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Main Events and Festivals in Basel

Basler Fasnacht - This is Basel's version of Carnival, and a premier event during the year, lasting for three straight days, beginning on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. Don't confuse it with the more raucous festivals in traditionally Catholic areas, such as the German Rhineland (Karneval) and Munich (Fasching), or Carnival in Rio or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

It can actually have a kind of somber feel, although with a distinct poetry and subtle humour, which you may learn to like. Many locals are dead-serious about it, often preparing their costumes and practicing their skills on the traditional musical instruments (military drums and piccolo flutes) throughout most of the year. If you are not a Basler, avoid dressing up silly or putting on make-up, as this is neither customary nor appreciated by locals - who mostly prefer to stay among themselves for what many consider "the three loveliest days" of the year. But that's no reason to be discouraged (thousands of tourists aren't anyway), just have the right approach:

Fasnacht starts Monday morning with an eerie procession called Morgestraich (MOR-GUE-SHTRICH): At precisely 4:00 AM, street lights are turned off, and hundreds of traditional bands (cliquen), dressed up in elaborate costumes and masks ("larven"), parade through the densely packed streets of the old town. Arrive well in advance - and on foot - or you will not get through to the city center. It's not recommended for the claustrophobic, although it is peaceful, despite the masses. Absolutely DON'T use flash photography! It ruins the atmosphere, marks you as a tourist and creates hundreds of instant enemies. Morgestraich lasts for about 2-3 hours, during which restaurants are open - if mobbed - and you can warm up with a traditional zibelewaie (a kind of quiche) and a mählsuppe (a soup made of sauteed flour). It's an acquired taste, so perhaps wash it down with a glass of white wine. Almost all of the restaurants mentioned in the Eat section below are open during Morgestraich - but perhaps don't choose McD. After Morgestraich, everyone goes home to get some hours of sleep - or sometimes to work, if you are a Basler. There are similar parades, the cortège, by the cliquen on Monday and Wednesday afternoon, along a predetermined route through most of the inner city. Note again the elaborate costumes and masks, and the large hand-painted lanterns ("ladäärne"), the pride of each clique, often designed by a local artist. Each clique chooses a sujet (SU-SHEA), a motto that typically pokes fun at some (often local) political event of the past year and which is reflected in the costumes and lanterns. You don't need to understand the sujet to appreciate the beauty of the artistic renderings. The lanterns are also on display on Tuesday nights, at Münsterplatz. In the evenings, the cortège route is all but abandoned, and large and small cliquen roam through the smaller alleys of the old town (gässle). It is common for spectators who like the look or sound of one of the cliquen to follow it around on foot for a while. As the pace of the cliquen is a slow stroll, and as the music CAN be lovely, this may even be kind of romantic, particularly if you are holding hands with a date. But note that Fasnacht is nothing like Mardi Gras, so don't expect ladies baring their breasts. Overt sexuality is a no no, and aggressive attempts at picking up are frowned upon, as is binge-drinking. Remember: it's an almost somber if poetic affair. Try to blend in with locals, perhaps express some friendly curiosity about a costume or a sujet when talking to someone, and you are likely to have a much better time. Tuesday is the day of the children, and of the Guggemusig (GOOCKE-MOOSIC), noisy brass bands that intentionally play off key. On Tusday night at 10:00 PM, dozens of these bands play on two stages, at Claraplatz and Barfüsserplatz. This is the one day where things get much merrier, particularly in the more proletarian neighborhoods of Kleinbasel, where many of the Guggemusige have their home.

  • Chienbäse. Combine Fasnacht with the amazing fire spectacle of Chienbäse (KHEAN-BA-SE) parade in nearby town of Liestal, capital of the neighboring canton Basel-Landschaft (15 minutes by train from the SBB Station), which starts at 7:15 PM on the Sunday evening preceding Morgestraich. Locals clad in (kind of) fireproof garb parade through the narrow and spectator-lined streets of the town, carrying large burning wooden brooms (bäse) above their heads. Other groups are drawing iron carts with huge bonfires - which they even rush through some of the old town gates, as the flames lick the structures above. There are a number of inconclusive interpretations of this pagan-seeming custom but, again, you don't necessarily need to understand any of them to appreciate the eerie and even mildly threatening beauty of the parade.
  • Fasnachtsbummel. The three sunday afternoons following Fasnacht, the cliquen tour the countryside and small towns around Basel and return to Basel for a final large evening parade - the bummel (BOOM-MEL, engl. stroll). No costumes, just music.

Other Events

  • BaselWorld International Watch and Jewelry fair. Late March-Early April. The world's biggest watch and jewelry trade show. The city's population more than doubles during this convention. The watch displays are particularly elaborate, with the exhibition space set up like an indoor version of 5th Avenue.
  • ArtBasel - Mid-June. Co-founded by gallery owner Ernst Beyeler (see Beyeler Foundation) in the late 1960s, this is the world's premier fair for modern and contemporary art. Another event that seems to all but double the population of the city. The five day fair attracts major galleries and wealthy art collectors from around the world. ArtBasel showcases works by virtually every important artist from the late 19th century up to red hot trendsetters. Basel is well worth a trip just for this event if you are interested in seeing and - if you can afford it - buying modern art. Because of its immense success, ArtBasel has branched out to a second fair, held in December in Miami, FL.

ArtBasel and BaselWorld shows take place at Messe Basel, Messeplatz (Kleinbasel) one of Switzerland's biggest trade fair venues, which also hosts several other trade shows throughout the year.

  • Basel Herbstmesse (autumn fair). Two weeks beginning on the last Saturday of October every year. Rides, booths, shooting alleys and lots of food in several locations all over the city, including Messeplatz (biggest site with most attractions, including rollercoaster and the like), Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz (where you get nice views from the ferris wheel). Recommended: the cosy market at Petersplatz, near the main University building, where you can take a leisurly stroll and buy almost anything you never needed - from china, spices and tea, hand-drawn candles, knitted sweaters, leather goods to the latest household cleaning tools - and of course tons of tasty fast food, from healthy corn on the cob to less healthy Wurst varieties.
  • Basler Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Last week in November until 23 December in Barfüsserplatz.

Theater and Classical Music

  • Theater Basel, box office +41 61 295 11 33, is a three stage public theater in the city center. The Grosse Bühne (grand stage), in the theater's main building on Theaterplatz, is primarily used for operas and ballet. The Schauspielhaus, re-opened in 2002 in a new building on nearby Steinentorstr. 7, offers drama and comedy plays (in German and sometimes Swiss-German). The Kleine Bühne, also in the main building, is used for smaller drama productions or other unclassifiable genres. The repertoire of all three stages typically features a mixture of classic European canon (plays by Schiller, Chekhov, Ibsen, etc., operas by Mozart, Verdi, and the like) and contemporary, sometimes experimental, shows that may defy genre borders. Even classical plays or operas will generally be given a contemporary treatment. Not for a traditionalist's taste but enjoyable for the adventurous spectator. Both the drama and opera productions garner attention beyond Basel and are reviewed by the German speaking press all over Europe.
  • Symphony Orchestra Basel (Sinfonieorchester Basel), is the opera orchestra of the Theater Basel (see above), and also performs classical symphonies and other pieces on the Grosse Bühne and in another venue, Stadtcasino Basel, which features an excellent grand auditorium. Tickets for the Orchestra are generally available via the Theater Basel box office (see above).

Other theater venues include Fauteuil and Tabourettli, box office +41 61 261 26 10, two small stages in a medieval manor on picturesque Spalenberg 12, near Marktplatz, presenting (very) light comedy, usually in Baseldytsch, and some Fasnacht-related events during the season; and Musicaltheater Basel, Feldbergstrasse 151, near Messe Basel, box office via Ticketcorner.

Dance, Rock and Jazz

  • Atlantis, +41 61 288 96 96, Klosterberg 13, city center near Heuwaage, is probably the most venerable venue for all kinds of popular music Basel has to offer. It's been around since the 50s and is, after many incarnations as a jazz club, theater, rock venue, now one of Basel's most popular dance clubs. A national and international set of DJs turns the tables nightly and finds an audience aged between 17 and 30. But the spirit of Rock is still alive, and the 'Tis also provides a stage for numerous local bands, with concerts taking place about five times a month.
  • Kaserne, +41 61 66 66 000, Klybeckstr. 1b, Kleinbasel, is a concert (Indie Rock, Electronic Music, Hip Hop, Drum'n'Bass), theater and dance venue.
  • the bird's eye, +41 61 263 33 41, Kohlenberg 20, city center, is a casual jazz club and home to mostly local talent.
  • Offbeat/Jazzschule Basel is a promoter of jazz concerts, often bringing big international names to the city. Concerts take place in various venues, including Stadtcasinoo and Theater Basel (see above). Check current programming via Offbeat, tickets also there, or at the Theater Basel box office +41 61 295 11 33.
  • Roche'n'Jazz. A jazz event every last Friday of the month, except September, starting at 4:00 PM, in the galleries of Museum Tinguely (see See, Museums for address details)


Modified: 2007-03-21 19:01:09+01
Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Basel

 


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