Basel Field Trip 2011: Day 3

The very early start of day 3 for most of us turned out to be late day 2 for some of the hardcore CAPers. Although its easy to appreciate the logic of staying up all night the more worldly wise among the group were well aware of the inherent flaws of such youthful enthusiasm. Still, all but one of the group were enthusiastically awaiting the 02:45am tram to take us in to Markt Platz and the centre of the action.
It was clear from the moment the tram arrived at the stop that something was gather momentum. On arrival in town this became even clearer.

As we took up position in the cities main square ‘Markt Platz’ what struck many of us was the apparent lack of crash barriers, visible police presence or indeed any kind of stewardship. If you are familiar with any large-scale public event in the UK you will understand just how odd this was. In addition to this, if you were asked to imagine being in a city centre at 04:00am with tens of thousands of people gathering in total darkness illuminated only by the dimmest of lights emanating from giant canvas lanterns wheeled through the streets behind masked drummers and piccolo players, each of the lanterns featuring satirical illustrations of the preceding year new and events, I’d serious doubt you could. Yet that’s exactly what happened for well over an hour before coming to an apparent end.

I say apparent because the last lantern passed and we began to ease our way back into the centre of the square two things struck home. Firstly the square was completely packed as were all the side streets and secondly what seemed like an orderly and relatively subdued parade suddenly seemed to be travelling in different directions and taking on a life entirely of its own. It wasn’t easy getting back to the hostel as the crowds and groups ‘Fastnachers’ jockeyed for right of way in the packed streets but by 7am everyone was back and heading for bed tired, bewildered but happy.

After a 5-hour top up of sleep we met again for a walk taking in some of Basels wonderful mix of modern, contemporary and historical architecture. As we approached the centre of town it became clear that ‘Fastnacht’ had also gained a second wind and was gearing up for round 2. The thought was too much for some and the group split into two camps “Fastnacters” and lets get out of here fast[nachers] who opted for the first tram out of town to Dornach a leafy suburb of the city at the end of the No10 tram where the pace was slower and we could have a lazy picnic in the afternoon sun by the river.

In the early evening we all met again outside the Kunstahalle where great fun was had watching the last of a parade of themed floats and trying to attract the attention of the various masked occupants and catch the mixture of oranges, sweets, toys and confetti being thrown at the assembled crowds. It wasn’t too long however before the collective energy began to wane and the majority of the group soon returned to base for a slow evening of local wines and packet noodles.

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