Basel… Who wouldda thought this town could be so much fun!

9,127 steps, 1 castle, 2 churches 3 culture

Basel
DSC03296 Basel Barbie France Germany Switzerland x
Barbara at the border of France/Germany/Switzerland. Dreiländereck (Three Countries’ Corner), which juts out into the Rhine, is one of Basel’s more unusual sites. If you walk around a pylon marking the spot, in just a few steps you can cross from Switzerland into Germany and then into France — and you don’t even need a passport (Frommers.com)

Basel, Switzerland is a little jewel in the Alsace.  (Say it like this:  Bah-sel and Alls-ace.)   One night we parked in France and walked across a footbridge to Germany for a Chinese dinner while visiting with friends from Switzerland.  It was done with about as much fanfare as parking in South Russel to have dinner in Chagrin Falls with friends from the west side of Cleveland.  No big deal to the locals but awesome to me.

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Alsace by day
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Alsace by night
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Our Basel Friend, Stephan

We traveled to Basel for two reasons – first to meet with Maureen’s Mardi Gras friend, Stephan.  He grew up in Basel so showed us around town, plus drove us to Interlaken, Lucerne, and Girl Scout’s Our Chalet.  What we thought would be a pleasant break in our travels turned out to be great fun thanks to Stephan’s energy.

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Rachel, Stephan and Maureen in Basel

The second reason for our stay over in Basel was that we launched from Basel on our riverboat tour via Viking up the Rhine River to Amsterdam.  Basel marked a turning point in our tour as Maureen and I took the river boat, Rachel traveled to Bruges to visit friends for the week and Tracy returned home to the US.  We thought of Basel as the Viking launching pad but it turned out that Basel was a grand adventure in itself!

DSC02274 Basel from Rhine River
Basel, Switzerland

Airbnb.com

We booked most of our reservations through Airbnb.com with outstanding results.  We rented real people’s homes in real neighborhoods.  The homes were roomy, convenient, and reasonably priced.  For about $150 a night, three or four of us stayed in homes that were clean and comfortable, included a refrigerator, and often included a washer and dryer.  Our three criteria were that we did not want stairs (we were carrying our own luggage), we needed wifi, and we wanted to be the only lodgers.  This was our lodging in the Alsace:

DSC03317 Basel AirBnB x

DSC03308 Basel AirBnB x

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DSC03312 Basel AirBnB x

We each had our own sleeping areas (three bedrooms plus two bathrooms) and a full yard.  Our hosts even left us breakfast food in the fridge.  Absolutely perfect.

Rhine River

The Rhine River drew settlers to this important transportation hub well before the birth of Christ.  Today it remains a key stop on the Rhine.

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Rhine River, Basel
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The Rhine is a working river
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This braille model shows the medeival heart of Basel, the city on the hill with the cathedral and St. Martin’s Church. According to the plaque, it is desiged to be used by the visually impaired as well as by everyone else.
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Hand-operated ferry over the Rhine River
DSC02273 Basel Rhine River Ferry
Pulleys used on a hand-operated ferry that crosses the Rhine throughout the day

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Doorways of Basel

I was fascinated by the doorways of Basel.  The doors are old, really, old.  Like before Columbus-set-foot-in-America old.  It’s a simple matter of telling just how old a home is – it’s written right on the front of the house.

DSC03506 Basel house 1438 x
This house was built in 1438
DSC03493 Basel dated doorway 1390 x
This house was built in 1390.
DSC03492 Basel dated door 1486 x
This house was built in 1486
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This house was built in 1333.
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The building on the left was built in 1437, as were the stairs
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This is Basel’s oldest structure, built well before 1300.

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Basel’s Town Hall (Rathaus Basel)

Basel’s 500-year-old town hall is locally referred to as the Roothuus, a play on words that means councilhouse but sounds like red house in the Basel dialect.  This cute play of words is so appropriate because the town hall is RED.

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Rathaus Basel
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The Rathaus was built in 1501 and updated in 1901 – a sign over the door gives you that information thanks to the architects
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Imagine you work at the Rathaus and get to walk through these doors every day! When I worked at City Hall in Columbus, Ohio years ago, it certainly did not look like this.
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Interior courtyard of the Basel Rathaus
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Basel Rathaus

Paintings around the exterior of the Basel Rathaus extoll the virtues of citizenship:

DSC02309 Basel There is agreement where God dwells x
There is agreement where God dwells.
DSC02308 Basel what goes round comes round x
What goes round, comes round.
DSC02307 Basel Freedom is more important than silver and gold x
Freedom is more important than silver and gold.

 

Basel Signage

Basels signs date from a time when all people could not read.  So when you hung your sign, you made sure it included a symbol of what service was offered by you.  Can you tell what these two establishments offer?

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DSC03425 Basel x

Basel’s Munster (Cathedral)
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Basel’s Munster, built between 1019 and 1500

 

Basel’s red sandstone cathedral was built by the Catholics but is now a reformed protestant church.  Many of the artworks of the cathedral were destroyed during the reformation when Huldrych Zwingli condemned idolatry and the church was stormed by townspeople.  The colorful roof tiles can be seen from all over Basel, making a good landmark for touring.

DSC02251 Basel Munster
The Galluspforte, the oldest surviving figure portal in German speaking countries
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Knight Georg slaying a very small dragon on Basel’s Munster
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This is the rose window over St Catherine’s chapel from the outside
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This is the rose window over St Catherine’s chapel from the inside

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Side window of Basel’s Munster
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Stained glass over the altar of Basel’s Munster
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The cloisters of Basel’s cathedral
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Street musicians performed throughout Europe, including this young lute player in the cloisters of Basel’s Munster

 

 Bathrooms
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When’s the last time you found a public bathroom this clean? We experienced clean bathrooms throughout most of Europe.
DSC03552 Basel Portapotty x
But there is also this alternative located in a Basel town square

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The water pouring from public fountains is safe to drink
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Basel watering trough for horses and humans
Real Fondue!

Stephan invited us to his home for authentic cheese fondue with his parents.  Ladies, this man is available and he’s a catch!  Not only is he a humorous host, he’s also a great cook.

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Our friend Stephan

We were so lucky to visit Stephan’s family home and meet his charming parents.  These dishes are part of his mother’s collection.

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Stephan’s mother’s china. Each dish showcased a famous site or story of Switzerland.

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International Dining

We got to see Switzerland through Stephan’s eyes as his home rather than a destination.  He said when he was born, his family was living in France (or was it Germany?) but when it came time to give birth, his parents made sure Stephan was born across the river in Switzerland so he would have Swiss citizenship like his parents.  Stephan thinks nothing of traveling between France, Germany and Switzerland but it was a huge treat for me.

We parked our car in France and crossed the Rhine River via a footbridge to Germany for a Chinese food feast with Stephan and his parents.  The food was prepared with a light hand and just delicious.  Stephan waived off the doggy bags and told us people don’t carry away left over food like we do in America.

DSC02831 (1) Alsace x

DSC03305 Basel China Restaurant Rhinepark x

DSC03302 Basel China Restaurant Rhinepark x

DSC02303 Basel Schiesser Cafe x
Just in case we needed a McDonald’s fix…but the real draw is the famous Schiesser Cafe
Switzerland’s independence

Stephan’s very proud of his heritage and he should be.  Switzerland’s legacy of independence has been hard-won and is protected with vigilance.  For example, fortified caves strengthened during WWII still line the mountains and until the very recent past, every home and building was required to have a bomb shelter.

DSC03040 Our Chalet x bomb shelter
This is a photo of a bomb shelter at Girl Scouts’ Our Chalet, about an hour from Basel. It’s high up a mountain with no strategic points nearby but it does have a bomb shelter. Vigilance is what protects Switzerland’s independence.
Driving in Switzerland

DSC01278 Basel Highway x

Stephan drove us swiftly through crowded city streets, breath-taking mountain passes, and flawless freeways punctuating the ride with lots of “asshole!” and “shitty drivers!” He pointed out special spots with colorful remarks and skipped most of the touristy stuff that was beginning to jade us.  Of course, every time something didn’t go our way during the rest of our trip, we’d look at each other and say, “assholes!”

DSC02354 Stephan driving in Switzerland
This is Stephan driving us to Our Chalet in Switzerland. Note the comfortable car, complete with onboard GPS system, and me taking photos of EVERYTHING with my little Cannon camera with the Zeiss lens.
Swiss mountain road
Swiss mountain road
Swiss road construction
Swiss road construction
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Industry along the freeways carry mottos and advertising
Parking garages are easy to find, clean, and automated. Red lights indicate the parking spot is taken, green lights tells you the spot is free. Check out is also automated with machines and instructions located on each level of the garages.
Parking garages are easy to find, clean, and automated. Red lights indicate the parking spot is taken, green lights tells you the spot is free (not sure why the spot we just parked i is still showing green). Check out is also automated with machines and instructions located on each level of the garages.
Parking garage elevator - easy to understand and almost always in English
Parking garage elevator – easy to understand and almost always in English
Basel street scenes

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Stumblestone in Basel

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Basel street art

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This quirky water feature included several steam-punk-like water fountains that were interesting to look at, yet strange.  I think I lacked context to understand what was going on – yet, I watched fascinated.

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Basel love locks on the Middle Rhine Bridge

DSC03533 Basel Frank Carl Weber x

DSC03550 Basel Museum of broken relationships x

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The Morrison Hotel, Basel
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The Morrison Hotel, Basel
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The Morrison Hotel, Basel

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DSC02765 Basel shop window x

DSC02707 (1) Basel souvenirs x

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DSC03422 Basel Apple Store x

DSC03421 Basel ad for hot yoga x

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Basel school yard recess

DSC03431 Basel Gelateria x

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Basel is the best!
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Maureen, Barbara, Stephan, Stephan’s parents, Tracy

It was hard saying good-bye to Stephan and his family.  They were caring hosts with a twinkle in their eyes that said happy times were close by.

I looked for information on Basel and tourism and found almost nothing on the internet or in tour books.  But Basel is lively, happy, livable, and worth time to visit.  I found it in many ways to be more approachable and more interesting than Lucerne and definitely a better destination than Zurich.  So let’s keep this between us so it doesn’t get over-run with tourists:  Basel is a worthy destination in Switzerland.

 

 

Author: barbgrano1

Just let me see the world! I'm currently focusing on the US and Europe and invite you to share my travels. I teach ethics and political science at St. Petersburg College part time; I retired as a college administrator in Ohio. I am a total geek about government with huge wishes for continued freedom and respect for the individual. We must each do our part.

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