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.
Basel Day 2:
What we didn’t know when the trip was booked was that it coincided with ‘Fasnachts’ a major 3 day traditional festival involving 10s of thousands of local participants throughout the whole city. More of Fasnacts later, but as a result of the festivities several of the cities major museums were closed Monday – Wednesday which meant we had a lot of ground to cover on Sunday. Up with the larks, we headed straight for the Kunstmuseum, the oldest public museum in Europe and its fantastic collection. Highlights of the museum included a small but equally gruesome; in comparison to the later Alter Piece; Crucifixion by Grunewald, a recently acquired Martin Kippenburger and a 1st rate collection of Modernist masters.
After a light, not on the wallet, lunch at the superb Rotten Engel (Red Angel) Café, home to the most magnificent bowl of coffee I’ve encountered anywhere, it was off to the Museum für Gegenwartskunst. The museum, the first in the world dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, is compact but beautifully designed building by architects Katharina and Wilfrid Steib with additional renovation in 2005 by Urs Gramelsbacher. The museum displays contemporary art from the collections of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation and the Kunstmuseum. The main exhibit in the museum featured films and video installations created by the New York-based artist Pierre Huyghe, which explore the tensions between different levels of reality. On the whole these were compelling works but rumours of sleep inducement may not be wholly exaggerated. Students also enthused about the following; On Kawara’s date paintings, Simon Starling’s ‘Autoxylopyrocycloboros’, a slideshow documenting his voyage across Loch Long in a wooden steamboat, its engine feulled with wood cut from the boat’s hull and an of course the collection of Joseph Beuys Vitrines.
Next stop was the Kunsthalle and the Swiss Architecture Museum (SAM), located in the same building, with only an hour to spare before closing. After a short debate about whether or not it was worth paying 6 francs to get in we soon discovered that it was. Three shows by Banu Cenneotğlu, Bettina Pousttchi, (Kunsthalle) and Anna Viebrock (SAM) were well worth the entrance fee. Although definitely note worthy the star of the shows were undoubtedly the rarely seen stage set models by Set / Fashion designer and director Anna Viebrock. Beautifully executed and presented the environments are constructed but maintain with a homemade feel a kind of manual / working aesthetic sometimes reminiscent of earlier Manfred Pernice sculptures. The models were shown alongside the designer’s source material, influence and development drawings revealing her process from conception to execution.
After such a full day the consensus was to return to the hostel for food and rest before a very early rise for ‘Morgenstreich’ the 4am start to the 3 day Fasnachts Festival.
Basel Day 1:
We arrived in Basel a few hours late on Saturday afternoon. Not because of the snow in Edinburgh but due to the plane breaking down and having to be replaced by another from Milan. Edinburgh Airport has changed recently and is not the worst place to spend a few extra hours waiting for a flight. It is expensive though, which was something like preparation for Basel. I was last in Basel in 2000 when it was 2.36 Swiss franc to the £ now its only 1.47! Ouch!
The hostel; Basel Backpack, suited our needs well, a place to drop after a long day of galleries, museums and sightseeing. It has a kitchen and a common room, which was great for the budget conscious noodle munchers amongst the group. After sorting the rooms out and a short break for juice and coffee it was off to take immediate advantage of the free travel pass we all received when we checked into the hostel. Free city travel for all tourists, what an excellent idea. The trams are regular and easy to navigate so getting into town was no problem and only too 10 mins. Trying to cater for the individual food needs of a large group is never easy so we headed for a part of town with various outlets and agreed to meet an hour later. Sure enough an hour later we were altogether and heading for the Cargo Bar by the Rhine. The bar is small but very friendly with a great a[r]tmosphere. Cool tunes, fine wine and a range of good beers and coffee. Of course it didn’t take long for the effects of an early rise and the air travel to take their toll and it was off to bed at a very respectable hour.