Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel to Basel Switzerland

More on our travels sans Roulotte
Time to give you a bit of perspective on our recent week in Basel Switzerland.  Why Basel you ask?  My cousin Maurice and his partner Gus are currently living there.  Gus works in the HR department of Novardis, a big Swiss drug company.  He had been working in their New York office and was offered an option to work in Basel,  their headquarters.  The offer was one they could not pass up.   So, they are now in Basel for at least 3 years.  We love it, since it offered us the option of visiting them and seeing Basel.
Basel is at a curve on the Rhine, within walking distance of Germany and France.  There are lots of trams and buses in the city, many of which go into Germany and France.  This part of Switzerland is German speaking, but English and French are also spoken, so it's not too difficult when moving around town.  We did carry a little German/English dictionary around with us and did use it, especially when figuring out cafe menus.

Switzerland does not use the Euro,  you need Swiss Francs here and lots of them.  Basel was more expensive than we expected,  more so than France and Germany, which took us a bit by surprise.  In reality,  it is a mix of expensive and not so expensive.
It is a great walking town, with lots of small  quiet, picturesque streets to amble along.  The streets are very, very clean, no litter, no dog poo, no anything that you need to dodge around as you are sightseeing.  We saw lots of houses dating from 1300s and 1400s,  with lots of pretty flowers at windows and on the many patios that we could see.  There are a  couple of different markets in town that were very active with daily local shoppers, not just us tourist checking them out.
We usually stayed on small back streets looking at different areas of town and it was quiet everywhere we walked. The biggest reason is that we noticed a big absence of cars, most people seemed to either be walking or riding bikes.

Gus likes to refer to Switzerland as a "benign dictatorship" and he may be right.  I do have to say that it was actually quite relaxing to be in this " seemingly perfect" atmosphere for a while.  I do not know what it will feel like for the guys to be living there for a few years.
We arrived during art basel, which is the worlds largeest art fair/market that occurs here every year. Neighborhoods have various  art"instalations" in addition to a central exhibition hall.  The exhibition hall was packed with dealers, artists and their works, which you could spend hours viewing and even buying.  Bring your small fortune if you go.

The 4 of us took a train to go into the German town of Freiburg, which was also picturesque, with a small stream running thru parts of town.  Freiburg was just an hour away, giving us a chance to see some rural German countryside.  Fred and I both noticed that lots of the houses had solar panels on their roofs.  This area was making a big push for solar.  We had dinner in Freiburg, in a small courtyard garden.  (picture later).

So what did we enjoy about Basel?
1. The variety of croissants and pastries at a little local bakery where we had breakfast
2. the Rhine ferry which takes you across the river from one side of town to the other ( this was cheap fun by the way),

3. the fact that most of Basel was without cars
4. the Renoir exhibit we saw while there and last but not least, the great visit with Maurice and Gus.  4. spending time in their wonderful apartment with Miss Penny, their dog.  She was just a delight and seemed to enjoy having us around also!

What was weird about Basel?
1. People swimming in the Rhine, with a fast current of about 15mph we guess.  The water is cold (18 c) ­, the days were hot, so to cool off, they get swept down the river.  They carry their clothes with them in the water, in a waterproof ballon-type bag, which they also seem to use as a flotation device.  It is very weird!
2. Another weirdness was the guy who came on the ferry with us carrying a small bird.  He explained it could not take off from the ground (?) so he launched it during our crossing.  So, guess what happened.....yup, bird goes up a bit, then crashes into the water.  We all give a collective "oh" (sad sound) as we continue to watch the bird bob for awhile and then lose sight of it.....

Would we go again?  You bet, next summer if all of our schedules allow us to do this again.
(we'll bring more money next time)  

Stay tuned for more from,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling in France, Switzerland and Germany so you don't have to!