When October rolls around, I always look forward to Basel's Herbstmesse. Launched in 1417, it is the longest-running autumn fair in Europe.
Nowadays, a huge ferris wheel dominates the city's Munsterplatz, and there are rides and food-and-drinks stands in several places around the city. But some traditions, curious and a little medieval, persist: the fair opens with the waving of a glove from a window high up the Martinskirche and there are pony rides and an antique carousel, as well as the modern-day roller coasters.
Herbstmesse is a good place to sample seasonal specialties, from mulled wine to raclette, and to try the cookies and other treats that have been a staple of the fair for centuries. Magenbrot, seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and other spices, is a long-time favorite. Panini are made to order, and there are all the standards for a fair, such as grilled bratwurst, soft pretzels, caramel apples and cotton candy.
Herbstmesse lights up the night along the Rhine for almost a month.