Basler Fasnacht (the Basel Carnival) takes place pretty late this year (2019). It started on Monday, March 11th, at 4 am (Morgestraich). Monday and Wednesday afternoon, there was the Cortège (parade), when the Clique (carnival groups) show their Sujets (topics) and the Waggis (seem to be farmers from the Alsace) distribute gifts and Räppli (confetti). The costumes, lanterns and other requisites illustrate the topics selected by the groups.
On Tuesday the lanterns are displayed on the Münsterplatz. I love to visit the lantern exhibition early in the morning, when there are still few people. This is the the 1000 year old cathedral (reconstructed in the 14th/15th century after the earthquake) with the lantern that discusses selling weapons.
It is great to study the lanterns in detail and I am always overwhelmed by the creativity of the artists. These were some of the main Sujets (topics) in 2019: Local events (above all, the end of the trade fair Muba), censorship/shutting up/not engaging, environmental pollution, China invading economy and the world of beetles, emancipation and politics – e.g. with clowns as rulers.
Let me start with the local topics. It is fun to read the verses on the lanterns – I will select some of them and try to translate them to English, which is not always easy.
Muba: Last spring Trade Fair show after 102 years
The Muba (Mustermesse Basel or Basel trade fair) opened their gates in spring 1917. When we needed a new refrigerator, a new piece of furniture or some wine, up to the late 80-ies we always did a research at the spring Muba fair and we benefited from the Muba discount. But since then the Muba has lost more and more visitors, perhaps also due to the internet. Now this year, in spring 2019, the last Muba took place and then closed its doors for ever. This was a major topic at this year’s carnival. The Blaggedde (carnival badge) shows the well-known clock of the Muba building alluding to the Muba closing down and the carnival lasting until closing down on Thursday at 4 am (“Ändstraich” or final stroke), when the road sweeper cleans the streets of Basel.
This is my Blaggedde – made out of silver and reflecting in the sun.
The lantern of the Breo and Glunggi, Alti Garde, shows our famous Muba clock that decorates building number 2.
The verses read: “S’isch d’Zyt abgloofe, s’ git nüt me z’hoffe” (“time has expired, there is no hope left”) and “kai Mäss me, alles blybt dehai, I by als Muba Uhr elai” (“no trade fair any more, everybody stays at home and me, the Muba clock, I stay alone”). The rat at the bottom asks: “Vo Basel lauft alles drvo. Jä, sölle mir jetzt au no goo?” (“Everybody runs away from Basel. Well, should we now also leave?”).
The Lälli Clique feels sad about the “Tempi Passati” (past times) and paint the melting Muba clock on one of the huge exhibition halls – like Dali’s soft watches. On the watch the verse says: “E grosse Bau, an dr Mäss kai Lüt – das Krüz trait au e Kirche hüt” (“A huge building, no people at the fair – this cross is also affecting the church”; “Mäss” means both trade fair and church mass and hence “Mäss” is reused for the mass in the church, where there are also less people now).
The Muggedätscher merge the words “Muba” and “bachab” (going down the river) to “mubachab”. One verse on their lantern says:”d’Muba macht dicht – e leidi Gschicht” (“the trade fair closes down – what a sad story”) and “Basel mit ihre Mässe, kasch en Globo vergässe” (“Basel with its trade fairs, you can forget that completely”) The lantern shows the federal council Doris Leuthard. She resigned this year and she shed some tears when giving her last speech in Bern.
The Ueli on the lantern of the Breo und Glunggi, alti Garde is also very sad – he is waving good-bye with his handkerchief. The Ueli symbolizes the medieval court jester and the jester is one of the traditional costumes at the Basler Fasnacht/carnival. One verse says: “Dr Ueli het Dräne uff dr Bagge…” (Ueli has got tears on his cheeks”). The jester at the court could tell the truth to the king, and this is what the Basel carnival is about as well – show to our power holders, what the people feel and think.
The Rumpel-Clique discusses the wine fair that was also part of the Muba. I loved to compare wines from various Swiss producers and from all around the world by tasting the wine before ordering it. Well, you had to carefully select, what you wanted to taste… some people staggered through the Muba halls after their wine tastings.
Breo und Glunggi, alti Garde, sum up “Basel Mässe kasch glatt vergässe” (“Basel trade fairs – you can forget them totally”).
The signpost points to other trade fairs in Switzerland such as BEA or OLMA or to Internet trade markets such as Zalando.
Do all citizens (Bebbi) think about leaving Basel?
This is the lantern of the Alti Garde of the AGB (Alti Glaibasler) and Spezi Clique. They think that not only the rats of the Muba, but all Bebbi (citizens of Basel) think about leaving their home town, but where to? “Dr Bebbi dänggt, he nundefaane. Y wott jo furt vo Basel, aber wo könnt y ächt aane?” (“The citizen of Basel thinks, hm oh dear. I want to go away from Basel, but where on earth could I go to?”; Nundefaane is a softened curse imported from the Alsace. “Faane”=”banner”; “Bebbi” is a gentle name for the citizens of Basel).
A nice detail is the fountain with the Balisisk. There are about 25 of these Basilisk fountains in Basel set up in the late 19th century. They provide drinking water for men and for dogs (separate bowl at the bottom). Some time ago, I blogged about the Basilisks in Basel and their fountains.
We want our Basilisks back at the Wettstein bridge – d’Basilisgge zrugg an d’Wettschtaibrugg!
Not everybody wants to leave Basel, the basilisks are faithful, and this is why the Höibärgler want to bring them back to the Wettstein bridge: “Mir hole d’Basilisgge zrugg and d’Wettschtaibrugg” (“We bring back the Basilisks to the Wettstein bridge”).
This is a very local topic. For the Wettsteinbrücke, an artist created four basilisks, now only one is left here, two are somewhere else in Basel and one is in Meggen near Lucerne. The Höibärgler want that the other three basilisks return to their original places at the Wettsteinbrücke. This is the one Basilisk that was allowed to stay at the entrance to the Wettsteinbrücke.
Well, I feel ashamed about the Wettstein bridge that has become an ungraceful bridge in the 1990-ies, after the city of Basel had rejected the proposal of Calatrava. Some more decoration for the bridge is not a bad idea, I believe. Yes, I agree with the Höibärgler: Bring back the Basilisks!
Picasso in Beyeler
In 1967 Picasso’s “Harlequin” and “two Brothers” remained in Basel, though the donator who had financial problems intended to sell them. I was a teenager then and I remember the enthusiasm and the legendary decision of the inhabitants of Basel to keep those two paintings. Again this year Picasso is venerated in Basel: The Beyeler museum shows his early paintings of the blue and rose period. The Gellerettli pipers group created a lantern with the topic “himmelblau und rooseroot” (azure and pink): “Z’Basel dräumt me himmelblau und roosarot. Jetzt git’s niemets, wo an d’Muba goot” (“in Basel people are dreaming in azure and pink. Now there is no one visiting the Muba (trade fair) any more”; presumably because they all prefer to see their Picassos in the Beyeler museum).
By the way, the name “Gelleretli” comes from the French “quelle heure est-il?” which means “what time is it?”.
TV series “Tatort” (“site of crime”) in Basel
Last summer, the TV criminal story series “Tatort” took place in Basel. The Spezi-Clique Stamm take this up with the lantern that shows the city center. In one of their verses, they play with words: In German you can understand “Tatort” as a “site of crime” or as a “site of action”: “Bim Roothuus froog ich mii, ka das iberhaupt e Tatort sy” (“about the townhall I ask myself, whether this can be a site of action at all” (translating “Tatort” primarily as “action” and not as “crime”, indicating that the town council may not be too active).
As related to the townhall: There are a lot of jokes about a baby participating in a townhall session with its mother. A baby is called a “Buschi” in Basel and the rhyme says: “The baby thinks that this is really not possible – me at the Grand Council. But it has to wait for another five years, until it can join kindergarden”.
Goma in the Basel Zoo, called Zolli here
I remember the year 1959… I was eight years old then and Goma was the first gorilla baby born in a zoo. We were very proud of our “Zolli”. After having given birth to more gorilla babies, the old lady died last year. The Jungi Spale-Clique takes up the topic with their lantern. One side shows this photo album of Goma.
Separate tracks and paths for bicycles.: A performance of the Alti Stainlemer
Already at the Morgestraich, after 4 am on Monday, I noticed the rolling wheel of the Alti Stainlemer moving forward in the dark. It is their “rolling stone”. This may be a punch, as the name of the Clique (carnival group) “Alti Stainlemer” contains the word “Stein” or “stone”.
In the Cortège (parade), one guy sat on top of this rolling stone and the whole group was on wheels. Some painted signs for “bicycles only” on to the pavement.
Hence, I conclude, the “rolling stone” is another bicycle, a huge bicycle. I do not know, whether I would like to stand up high on that rolling stone, as one member of the group did. In Basel there have been a series of votings about separate paths for bicycles that the Alti Stainlemer are alluding to.
The verses on the rolling stone lantern are: “Dr Baschi – sträng und ganz bestimmt: “Ass jo ekain my Tesla nimmt” (“Baschi says severely and clearly: Nobody to steal my Tesla”; the head of the police department, called “Baschi”, acquired Tesla cars for the police of Basel). More verses: “Wär in dr Schwyz en Auti faart, ghört bald scho zuenere gschützten Art” (“those who still drive a car in Switzerland, will soon belong to a protected species”). And:
“Ein uff em Velo schreit “Du Schlampe”
und znacht faart är denn oony Lampe.
Am Schtopp halte macht er nyt.
Worschynts isch das sy letschte Ritt.”
“Someone on a bicycle shouts: “You sloven”
and at night he drives without light.
He does not stop at the stop sign.
Could well be that this is his last ride.”
Yes, macabre… But some cyclists are really brave and audacious, when moving in the city traffic.
With the rolling Alti Stainlemer I end the review of local topics at the Tuesday Ladärneuustellig or lantern exhibition on the Münsterplatz.