Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Basel - A brief visit

After spending Christmas Day in Cologne it was time to head south to Switzerland  We had a 5 hour break in our journey to visit the town of Basel which sits on the point where Germany, Switzerland and France meet.  It's one of the few places where you can take a short tram ride and enter another country.  It's where the railway station sits astride the border.  Unfortunately we chose the "wrong" lockers in which to leave our bags whilst we explored the city.  The locker displayed a cost of "6.50" for storage and although I inserted 6.50 it was not accepted.  It wanted Swiss Francs, not Euros.  The lockers taking Euros were at the French end and we were at the Swiss end of the station.  After that was resolved we set off to see what we could before taking a train into Switzerland to visit friends.

But first a quick look at our train.  This is the "Inter City Express" ICE513 on which we travelled from Cologne to Mannheim where we changed for Basel.  It's still dark - we left Cologne at 7:55, some 15 minutes before sunrise.

The ICE trains provide comfortable, high speed connections across much of Western Europe.
We can't afford First Class air travel, but with a "Seniors" Eurail Pass the extra
convenience of First Class doesn't cost much more than the second class ticket.
Now for Basel itself.
St Jakob's Church
New city, new architectural style, although the window shutters have a certain
 "Swiss look" about them.  These dwellings have a fine view across the river.
Our first view of the impressive Basel Munster on a slight rise in the river banks.
The Basler Münster is one of the marks and main tourist attractions of Basel. it It is a red sandstone structure with coloured roof tiles and two slim towers. Originally a Roman Catholic Cathedral it is now a Reformed Protestant Church. 

The original building (built between 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic styles) was destroyed by an earthquake in 1356 and was then rebuilt.  It was extended in 1421 and finally finished in 1550 when it got its southern tower.

St George finishes off the dragon beside the main entrance to the Munster
Basel is an attractive town.  Within the "old town" the narrow streets wind around and up and down the hill.  The houses along the narrow streets cast dense shadows because the sun is so low in the sky, so one side of the street is brightly lit, whilst the other is dark, thus making photography difficult.   Here are a few of the interesting buildings which caught our eye on our walk.

The buildings around the Platz ("place" or "square") beside the Munster
have been largely unchanged for hundreds of years..

Decorative details above the main door
No mistaking what this sign indicates.
There was no corresponding sign to indicate a women's toilet.
Another fine red building - the old "Rathaus" (town hall)
which is still in use and attracting visitors.

A traditional Basel bakery with many delicious
products on display in the window (below).
As a bonus you see buildings reflected in the window.

Buildings in a small courtyard off a lane off a winding street;
we had a light lunch in a small cafe on the right of the square.
Several of the old buildings have frescoes, now fading after centuries of exposure.

Store window decorated for Christmas

Christmas decorations in a store window

A public water fountain in a frescoed alcove
The "Spalentor", the largest and most impressive of the
three remaining gates of the old walls of Basel.

The view of the Spalentor from "outside" the
no longer existent city walls of Basel.
We have seen this type of Christmas decoration at several
cities (mainly in Germany).  I guess that they were
originally turned by wind catching the vanes on top.
Finally ... a fountain.  Not just any fountain but the highly unusual "Tinguely" fountain.  This was created in 1977 by the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.  Nine powered iron structures sit in a shallow basin and spout water at each other as they move constantly.


Our short stop-over en route to La Neuveville in Switzerland was enjoyable but all too short to do this beautiful and interesting town justice.

Next stop - Switzerland.

Paul & Judy
January, 2016

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