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Travel in Switzerland: Laufenburg

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Travel in Switzerland: Laufenburg

I was on the train to a client in Schaffhausen when I noticed the most gorgeous little city with a bridge in the middle of it.  It was leafy green with terracotta roofs peeping out and the beautiful green Rhine flowing at its heart.  My eyes literally bulged out, I quickly got out my phone to open maps to find out exactly where I am, but because I was in Germany at the time, my phone didn't have any internet so I couldn't work it out.  

Fast forward some months and I took Patrick back to Schaffhausen to see the Rhinefall.  I told Patrick about this little mysterious city i saw... I didn't know when it would pop up but I told him to keep an eye out... Together with his Swiss knowledge and my investigative-reading-road-sign skills, we worked it out to be Laufenburg!  

Fast forward some more months later and we finally got our act together to make a day trip of it. We went on a Sunday so the city was quiet and quaint - we hiked up a mountain (okay, it was a hill) to reach this gorgeous lookout (okay, it was someone's driveway) overlooking these cute goats and picture perfect views of the city.  The bridge in the city acts as a border between Switzerland and Germany and a border control office sits on the Swiss side as a reminder.  

This town has to be one of my favourites I've seen so far... so picturesque - I definitely recommend a visit!

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An expats guide to Basel Fasnacht

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An expats guide to Basel Fasnacht

Even though I had been in Basel for three christmas's, I'd never once seen Fasnacht.  Patrick had, of course, known and loved this festival since he was a child. I am so proud of him as this past year he has learnt to play the trombone to take part in Fasnacht with Grachsymphoniker.   I remember even in the years we were in Australia, he would be up in the middle of the night watching the live stream on the internet.  I didn't quite get it!

Now I do.  Basler Fasnacht has made the UNESCO list for Intangible Cultural heritage and it is referred to as die drey scheenschte Dääg (the three most beautiful days). The only way for me to describe it is an explosion of colour, music and art.   There are many similar festivals nearby in Switzerland and Germany however the Basel Fasnacht is the most well-known.  It also has its own unwritten rules (i'll detail some of them below) and 'Baseleans' can always spot (and frown upon) the outsiders when they don't follow the 'rules'.

Fasnacht begins with people pouring down the streets of basel early on Monday morning making their way to the city for morgestraich.  This alone was quite a surreal experience. Getting up before 3am to cram on a tram with adults and children alike dressed up in their festive costumes and then walking over the mittlerebrücke with hundreds of others, wishing each other 'schöne morgestraich'.  You can feel the buzzing energy as people anticipate the start of the carnival. At exactly 4am, the city lights go out.  Even stores which are open have to block out their windows.  All you can see are the colourful lanterns and all you can hear the sound of piccolo's and drums as they parade in the old town of Basel.  Each of the Fasnacht groups, called cliques, choose a theme which is conveyed in their lantern artwork and costumes.  They comment on social and political issues and are usually highly satirical. I heard someone say that Fasnacht takes the dark and turns it into light!  This year we saw the 'Ballistic Games' featuring North Korea and USA in an olympic style parade and also a few featuring 'bugs' commenting on the newly opened restaurant that sells a burger made from insects!

The carnival lasts for exactly 72 hours - finishing on Thursday morning at 4am.  I spoke to a band member who said Fasnacht has so many elements of life in it - It has joy, music, love, colour, humour and celebration, but because it runs through the night, you can feel exhausted. It also highlights some pretty grim themes happening in our world (even if it is in a humourous way).  It was incredible to hear some of the members of Grachsymphoniker had injuries (or injured them self during the carnival) yet continued through pain to be part of it.  You witness great loyalty and team spirit amongst the bands. 

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A parade (Cortège) of all the groups happens Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon.  All the shops close so everyone can enjoy the festivities.  It consists of the guggemusik (brass bands), cliques (pipers and drummers) with their lantern floats, and waggis wagen.  People (mostly kids) will hold out their hands and call after the waggis to give them treats - they hand out flowers, fruit and vegetables, drinks (even beer!), lollies and loads of confetti!  Most of the kids are after the lollies - I witnessed a child get quite disappointed when he put his hand out and received a carrot!

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If you are a Fasnacht first-timer, you might want to follow these unwritten rules of Fasnacht:

  • Confetti (Räppli) is only sold, bought and thrown in individual colours. This was put in place to stop people reselling 'used' confetti. You also should not pick up confetti from the floor and throw it again - make sense... who wants confetti mixed with dirt thrown in your face?

  • Confetti should not be thrown at masked participants of the carnival - I suppose this is a sign of respect for those taking part

  • Everyone should buy a Fasnacht Blaggedde (badge) - they have 4 'levels' of badges ranging in price. The proceeds go to each of the groups to help them cover expenses of the carnival. If you're not wearing one - expect to get dumped with confetti a few times! They say if you don't buy one, you are harming Fasnacht

  • Fasnacht is renowned for its masks, not painted faces as it is in other carnivals. You'll stick out like a sore thumb (perhaps not in a good way) if you paint your face rather than wear a mask.

  • There may be times you have to cross the parade route to get to another location - its is disrespectful to cross through a band, you should wait until it has passed and cross between bands. On this same note, you should always move out the way for the bands. More than likely, they will not stop/move for you anyway, so if you don't want a drumstick in your face - make way!

  • If you speak German, you should know that everyone is on first name basis at the carnival, which means you'll be saying the informal 'du' instead of formal 'Sie'

  • Guggemusik don't perform at Morgestraich as this is reserved only for Clique groups, but in return the Tuesday night concert at Marktplatz is only for guggemusik

  • When they turn the lights off at 4am for morgestraich it should be be dark - photo flashes are frowned upon!

A couple of other things you should know is that Fasnacht is loud and crowded and takes over the entire city.  The trams don't run through the city which means you'll have to put on your walking shoes.  Due to the close proximity to the smoking-loving swiss, you'll probably inhale quite a bit of smoke too (and thats not including the smoke bombs they often let off).  But the joy, music and celebration is worth the inconveniences. I definitely think that everyone going through Basel should experience it!

Guess what!? I’m running mini sessions in the 2019 Basel Fasnacht. Check out this post for more info.

 

 

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Italian Getaway

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Italian Getaway

A last minute decision for a quick weeks holiday in Italy was a great one!  

Our wedding photographers, Kevin & Katie from K Hulett Photography were flying into Zurich from the U.S. and driving down to Lake Como (where we were married two years ago)  to photograph another wedding (in the same hotel we were).  They were also headed to Cinque Terre for a couple of days - a place where I've always wanted to go.  I cheekily asked if we could join them to share some expenses.   They were so lovely to say yes, and Patrick was lucky to get a bit of time off work too.  

I can't tell you how lovely this trip was!!  It was the perfect mix between relaxing, exploring, delicious food (at great prices) and we couldn't have asked for two better people to share our time with - great conversation and lots of laughs. With 3 out of the 4 of us being photographers, we spent our last night taking some couple shots of each other (in a blog post coming soon).  

In the meantime, here are some of my favourite pictures from the trip.  

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Switzerland Winterland

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Switzerland Winterland

I spent Christmas and new year in my new home in Switzerland (before a brief hiatus back in Perth). For an Australian, 15 degrees is pretty chilly and on those cold Perth mornings, 8 degrees is blistering cold! Well, my Aussie wardrobe wasn't really holding up in the Swiss winter.  In December, the temperature barely rose above 1 degree and if it did, it was for half an hour at 3pm, when it got to 3 degrees. 

As cold as it was, Switzerland has a charm about it.  I could look at that icy looking skyline forever (well, maybe if i was out of the wind and cold!). The christmas markets are spectacular. We enjoyed hot roasted salmon in bread rolls while looking at the stalls.  Enjoyed Gluhwein at crowded tables - everyone out enjoying themselves. I was sad to see it all packed down after christmas.  Nevertheless, I will be waiting for the next christmas markets to return!

Here are my favourite photos i took of our wintertime in Switzerland.

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