I ended my last Basel post back in January with a lament that I had missed one of the highlights of the city, the Basler Herbstmesse. Such a hole in my cultural experience could not be tolerated, so I’ve now rectified that with a fourth weekend in Basel. The autumn fair is the largest and oldest amusement fair in Switzerland, with a tradition of over 500 years and a reach across the city’s main sites including Barfüsserplatz, Petersplatz and Münsterplatz.
As with all fairs, Herbstmesse is really about the food. At least it was for me. For lunch, I kept it simple with a sausage: a Klöpfer, served with a chunk of bread and of course ketchup and mustard. When we returned to Petersplatz in the evening, I had a starter of Kartoffelpuffer, potato pancakes that are deep-fried and smothered in apple sauce (or garlic sauce if you prefer), as well as a bite of a Käskiechli, a cheese tart. Fast-forwarding to dessert, I had some Rahmtäfeli which from what I gather had ingredients of sugar, sugar, sugar, oh, and cream, Rahm; as well as Magenbrot, another very healthy snack that apparently aids digestion, made from wholemeal bread soaked in, erm, sugar, honey, cinnamon… Then back to the main course and another low-carb choice: fondue in a handy take-away format, that is, a big baguette (wholemeal, of course!) hollowed out and filled with the melted cheese and wine mixture. Eating this delicacy proved to require quite some skill, as you need to munch on the bread while simultaneously schlurping on the cheese; I coped remarkably well. With that finale I reached my food capacity, however, so I wasn’t able to sample the remaining choices of raclette, spaetzli, crepes, waffles, as well as some rather less Swiss offerings like Cornish pasties and Chinese food.
Of course, it’s not just the food, though that happened to be my particular focus. There are all sorts of stalls with handicrafts, jewellery, chocolate (oops that’s food again!)… I managed to buy some fun kitchenware with my school German, although something went quite drastically wrong with either my German or my maths. There are also many rides, including a beautiful carousel, swings and mini-rollercoasters for the kids.
On Sunday, we awoke with an extra hour as the clocks went back on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny day, perfect for a stroll along the Rhein and up to the Münsterplatz for some daytime exploration of the fair. From the top of the Ferris wheel we could look out across the city and into both France and Germany (the city of Basel sits at a meeting of the Swiss, French and German borders).
I’ve covered my tracks somewhat by failing to record any photographic evidence of my food exploits, but I invite you to enjoy the views of Basel from our sunny Sunday stroll…