By Leonor Vereda Ortiz
An evening in the Alti Stainlemer Cliquenkeller
On November 12, PWG gained privileged access to the cellar of the Basel Fasnacht clique “Stainlemer Alti Garde”. Niels Burkhard, a well-known speaker at PWG, was our generous and entertaining host for the evening.
Niels described the distinctive carnival traditions in Basel. Fasnacht in this protestant city starts after Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent in the Christian tradition, which next year will be February 18th). This means that Fasnacht in Basel starts on Monday, February 23rd 2015, while carnivals in Rio, Venice, Mainz, Düsseldorf or Cologne all end by February 18th. So, if you hurry up, you can party in more than one place! In Basel it starts at 4 a.m. on Monday with the Morgenstreich and lasts for 3 days and their respective nights. Up to 10.000 persons join each year in the festivities, which equals 5% of the city population! An authentic participant should definitely wear a mask, Niels told us, which at Alti Stainlemer they make themselves. Typical disguises in Basel are the Waggis, Alti Dante, Dumme Peter, Harlekin, Blätzi Bajazz, and Ueli. Each clique chooses a topical “sujet” around which it builds its image and performance for that year. Political and social critiques are common, and they remain a strict secret to outsiders until the Morgenstreich. We saw and touched, but not played, a shiny piccolo and a brand new drum. These famous Basel drums are big part of the Basel Tattoo music show (check out Top Secret Drum Corp’s performances) and also have made their way into the Pope’s Corps of the Swiss Guards in Rome. We understood now – I think – the differences between “proper carnival music” and “Gugge Musik”, and the historical fact that carnival tunes and instruments in Basel originate from military music.
The Alti Stainlemer remains one of the 10 exclusively male cliques in Basel. Founded in 1912, it now counts with around 130 men and boys members. They meet every Friday in the heart of the beautiful Old Town in the cellar of Das schöne Haus, a building that survived the devastating 1356 Basel earthquake. It was there that we enjoyed a delicious apero served by four clique members in white aprons – volunteers, just like in PWG! Niels explained what it means to be part of a clique: “Brotherhood, friendship, comradeship… If I ask for help, my fellow clique members will help. And I do the same for them.”
One of the most genuine ways of living Basel traditions: join a clique! Husbands, boyfriends and sons can join the Alti Stainlemer (http://www.stainlemer-ag.ch/); we ladies can opt for mixed or females-only cliques. – Thank you, Niels, thank you, Isabelle!