The alarm went off at 2:45am. I climbed out of bed, walked over to the bathroom, and splashed cold water on to my face. I changed into my day clothes, taking care to put on extra layers. At a few minutes after 3am, we left the house and walked to the Bruderholz tram stop in the freezing cold. Thank heavens for the extra layers.
When we got to the tram stop, I couldn’t help but smile. The tram was full. At 3am on a Monday morning. There were no seats left, and people were standing. We got on and squeezed past the standing passengers towards an empty spot by the window. I looked around; parents with their young children, elderly couples, grandparents, teenagers; the entire neighbourhood was here. Some were in costumes, others were in plain clothes. Almost everyone had their Blagette pinned onto the lapel of their jackets. Nobody looked sleepy or drowsy, not even the kids. The lady standing next to me had even taken the effort to make herself up: foundation, mascara, lipstick – the works. Dedication, I think to myself. Or vanity and insecurity? It didn’t matter. Everyone was there for the same reason: Morgenstreich.
After a couple of minutes, I heard the familiar sound of the brakes disengaging and the tram started moving. Lerchenstrasse… Bruderholzstrasse… Heiliggeistkirche… more people got on at every stop, and nobody got off. The tram became increasingly packed. I stared out the window, listening to the quiet chatter of the people around me as the tram went from one stop to the next, picking up more and more passengers. Eventually, I heard the familiar female voice announcing the arrival of the tram at our intended destination. “Nächste Halt: Aeschenplatz. Bitte alle aussteigen.”
We got off the tram at Aeschenplatz and, along with the burgeoning crowd, started walking towards Bankverein, and further down to Freiestrasse. It was 3:40am – 20 minutes before the start of Morgenstreich – but the shop-lined pavements that ran the length of Freiestrasse were already filled with Baslers young and old, patiently waiting in the freezing cold.
We walked further down, towards Marktplatz, and found an empty spot. The cliques began taking their places on the street, adjusting their masks and flutes. Every so often someone would check their wristwatch or their phone, not wanting to miss the anticipated moment.
And then, at precisely 4am…
What exactly is Fasnacht, you ask? Check out my Fasnacht Series posts to find out: