My traveling, although extensive, isn’t exactly varied. I have seen so many beautiful places on my way around the world, but most of them fit within a reasonably narrow range of geography and culture. Most places I go are mountainous; just small communities that have sprouted up because of, or in spite of their location.
Basel is a direct result of its location, and its location is the reason I traveled there. Basel sits on the Rhine, its centre firmly in Switzerland, but its districts split between France and Germany too. For centuries, Basel has played host to traders and travelers who happened upon its central location on their way to somewhere else. I was here for science, and that is something that Basel is good at. The city is surrounded by industry.The huge headquarters of pharmaceutical companies dotted around its periphery are a contrast to the very germanic architecture of the old town that nestles against the river.
A rainy spring weekend might not have been the most beautiful light to see the city in. The everlasting grey that seems to pervade some parts of europe was only interupted for some pretty heavy rain showers. The Rhine was flowing fast and high, its chocolatey brown waters churning against the legs of the bridge.
The marktplatz is one of a few different squares and plazas in the city, this one being framed by the ornately decorated town hall. The middle of the square was filled with market stands selling cheese and meat. Its always difficult to gauge the authenticity of such places, but it had the right feeling.
The Mittlere bruck is the oldest crossing of the Rhein, anywhere. But I think this reincarnation is a little more recent than its ancestors that stood in the same place.
I love public transport. Its simple, and it goes where you want it to. Basel has its system dialled, and we got given a all access ticket for the whole network of buses and trams when we checked in at our hotel. I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a perk of our lovely hotel though, and it turns out that all visitors get a transport ticket. Its such a small thing that really defines a place, and it really works. I hopped around the city a lot quicker, more conveniently and with a lot less congestion/pollution that I would have otherwise. Sometimes ‘free’ actually means giving a small discount on the bigger picture. Here, the bigger picture is a happy city.
The buildings in the Old Town were immaculate. Not a chip of paint or a shutter out of place.
It was hard to work out what was lived in and what was just a tourist attraction. These houses lining the church square (Munsterplatz) seemed empty, and too big to be single houses. Preservation is fantastic, but when it comes at the expense of people actually living in these places, it seems a shame.
There’s no doubt why Basel Münster was built here. Just a small knoll overlooking the river, it has amazing views of all angles. Its checkered face of mismatched bricks belies a tough life, set as it is at the frontier of so many battles over the passing centuries.
Although the weather didn’t cooperate, I enjoyed my time in Switzerland, and really enjoyed doing a little more passive tourism, rather than the active stuff I’m characterised by. I hope I get to do a little more culture and sights in the next couple months too.