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Basel Switzerland

We traveled through Basel a number of times, on our way to or from other parts of Switzerland or Italy, but we never stopped or traveled there intentionally until a school field trip of Megan's that I somehow got lassooed into chaperoning.  It was a trip sponsored by her German class at the US Army high school on the base where I worked....


March 1995 – Basel Switzerland

On the 6th of March, Megan and Dad got to observe and participate in the famous Morgenstraich in Basel, Switzerland. It is extremely difficult to describe the Morgenstraich. It's part of the Alemannische Fasching festivities for the beginning of Lent, as they are celebrated in Southwest Germany and Switzerland. The Morgenstraich takes place in downtown Basel, beginning at 4:00 AM! To be in Basel and in place at that early hour, we had to leave Stuttgart around 1:00 AM!!

At the sound of the Rathaus bell, all the lights in town were shut off at once (a bit like participating in a scheduled power failure) and the Morgenstraich began. Costumed participants suddenly appeared from every door and niche in town, wearing various masks and carrying either a fife or a drum. At the same time the sound of the Morgenstraich began, which is a mixture of two or three fife melodies and a very unusual drum beat. Most participants were also wearing a little lantern on their heads and there were other huge lanterns with drawings and writing which were wheeled through the streets like parade floats. Only after about an hour did a parade of sorts congeal.   It took the participants that long to find their groups (called cliques) and join up. There also is no set itinerary for the parade. The cliques just simply blaze a path through the crowds and the other cliques. We were warned about, and often experienced, having various cliques file by on our right, on our left, and in front or back of us!

At around 6:00 AM the city lights were turned back on and the people dispersed into restaurants and hotel lobbies to enjoy Mehlsuppe (a kind of gravy soup that Megan and I got a chance to sample), Zwiebelikuecheli (onion pie), Chääsikuecheli (a cheese pie with bacon), tea, coffee or Ovomaltine (a kind of hot chocolate drink - I guess its Ovaltine). The whole experience was amazing, and of course I got a lot of it on video-tape!





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