Basler Fasnacht — Morgenstreich
Basel's carnival, or Fasnacht, starts in the wee hours of Monday morning, when the bells of St. Martin’s church strike 4 o’clock—all the lights in the center of Basel go out and you hear calls of, “Morgestraich…vorwärts…marsch”! Suddenly, the sounds of drums and piccolos burst out all over the place, playing together the Morgestraich melody, while colorful lanterns light the night and all participants march to the beat of the traditional tune.
During the “Morgenstreich,” the large Fasnacht groups (Cliques) with their enormous lanterns, as well as smaller groups, stride through the darkened town to the sounds of their piccolos and drums until dawn. All participants wear costumes and masks (with smaller lanterns on their heads) while playing a repertoire of traditional marches, and as the only lights are those of the lanterns, it is really a breathtaking experience. The main streets of town are extremely crowded but are the best places to see the large lanterns. The smaller streets and alleys of the old town (like those behind Marktplatz) are less crowded and hauntingly echo the sounds of the music off the old buildings.
During this time, numerous bakeries and cafes will open to offer hot drinks and traditional Fasnacht foods (flour soup, onion pies, and a type of pretzel with caraway seeds) to participants and spectators looking for something warm. As businesses are not supposed to have lights on, those that are open tend to have blackened the windows, so be sure to check the doors to see if they are open. The event winds down as the sun comes up.
There will be trams and busses from the BVB and BLT running during these early morning hours to help usher people to and from the Morgenstreich safely; check out the BVB for their special transit services at https://www.bvb.ch/.