Homesick carnivalist?

What the scent of an inconspicuous flower can trigger and why do the lights go out in Basel at four o'clock the next Monday morning?

6 mins read

It’s just before five in the morning in Seoul. I have just managed to get one of the last parking spaces in front of the express bus terminal. It’s already very busy at this time of day. You meet many florists and flower lovers here, who stock up on all kinds of greenery at the well-known wholesale flower market. I, too, belong to this species that likes to bring spring into the living room with fresh flowers.

After a short time, I found what I was looking for. I decided on the Ranunculus Asiaticus. With a thick bunch of flowers wrapped in newspaper, I set off on my way back. As I am about to press the button for the lift, I am distracted by the sight of a very familiar type of flower. It is the Acacia dealbata, better known as the mimosa. At that moment, time stops for me. I bend over the many clusters of yellow flowers. A huge flood of delicately fragrant blossoms wants to seduce me and herald spring. I close my eyes. But it is not spring that appears in my mind’s eye. It is the time of transition from winter to spring. The time of saying goodbye to the cold season, the driving out of winter, the time of the Carnival or, in my case, the Basel Fasnacht. The soundscape of the market hall gives way to the gentle sound of a piccolo melody that is familiar to me.

Mimosas are something like the blossoms of the Basel carnival. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller

First signs of homesickness? After eight years in South Korea? Do I suddenly miss Fasnacht? At this moment, I feel like I’m in a time machine. I have gone back to my childhood in my mind. As a little boy of six, I learned how to play the drum with the Opti-Mischte, a traditional Basel carnival clique. Besides the musical craft, I was also taught the tradition of this old custom. I still have fond memories of Patrick, my drum teacher at the time. He knew how to convey the “spirit” and “reverence” of Fasnacht to the young people. The Basel Fasnacht, where I was allowed to experience activities for many years…

Shortly before four o’clock. The tension rises. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller

An impatient flower delivery man bumps into me from behind. The reverie is over. Back to reality. Not in one of the many pubs (restaurants) in the city center of Basel. No, almost thousands of kilometers away from my childhood home in Switzerland, and still on the 3rd floor in front of the elevator at the flower market.

Later, on the way home, I can’t stop thinking about the mimosas and the Basel Fasnacht. It is strange. I felt the same way last spring. I was interviewing a famous lantern maker in Korea. His lanterns, which light up the streets of Seoul during the great lantern parade on the occasion of Buddha’s birthday, are very well known in Korea. We spent a whole afternoon talking intensively about the lantern procession in Seoul and lantern-making at the Basel Fasnacht.

The lights go out at four o’clock sharp. For the next 72 hours, Basel belongs to the carnival enthusiasts. | Photographer Daniel Thomas Faller

06.30 hrs. It is still dark and cold outside. A little later than expected, I finally arrive home with my carefully wrapped bouquet of flowers. I can’t get the thought of what I’ve experienced out of my mind. If it were “Morgenstreich”, it would now be time for flour soup and cheese pie. And for a brief moment, I play with the idea of baking a cheese tart in the next few days.

But there are still a few hours until the lights go out in Basel on 27 February at four o’clock in the morning and the Basel Fasnacht begins with the Morgenstreich. Until then, I still have time to get a big bouquet of mimosas ready. Our Korean author Yeim, who has been living in Zurich for an exchange semester since the beginning of February, is a little luckier. Together with photographer Carlo, she will experience the Basel Fasnacht up close. We are already very excited about her report and the many impressions. And I can well imagine that after the carnival there will also be a large bouquet of mimosas at her home.

I, for one, will close my eyes for a moment next Monday and wander my thoughts nine thousand kilometers further west.

Daniel Thomas Faller

SEOUL | Korea

Daniel is the founder of Schauplatz Korea Magazine, editor-in-chief and creative director. He is a Swiss native and Korea lover based in Seoul. Daniel is interested in people’s stories and projects and passionate about visual art and photography. And he likes to be seduced by Makgeolli…

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