Switzerland’s fountains are justifiably praised for their abundance (they are everywhere) and purity (it is fine to quaff from almost all of them). Once a year, the fountain at the foot of the cathedral hill in Basel goes one better: in a curiously Swiss New Year tradition, it runs wine!
Never mind that this happens on New Year’s Day, after a full season of holiday feasting, and just hours after clocks have ticked over to the new year. Both times I’ve attended, there have been about 200 people gathered around the fountain to toast the incoming year one more time.
Basel’s guilds salute the city & a new year
Local symbols take center stage
On the front, greeting guests, are the old traditions: Neptune, current-pulled ferry boats and a drawing of the 13th century bridge across the river, representing the Rhine River; the Town Hall and Basel founder Lucius Munatius Plancus; the Munster (cathedral); and Lalle Koenig, a very old image that figures in local lore.
On the reverse, several “new” traditions associated with Basel are drawn: The “BIZ-Bank”; Helvetia and “Hammering Man” statues; Basel University (this new tradition is one of the oldest universities in Europe!); Tinguely’s Fasnacht Fountain; and the city’s beloved Zolli (zoo).
An all-Basel, curiously Swiss New Year
Basel’s many traditions through the calendar year are full of ingenuity, individuality and enthusiastic participation. This unexpected way to kick off the New Year proved to be all three. And to my surprise, mulled wine is every bit as good as the hot version, at least on a day that is more cloudy than cold.
New Year’s Drinking out of the Fountain provided a most interesting start to the New Year here. Here’s to a rollicking 2013! Another Basel tradition is the Christmas market in Münsterplatz.