kicks off our “three extraordinary days”.The 2018 motto is: “D’Boscht goot ab” which means “we are kicking it off right”, but which in addition alludes to the post offices (Boscht) that are changing dramatically right now.

Many of the topics taken up at the 2018 Carnival were political. I will present some of the political and some of the more cheerful topics by strolling through the lantern exhibition at the Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square) which takes place all Tuesday and on Wednesday morning. During this time the Cliquen or carnival groups do not need their lanterns. They pick them up again later on Wednesday for the second parade or cortège. In the cortèges of Monday and Wednesday, the lanterns match the masks and the disguise to illustrate the topics selected by the groups.

Also the Schnitzelbanggsänger (some sort of minstrels) comment the events of the year. Here are two verses about fake news and about #metoo (both sung by Stächpalme which in biology is a holly. However, literally translated it is a “biting palm tree” alluding to the biting comments the Stächpalme makes).

Fake news:

Dr Trump het gnueg vom wysse Huus und wird neu Chef vo Twitter
Dr Pabscht hürootet d’Lindysey Vonn und landet hinter Gitter
D‘Merkel schtolkt dr Macron z’Nacht im Dussel – s’isch e Gruus,
D’Queen kifft mit em Butler – ich verfolg der Fake Niuus Bluus.

Trump is sick of the White House and now became head of Twitter,
the Pope marries Lindsey Vonn and ends up behind bars.
Merkel stalks Macron at night when drunk – it is just gloomy.
The Queen smokes weed with her Butler – I am following the Fake News Blues.

#metoo :

Jetzt goot’s em Santiglaus an Kraage.
die alt Frau Niggli isch am Klaage,
Er hege’re vor 80 Joor – sy heig das lang verdrängt -,
won‘r sy in Sagg geschteggt heg, ans lingge Schynbai aneglänggt.

Now Santa Clause has a problem.
Old Mrs Wicky is complaining,
it was 80 years ago – she has suppressed that for a long time -,
that, when pushing her in his sack, he touched her left shinbone.

During Carnival the weather was mostly clouded, sometimes sunny. It never rained. Temperatures were chilly, as the frozen Tingueley fountain shows.

Even the ducks avoided the water – simply too cold.


The exhibition of lanterns on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning

Our Cathedral from the 11th and 14th century is a great background for the lanterns exhibited at the Münsterplatz or Cathedral Square.

Let me start with the lanterns about fake news, the digital world and the sharing economy. Important details on the lanterns are the small verses – I will try to translate some of them.


Fake News

The Barbara Clique takes up the topic “Fake News” and transcribing it to our local dialect “alles glooge, feyk niuus” – “all lies – fake news”.

Their lantern is a big Pinocchio on one side.

Pinocchio’s long nose alludes to the fact that he often lies – and this is what fake news are about – lies.

The other side of the lantern shows all the well known politicians looking down into hell where Pinocchio is emerging.

These are some of the verses:  “Isch dr Trump am Twittere, isch die ganzi Wält am Zittere” – When Trump is twittering, the whole world is shivering”. And “Dr Trump froogt dr Erdogaan, lyydisch au an Greessewaan?” – Trump asks Erdogan, do you also suffer from delusions of grandeur?”

Walking around the lantern I find this verse: “S’git Lyt, die dien sich soo verbiege, dass sy nit mergge, dass sy liege” – some people are distorting their body so much that they do not notice that they are lying” (distorting alludes to lies).

And another small detail: “Do im Roothuus dien si liege, bis sich alli Bälgge biege” – “Here in (our) townhall they are lying that all beams are being distorted.” In our dialect (and also in German), “to lie, until the beams are being distorted” or “to lie, until you are distorted” means that you are REALLY lying.

The group Seibi Mysli (little mice from the Seibi or Barfüsser Square) transformed the alternative facts into our dialect: “Lätz geschwätzti Facts” or “Wrongly stated facts”. The verse says “do muesch dy frooge, verglemmi alles glooge” – you have to ask, what the deuce, all just lies” (“verglemmi” is a rather soft swearword in the Basel dialect, I am not sure, how to translate that into English).

And the washer women are complaining: “Mir Wöschfraue könne de News nümme draue” – We washer women can no longer trust the news”.


A digital world

Digital was another topic coming up – everything goes digital, even the war. But there are also more cheerful sides about digital, which are google omnipresent for searching and the Emojis.

The most innovative (and I assume, the most expensive) lantern was the globe made by the “d’Revoluzzer”. It is not a painted lantern, but it consists out of 40 screens that are changing scenes. The globe weighs more than a ton and is pulled on a cart. By the way, when you pronounce “digital” in Basel, it comes out like “digidal”.

Digital may end up in a digital war, as this gloomy figure illustrates grabbing everything in its way.

The young department of the group (Clique) Rätz show a more cheerful aspect of digital. They ask “Dänggsch no oder guuglisch scho?” – “Do you still think our do you already google?” “Google” is transcribed to “guugle” and is often used as a verb in our local dialect (Du guuglisch=you google).

Without thinking first, the Jungi Rätz comment that we often google everything such as “WorumWärWasWämWoWieWenn” – WhyWhoWhatWhomWhereHowWhen”.

The very small guys of the Naarebaschi (very small guys are “Binggis” in Basel) illustrate the topic “Emoji instead of ABC”. Maybe the Binggis hope that they do no longer have to learn, how to write, but can use Emoji instead. At the cortège (parade) they all came disguised as Emojis – a great topic for small guys or Binngis.

The lantern of the Binggis gives an overview of Emojis. I particularly like the brownish emoji with the happy face.


Sharing economy

The Wiehlmys or digging mice (I also found the “biological expression” “root vole”) propose to “rent a mouse” which in our dialect can be expressed as “Muuslehne”.

The verse on the cash says “Nyt me, was me nyt uuslehne kaa, fir Gäld kasch aifach alles ha” or “Nothing that you cannot rent, for money you can have everything.” Yes, I have heard that you can even rent sheep to cut your lawn…

 Let us put off some more lanterns of the Cathedral Square exihibition for some later blogs.