On the Sunday night after Mardi Gras, start the Swiss Fasnacht celebration by visiting the small and sleepy town of Liestal. On that day though, the town will not appear sleepy at all, as it is the day of the Chienbäse parade. This tradition dates back to the 16th century and involves the town’s strongmen and women carrying burning broomsticks through the city to chase away the evil spirits. If that is not enough excitement, watch the flames of huge wagons piled up high with burning wood licking the roof of the narrow town gate. Surely, health and safety regulations in most countries would not allow a parade of that kind!
Continue the celebration of a different carnival, maybe less cheerful but wonderfully spooky and impressive, at precisely 4am on Monday after Ash Wednesday. Experience a city coming to life in the dark, as all street-lights are switched off to fully appreciate the groups of Fasnächtler meandering through the crowded streets of Basel, carrying beautifully hand-crafted lanterns on their heads and in their hands. Accompanied by drums and piccolo flutes, the lanterns wander through the city displaying current issues of interest in politics, world and local, usually in a mocking and sarcastic way. The Fasnächtler are disguised wearing the Larve (traditional mask), which are usually rather ugly and scary – so be prepared to jump if one of these comes up from behind in a dark city backstreet, as there are no fixed routes and a group can turn up anywhere you walk. Finish this early morning experience in a Beize (pub) with a traditional meal of Mehlsuppe (flour soup), Chäsweihe (delicious Swiss cheese quiche) or Zwiebelkuchen (onion quiche), and watch all the locals wandering off to work.
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