The Swiss Life: Basler Fasnacht 2019

Happy Friday, y’all. It’s certainly a good Friday that involved a dinner of Mexican food, a UCI win (this is the one year I’ll follow March Madness), a new album from Jenny Lewis, and I will finally be writing my blog post about Fasnacht.

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In the many months leading up to my move out here to Switzerland, there were many things that I was looking forward to. However, one of the things I was most excited for was Basel’s big Carnival celebration. The centuries old Basler Fasnacht is celebrated a week after most other places have their own carnival celebrations and takes place in the 72 hour period (starting 4 am Monday and ending at 4 am Thursday). The event is interesting in that it’s festive, beautiful, surreal and a little somber all at once. I also saw a different and oftentimes chaotic view of Basel, something you don’t get the other 362 days of the year. In short, it was quite an experience.

Morgenstreich

Fasnacht kicks off at 4 am on Carnival Monday in the center of the Old Town. At exactly 4 am, all of the lights of the city shut off and a parade of cliques with bright, often political lanterns commences with a chorus of drums and flutes throughout the city.

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The cliques are an important part of Fasnacht as they are one of the more formal types of formations that travel around the city. They are dressed in elaborate and often slightly eerie costumes and play the flute throughout the city. They’re a pretty core fixture you see around Basel during Carnival.

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To be out at the Altstadt in time for Morgenstreich, we had to be up around 3. We got to Marktplatz around 3:45 and found a good spot. Things never got too crowded where it was hard to see, but we did move at some point across the square to try to get different views of the lanterns. There was also a pretty good Trump lantern we wanted to get a better view of.

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After about an hour, the parade dispersed a little and the cliques dispersed into processions moving throughout the city. We fought the crowds a little to start making our way towards the bridge to cross back to Klein Basel, but didn’t leave without partaking in another Fasnacht tradition, the burnt flour soup.

Despite the fact that it is ridiculously early, many restaurants are open to sell the soup, some local onion and cheese breads and, of course, 5 am alcohol. We took part in all of those. I have to say that while the concept of burnt flour soup did not sound particularly appetizing, it was really good. It kind of tasted like a thicker French onion soup. Of course, since all of the lights of the Altstadt had to be shut off, we ate in pitch dark in the restaurant.

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Exhausted and full of food and alcohol, we all went back to sleep for a few hours to get back some of the sleep that we lost in the morning activities.

Cortège

Monday and Wednesday afternoons of Fasnacht have a giant parade that goes through the city. The Cliques march through the Cortège but are also joined by the Gugge bands (brass bands) and many, many floats. Based on a last-minute piece of advice, we situated ourselves right in front of the Kunstmuseum for the Monday afternoon Cortège. Not only was this area never particularly crowded of people, but it allowed us to follow two different parade routes.

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The people on the floats hand out (and throw) a number of things into the crowd. This includes fruit (mostly oranges), vegetables, candy, toys and assorted other items (including tissues for whatever reason). Children will follow the floats with bags to collect all the candy. Of course, they also will throw confetti at the spectators. There is confetti everywhere during Fasnacht and I mean everywhere. Now, you’re supposedly less likely to get confetti’ed if you’re wearing one of the Blaggede (Fasnacht pins sold in the months leading up to Fasnacht for fundraising). Mine did not help me. I got pelted with confetti on multiple occasions.

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The craziest thing about the parade on Monday was the weather. After weeks of what felt like an early spring, it suddenly got cold again. Between the time that we passed out from the Morgenstreich and when we woke up, it started pouring rain only for the weather to clear up to beautiful blue (albeit a little cloudy) skies in time for the parade. We stayed at the parade for about an hour and a half, during everything was bright and absolutely dry. It started pouring, hailing and even very briefly snowing almost immediately after we returned to the flat. It’s almost as if the weather was on our side.

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Unfortunately, while we stayed for quite some time at Monday’s parade, none of us went out for the parades on Wednesday. Chris took his mom and aunt to Freiburg on Wednesday. Actually, because the tram line to the Swiss train station was closed for the parades, the decision to go to Freiburg on Wednesday was intentional and a little strategic since they could just hop on the train from the German station. I was at work and while I am told that we get a pretty nice view of the parades from the office, I did not have time to watch them.

Lantern Exhibition 

Tuesday is full of many activities, including a children’s parade during the day. We missed the children’s parade, but did get to see two of the activities.

We started up in the Münsterplatz to see all of the lanterns from the previous morning on display. The area was crowded and there was an additional element of the processions of cliques and bands winding their way through the crowds that made it all the more chaotic. The lanterns were quite amazing, though, and it was nice to be able to look at them up close. Many were political, although many of them reflected very local politics and therefore went over my head.

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The Gugge Concerts

In addition to the lantern display, Tuesday evening is dedicated to the Gugge bands. These bands are not allowed to perform during the Morgenstreich, so the Tuesday allows these bands to showcase their performances. The Gugge bands are also a little more playful, often playing deliberately a little off-key.

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The big performances are in the main squares. We watched them for a while in a very packed Marktplatz, where they were playing playful covers of the Offspring and Lady Gaga. This was kind of a blast to watch while more cliques and Gugge bands wound their way in a very crowded Marktplatz.

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Everything Else

Basel is pretty chaotic during Fasnacht. While there is some amount of coordination during the parades, the formations will typically wind around their way around the city. The Swiss restaurants are absolutely packed with revelers and there are cellars with comedy shows during the events. Those are in Swiss German, so we did not attend them, but we did walk around at night a bit to take in the chaos of city.

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And with that, Fasnacht ends as does what ended up being my 2019 Carnival coverage. The Basler Fasnacht was unique and very special and I’m glad I was able to take it all in this year. It certainly lived up to the hype.

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The Swiss Life: Chienbase in Liestal

Today will be a relatively short blog post because Phantom Planet just got off of their 11 year hiatus and I can’t today. Actually, the real reason is because I didn’t think it would be right to combine this with the larger Fasnacht post. Liestal is a ten minute train ride and while people combine this with the rest of the Basel festivities, it not a part of Fasnacht and is in a different canton. Thus, it gets its own, albeit short, post.

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Chienbäse takes place the Sunday after Ash Wednesday and, therefore, takes place hours before Basel’s Fasnacht kick’s off. The lights along the route go out, while a fiery parade marches through the town of Liestal. Historically, this was a way to celebrate the end of winter and the warming weather. Parade participants march through the town carrying burning wooden brooms (Chienbäsen) while thousands of spectators watch. Every now and then, there are carts in the parade with tall epic flames. The whole experience is quite a sight.

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While we did the early afternoon flight from London to allow us to settle back into Basel relatively early in the day, the fact that we got back early was an added bonus. It meant that we would be able to attend this unique parade. I was a little disheartened when I got recommendations to be in Liestal early evening (~5 pm) as that was around the time our plane would be landing in Basel (assuming no delays). Despite a minor delay, we got to Basel with enough time to check Chris’s mom and aunt into their hotel, spend a few moments back at the flat and then pack up and catch a train to Liestal. We got in just after 7, right around when the parade started.

The Liestal we got to was in full Carnival mode. There were costumes, confetti and drunken people walking through the streets. It was almost like I was back in the Cologne I saw the weekend before. The parade was just starting, so we tried to catch some of it. What was got was the back of a lot of people’s heads and the soft glow of some of the initial cars. In other words, there was nothing much to see.

We used that as an opportunity to re-group and grab some hot dogs, schnitzel and glühwein for dinner before taking our chances with the crowds again. We found a better and slightly less crowded spot. For a while, it was still hard to see anything bit the tops of the flames, so we relied on tall Chris to get us footage of the parade through his phone.

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The good thing about where we were initially situated was that we were shielded from a lot of the ashes. One of the most common recommendations you receive before attending this event is to not wear good clothes as they are bound to be ruined by falling ashes. I think the jacket I wore still smells like I was at a bonfire, but we spent a large part of our parade watching experience hidden in a little alley and missed a lot of the ashes.

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The longer we were there, however, the more people would shuffle out of the crowds. This allowed us to slowly inch our way through the crowd, where we eventually got pretty decent viewing spots.

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Knowing that we had to get back home to get sleep before our 2:30 am wakeup call for Morgenstraich, we eventually fought our way out of the crowd of parade spectators and fought out way onto the crowded trains back to Basel. Seriously, those trains were crazy crowded full of people who probably had the same early morning wakeup call. Of course, we only left after getting some delicious fudge and almonds.

Chienbäse was a great experience despite the constant battles with crowds. It’s essentially a giant town-wide bonfire. Now, they take a lot of precautions to make sure that the town doesn’t set on fire, but it still feels a bit like this event defies the odds. It’s certainly worth seeing if you are able to, but I would impart the same advice that was given to me – don’t wear nice clothes, prepare to smell like bonfire, be there early and be prepared for crowds.

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A Whirlwind Trip through London

Fasnacht is over. There will a post about it (or two?) eventually, but right now I am going to try to get in the post on London before we start our adventure to Venice this weekend. Part two of our London series was our very touristy city experience (I guess most of them are, though), where I met up with  not just Chris, but his mom and aunt for a tour of the city.

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I didn’t miss my Friday night flight this time around because I got to the airport on time (maybe too early) and did not face gate closures. There was a minor flight delay, but things were otherwise pretty smooth. We were staying in the London Bridge area, which is incredibly easy to get to from Gatwick. I got to the flat that we were renting just before midnight.

The group did some touring on Friday night, but due to a relatively early flight back to Basel (had to make it in time for Chienbäse in Liestal), we really only had Saturday for our touring. We had a relatively set agenda with lunch reservations planned and a busy day.

Our plan was to catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in the morning, so we set out about an hour and a half early so that we eat breakfast at Borough Market first. Borough Market is one of my favorite places to visit in London (if not the favorite). The food selection is fantastic and it’s just fun to wander the market stalls. Unfortunately, we really only allotted enough time to eat and not enough time to look at stalls. It was not enough time, but enough to buy fudge (of course) and try Scotch eggs.

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We caught the Tube to Buckingham Palace. We were there pretty early so that we could get a good spot for the changing of the guard. This was much better organized than many of our other attempts to experience this.

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Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes of standing around, we were informed by one of the local guides that they don’t do the changing of the guards on Saturdays anymore. I was suspicious of this claim at first, but was able to confirm that he was telling the truth with a quick Google search that I probably should have done before we camped out in the cold.

It was fine, though, as the changing of the horse guard was at the same time we planned and only a short 15/20 minute away. It was a pleasant walk through St. James Park. This is an event that I did not know existed, but was pretty cool because there were horses involved. We didn’t stay for the whole event, though.

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We had just about two hours until our lunch reservation and while there were a number of ways we could have spent the time, we decided it was just enough time to squeeze in a very short visit to the place that Chris wanted to try to get to, the British Museum. We had a little bit of difficulty trying to get onto a bus to the museum.

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Eventually, though, we got our bus and the double decker bus experience and got to the museum with just under an hour. It gave us time to see a few exhibits, including the Rosetta Stone and an exhibit on Korean history.

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The visit was too short for such a fantastic museum, but we had 1 pm lunch reservations to get to, so we had to cut the stay short.

Our lunch reservations was at Sketch, which was one of those restaurants that seemed pretty hyped in a lot of things that I was reading. It is also insanely Instagram friendly in a Madonna Inn sort of way.

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We had our reservations for lunch, although in retrospect should have tried to do this as an afternoon tea for the full experience. The restaurant was pretty good, though. The drinks and food were delicious. However, the highlight of the meal was for sure the vegetable poke. I want to try to recreate it because it was very good. I mean, I guess if it’s all vegetables, then it’s essentially non-spicy bibimbap? It was still good.

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Also of note were the bathrooms, which were all in a 1960s style white room with a colorful ceiling and about 16 bathroom pods.

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We followed up dinner with a trip to the Tower of London. We couldn’t introduce Chris’s mom and aunt to London without a trip to see the crown jewels. We got to the Tower of London just in time for the final tour of the day by the Yeoman Ward. It was good to have someone entertaining explain the history of the Tower of London to us.

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After the tour, we saw the crown jewels and then hit up the armory. Chris wanted to see King Henry the VIII’s old armor (mostly for the cod piece) and the big dragon made out of armor. I wanted to see the prison as well, but we got out of the armory with just enough time to get a picture of the Tower Bridge before the Tower closed.

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We hopped on a bus from there to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We knew it was closed, so we just looked at the cathedral from the outside and grabbed dinner at a nearby pub. We did a quick stop by the nearby Millennium Bridge before catching the Tube back to London Bridge and back to the flat.

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We didn’t have much time on Sunday because we had a pretty early flight to Basel. We initially wanted to spend the morning at Borough Market, but we found out on Saturday that the market is closed on Sundays. There was a brief plan to try to run to Jubilee Market in Covent Garden in back, but we ultimately decided that would be too hectic. Instead, we grabbed coffee at the coffee shop under our flat and had a pretty leisurely morning.

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We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, which was used on some shopping and with what has now become the obligatory Wagamama trip.

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Although it was another short trip to London, we packed a ridiculous amount of stuff into our stay. I wish we had some more time for the British Museum and some of our other stops and the whole Buckingham Palace was nearly a bust, but it was a good trip overall.

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Exploring Cologne

It’s been a while, but I never got another post in after I rushed the Cologne Carnival post to coincide with Mardi Gras. We are now in the height of Basel’s Fasnacht and I have just recently returned from a whirlwind trip to London, meaning that it may take a little work pulling out the details from the second half of the Cologne trip. Cologne, or Köln, is a city that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. I kept on planning weekends and then rescheduling, either due to weather or some other reason. The weekend I finally made it happen managed to be during Carnival (as I’ve previously posted). This meant that a lot of museums and activities I had planned, such as climbing the Cologne Cathedral, ended up being closed during my visit. It all worked out, though, because I still ended up with a pretty full trip to the city.

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I went to Cologne via train and took the Friday evening train. The direct train takes just around four hours from Basel and was a generally uneventful time that I spent reading and playing games on the phone. I got in pretty late when the city was still wide awake for Carnival celebrations. One of the coolest things about arriving into Cologne by train is that you are almost immediately greeted by the city’s massive cathedral.

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As I usually do when I go to a new city, I booked myself on a walking tour of the city for Saturday morning. The tour wasn’t until 11, which gave me time to take in some of the Carnival festivities and try out one of the city’s famous sweet Bretzels (holy sugar load, Batman).

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Now, I had my whole agenda for the morning pretty well-planned. I would spend some time watching some of the carnival shows and leave with enough time to make it back to the Cathedral area that was listed as the tour starting point. And I did that very well. I was even at the Cathedral with 20 minutes to spare. The problem was that I was not finding a tour group. I creeped out on a few people who really were just telling their traveling companions stories. I checked the email I got and found out that there was an update sent with a different meeting point, closer to the place that I had just been hanging out at. This is typically a 20 minute walk, but I managed to cut out about five minutes and get there just 5 minutes late with some speed walking. I think I just missed introductions, really. It was exhausting, though.

I have to say, though, this was a pretty enjoyable walking tour via Can You Handle It Tours. I was with a pretty social tour group, which made the tour more interesting. There was even a stop at a corner store to try some of Cologne’s famous Kölsch beer. We started with the old. While a lot of the city was destroyed during the war, you can still see little touches of Cologne’s Roman history scattered through the town. We also passed by the big golden car (a Ford as there is a nearby Ford factory) that’s been around for decades.

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We learned about the city’s art scene and the rivals for the title of eau de Cologne. We went to 4711 first, where they have a fountain of fragrance that clung to me for the rest of the trip. Later in the tour, we did a quick stop by Farina to get the comparison.

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We also saw the city’s Rathaus, which famously has a butt in on it.

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After lunch and a post-tour break to escape the rain, I made it back out to see the cross the lock bridge over the Rhine. It started raining again, of course, but it was a nice way to escape the crowds at least.

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The rest of the day was the hike out to see the Ghost Parade and a very delicious dinner of Cologne-style ChiMek (Korean fried chicken and beer). I say it’s Cologne-style because the beer part was, of course, Kölsch.

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I left the hotel relatively early on Sunday morning. It wasn’t that early at the end of the day (9ish), but early enough to walk into a quiet and hungover city reeling a little from the night before. It made it easier to navigate squares that were packed the night before (like Fishmarkt).

I started in the Cathedral, however. It closed early on Saturday after the mass, but was still open when I left that morning. Cologne’s Cathedral is enormous. You don’t really get the sheer size of the Cathedral until you cross the river and see it tower over everything else in the city. I did want to climb to the top of the Cathedral, but it was closed. It was still pretty to walk around inside, though.

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From there, I walked to see the Tünnes and Schäl statues near the St. Martin Church and touched their noses for good luck before heading to a much quieter Fishmarkt where I didn’t look like a complete nerd taking a picture of the colorful houses.

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I continued along the Rhine until I got to the Kranhäuser, the three buildings along the Rhine that look like cranes. They’re near the Cologne Chocolate Museum, so the intent was to kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, the chocolate museum was closed for Carnival, so I got my inner Instagrammer on and took some photos of the building.

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From there, I made a somewhat long journey to the Belgian Quarter, where they had a lot of cute restaurants and boutiques. The boutiques did look cute, but were closed and the restaurants were more on the bar side. Also, I had reservations at a restaurant so I’m not sure what good the restaurants would have been. It was nice to walk around, though.

My restaurant reservations were at Hof 18. I knew with Carnival that all of the actual breweries would have been jam-packed (and they were). Früh Am Dom is one of the big brew houses of the city and they happen to have a small Michelin rated restaurant tucked away in where the family’s old residence was. All of the food was delicious, but my favorite part was the truffle popcorn that they served with my Kölsch. I was pretty done with eating for the day after that meal.

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After lunch and with some much-needed time to walk around, I hopped onto one of the trams to visit the statue park.

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The park was a lot smaller than I thought, but it also happened to be next to the Cologne Zoo, so I did what any person should do and went to the zoo. The zoo was a lot bigger than I expected. I didn’t see any red pandas (depressing), but they had a pretty nice variety of animals. They even had an anteater there who would not cooperate with me taking a selfie. I have to say, though, I’m so proud of the consistent Zots I got from my fellow ‘Eaters. In retrospect, I really hope that’s just a bad sign in Italian and that I didn’t offend anyone near me.

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I got back from the zoo with just enough time to figure out how to get my bag, watch the parade and get onto my train home. I was too cheap to get the direct train back, but there were no delays or missed trains on the way back.

The weekend in Cologne was a little chaotic and fun. I had way more Kölsch over the weekend than I expected to, but I hope that was negated with the insane amount of walking I did all over the city. I didn’t do all of the things there that I set out to do, but when does that actually happen? All in all, it was another fun weekend.

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Crazy Days of Cologne’s Carnival

Today is Mardi Gras, which is one of those days that I’ve always kind of loved despite the fact that I don’t really partake in all of the Mardi Gras festivities. Despite the fact that it’s been Carnival fever over here in Basel and the fact that I knew that the Catholic carnival celebrations are the week before Basel’s Carnival, it somehow came as a surprise to me that the trip that I planned to Cologne this past weekend fell squarely in the height of the city’s famous carnival. I guess it’s somehow fitting in a way. Exactly a year ago, I spent the same weekend in the American capital of Mardi Gras. Granted, that was for a half marathon and not Mardi Gras, but it still checks out.

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Back to Cologne, though. The city has a very long Carnival tradition and, as it turns out, a long Carnival season. It starts with a big celebration on November 11 and culminates with the “Crazy Days” that lead up to Mardi Gras. These are days filled with costumes, parades, events and drinking. A lot of drinking. Doing the trip on my own, there’s only so much of the Carnival activities that I can partake in without it being sad or potentially dangerous, but it was still a fun experience.

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This is Alea having fun.

 

The Crazy Days kick off with Women’s Day on Thursday, but (11 pm trek across the Cologne train station on Friday aside) my first major Carnival event of the weekend were the celebrations at Neumarkt. There were musicians playing, groups performing and dancing and, of course, plenty of the local Kölsch to drink. This was a lot of fun to watch and I would have stayed for longer if I didn’t have a walking tour of the city to meet up with.

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Going into the experience, I knew that people dressed up in costume for Carnival, but I didn’t realize that essentially everyone young and old took part in this experience. As soon as I stepped off of the train on Friday night, I realized that this was the Halloween experience I missed out on last fall. The problem was that I was entirely unprepared. Even the Maleficient hat that I had purchased at Disneyland just the week before would have been sufficient for a low-key costume. I couldn’t miss out on a costume event again, so I had to pull something together quick. Fortunately, the city’s colors are red and white which made it very easy to throw together a quick Waldo costume.

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The other Carnival experiences on Saturday involved a lot of people watching. There were so many costumes. As the day wore on, the crowds grew. Most of the big bars and breweries in the city were also jam-packed, so I didn’t get the classic brewery experience, but I will survive. It somehow never felt overwhelming, though, and while people were clearly very inebriated, it never actually was too bad. Then again, I was back at my hotel by like 10 pm when the night was still young, so I’m sure I missed the height of the celebrations.

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The other big Carnival event I tried to hit on Saturday was the big Ghost Parade, which is part of the Alternative Carnival. The event takes place closer to the university and involves a lot of people dressed up as ghosts and with lights and march in a parade. It was more participatory than I anticipated and I was cold from the rain by then (and a little hungry), so I wandered around a little before heading back to the main part of town.

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While the big parade of Carnival takes place on the Monday, Sunday is also filled with a number of parades through the city center. Leading up to the big parades, there were people gathered in all parts of the city playing drums and/or making music.

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I didn’t experience the height of the Sunday parade until I was getting ready to leave Cologne. After returning from a trip to the sculpture museum and the zoo, I got off at the train station and started heading to my hotel to pick up my bag. Unfortunately, this led to a bit of a panic because the parade route completely looped around my hotel. In Alea panic brain, I briefly considered whether I actually needed the contents of my bag. This was followed by a moment of clarity where I realized from navigating the intense crowds of the Chinese New Year Parade during the SF Treasure Hunt for several years that there’s always a way around the parade route. Well, in this case, it was under the parade route through the subway tunnels.

With my bag in hand, I had some time to sit and enjoy the parade before I had to catch the train.

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Carnival is the type of experience that is better enjoyed with at least one other travel companion. Nevertheless, it was still a fun weekend, if anything to take in the atmosphere and crowds. There was some great people watching and even better costumes. Being in Cologne during the Carnival weekend added a colorful and vibrant element to the weekend that I’m glad I got to experience. I only wish I knew about the costume element a little sooner.

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More on Cologne itself in my next post.

 

The Swiss Life: Eight Months and a Very California February

I have just returned to Basel from a weekend in Carnival-crazed Cologne. While there’s more to come on that adventure, there has certainly been carnival fever in the air the last month. Decorations have shown up in restaurants and store fronts, people are selling the carnival badges (Blaggede) everywhere, the cliques are practicing their instruments and confetti has started to show up on the streets. As we start inching closer to Basel’s Carnival (it’s a week later than the Catholic version), I imagine the fever will go full-force. It’s a festive time of year to say the least.

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February was an absolute whirlwind of a month. Between starting the month with that horrible cold and the many guests and visitors who appeared and disappeared throughout February, the month went by in a flash. All the visitors meant that there has been a lot of eating, or at least what feels like more than usual. Not that I can complain about that though.

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After a cold and snowy January, things have also warmed up pretty significantly over the past few weeks. I mean, things are all relative. While it hasn’t been warm warm, I have to say that February felt like a California winter. It’s been a few weeks of clear and beautiful skies. You’d almost think it’s spring already. We’ll see if this weather holds up. Given that it’s been stormy in California, I’m afraid that Chris will be bringing the cold weather back with him next week. We’ll see.

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I’m hoping the good weather keeps in some capacity because I’m supposed to be officially in half marathon training mode again. It was supposed to start last week but a bad kettle bell swing has sidelined me for the week. For now, we’ll just have to say that the 20+ miles I’ve walked over the past two days is a good stand in for a Sunday long run.

So, that’s about it. It’s been a long day, which means you get a short post. Look forward to more stories of Carnival soon.

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Disneyland Paris, Garbagnati Style

I feel like it’s safe to say that I’ve earned myself an okay amount of travel cred over the years. I feel I chip away at that credibility whenever I visit any of the Disney Parks and I am 100% okay with that. Besides, Samantha Brown has been posting from Disneyworld, so it’s all good.

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When Chris and I visited Disneyland Paris back in September, there was some early talk about coming back when the whole group was out here. It was why I almost upgraded my ticket to an Annual Pass back then. I still kind of regret not doing that, but we still weren’t sure the trip would have happened. It would have been the first time since my Irvine days that I would have held the status of Annual Passholder, though.

The trip to Paris was interesting to say the least. I’ve taken that same Friday night train between Basel and Paris before and it had been generally uneventful. This time around, it was like a full on happy hour. There was a cast of weird characters during the whole ride. The trip between Paris and Disneyland Paris was significantly less eventful, as was the bus from Disney Village to the hotel (once we found where that was).

We got the two-day park pass and the itinerary I planned for everyone was relatively similar to the one Chris and I did when we were at the parks in February, where the focus was on the rides that are different from what we get back home. I, of course, brought my hat from our trip last fall in a vain attempt to not buy new mouse ears.

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We started the day at Walt Disney Studios and charged towards the Ratatouille Ride for Fast Passes. For some reason, however, the line to get Fast Passes for the ride looked incredibly long. Instead, we opted for the 30 minute Single Rider line. The ride was just as charming as it was the first time around. Also of note, they had mulled wine in that part of the park this time around. Having had my fair share of mulled wine over the past few months, I have to admit that this was probably one of the better ones that I’ve had. I was surprisingly impressed.

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We did a round of the Toy Story section with the intention of riding one of the rides there, but none of them stuck out as being rides that would not get us sick. Instead, we made our way to Crush’s Coaster and waited in the single-rider line for the ride. It took a little longer than the Ratatouille ride did, but I think it was less than the predicted 80 minutes.

Now, when we visited the parks in the fall, there was a big Marvel event going on and there was Marvel stuff everywhere, including giant statues of the Avengers. I hyped that a lot to everyone, and was partially disappointed when we crossed the park to find that the Marvel set up was replaced with a Star Wars event. Now, the Star Wars stuff was cool, but there also were no statues of Darth Vader and no one wanted to try the Star Wars themed food with me.

On the upside, I did take what was probably the closest I will ever get to a selfie with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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We did an assessment of the rest of the park around this time. The line for the Rockin Roller Coaster was too long for a ride we’d done before (although I’m still curious if Ken Marino is in this version of the ride), no one seemed into the idea of doing Tower of Terror, and the Backlot Tour / Studio Tour (?) was closed, so we decided to leave the park. After I raided the Captain Marvel section of the store, of course.

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We made our way across to Disneyland and into the park. Unfortunately, we learned on our way in that Phantom Manor was closed for renovation. I was so sad to have missed it when we were there in the fall and so stoked to see it this time around. Instead, it was disappointment all over again. We made our way to Adventureland for Indiana Jones Fast Passes and then jumped in line for Pirates, which got us out just in time to get onto the Indiana Jones ride. Neither Mia nor Umma wanted to ride the ride, so we had two extra passes that Gianni and I used to ride a second time. Turns out, it’s not the best ride to go on twice in a row, but it was still fun.

Another thing I promised was a villains section of the store outside of Pirates, something that also no longer exists. We were told that it all moved to Frontierland, making it our next stop. This meant that Frontierland was our next stop. They didn’t have a villains section (unless you count the Nightmare Before Christmas stuff), but I did end up getting a Maleficient hat. I guess the promise I made myself was not to get ears…didn’t say anything about goofy hats.

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It was almost four at this point and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so we were getting pretty hungry. It didn’t hurt that all of Frontierland smelled like some solid barbeque. We’re all suckers for good BBQ, especially Gianni, so we made our way there. Except both of my brothers grumbled about how they were in France and eating American food as soon as we ordered the food. I felt bad until they started talking about how they really wanted to go to the Mexican restaurant to get the California-style burritos. Nerds. The barbecue was good, though. They even had pecan pie.

After we ate, we wanted to try to get Space Mountain Fast Passes, so we wound around the crazy parade via Fantasyland to Tomorrowland (except it’s called something else there) to try to get them. Unfortunately, they were out of passes for both Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, by that time. Dejected, we went back to Fantasyland to do the Alice in Wonderland maze.

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We did a stop by Sleeping Beauty’s castle as well to see the dragon and the tapestries, where I took a photo with Maleficient and my hat. Was trying to go for her look in the photo, but I somehow don’t have the presence/swagger/fierceness/(__fill in the blank____) to pull that off.

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We decided to dare the line for Buzz Lightyear, but it was broken down by the time we got there. There was a short-ish line waiting outside of the ride, so we thought maybe the ride would be opening soon. We waited there for quite some time until they pretty definitely told us the ride was actually closed. It worked out, though, because Hyperspace Mountain also was momentarily shut down. This time around, we waited for about five minutes before the ride opened, saving us what could have otherwise been a long wait. Also, this my be my favorite iteration of Space Mountain of the Disney parks I’ve been to. It’s chaotic and dark like the other versions, but there is also a loop and back to back corkscrews. If the ride didn’t almost instantly fill up, I would have tried to ride again. Instead, we met up the other half of the group, who really looked like they were having a grand time in Disney.

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The timing worked out too, because Buzz Lightyear was open again. The ride kept breaking down, so it may actually have been a problem with a ride and not secret Disney code. Mia scored an obscene 420k points. I couldn’t even break 100k. Ugh.

The park was just about to close around this time and they were ending with the final show of the night. I have to say, the show was kind of fantastic. They mostly relied on projections on the castle with very well choreographed fireworks. It was fun. Disney certainly knows how to put on a good show.

Things were packed as we left the park, but we did make it out. There was some chaos afterwards trying to figure out how to get everyone else to the airport early the next morning. There actually is a 10 minute train between Disney and CDG, but the trains they wanted were sold out. They ended up taking a taxi and I took a bus and series of trains back to Basel.

The Disney day was a good day all in all and it’s hard not to become an absolute nerd when I’m there. It’s been a long time since all four of us Garbagnati siblings have been to a Disney park together. The last time we went to Disneyland Paris together, we were also all under ten (or didn’t exist in James’s case).

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