Basel. A start to our European journey.
We arrived at EuroAirport Basel international airport, which is located in the tri-national Upper Rhine Region in France, but close to both Switzerland and Germany. Upon arrival at the airport, we found that as tourists, with a valid hotel booking, we could use public transport to get to the Basel city centre, free of charge. I normally prefer taking public transport, as I believe you get to see more of the city, and have more of an authentic experience this way. We manage to ride on one of the trams a few times, going round in circles getting to the old town, as there was construction works in the city and it was not stopping where it should have, but it made for a funny moment. Fortunately I made use of my basic German, and we eventually got to our hotel after an impromptu “city tour”.
We stayed in the beautiful old town and received our travel mobility card when we arrived at Motel One, a modern German chain of hotels. The mobility card allows us to travel free on public transport, up to certain zones. Trams are still used in the old town, which makes getting around town very easy. I could not help wonder what Cape Town city centre would have been like today if our trams remained.
Basel is quite a green city, with lots of parks and gardens, located along the majestic Rhine river. If you love museums, this is the place to go, as it has a variety of museums.
The most prominent building in the market square, old town city centre, is the town hall. This iconic landmark is beautifully decorated externally and internally.
Basel is home to modern architecture, such as the Convention centre and Novartis Campus. The Novartis campus is not open to the public. You can however book an architectural tour to access campus and see this open air museum with modern buildings designed by various international architects/designers.
Basel has no shortage of typical Swiss cuisine, such as raclette, fondue and Swiss chocolate of course! I found there to be some German influence in town and most locals speak German. We stayed at Motel One, and breakfasts included delicious cheeses, pretzels and cold meats. There is no shortage of bakeries in town, and the smell of freshly baked traditional breads and pastries luring you in from the street.
An absolute must, is to take a small ferry across the river, for only 1.60 CHF. The ferry is attached to the overhead cable, and uses natural power, the current of the river, to cross from one side to the other. It is a good way to see parts of the city and as a different means of transport. In summer, the locals use the river as a means of transport and to cool down on a hot summers day. Using waterproof bags to store their belongings, they jump into the river from the bank, and use the current to float/swim downstream. As the river is a means of transportation, just stick to the side where people are allowed to swim!
Local chocolates to try: Any Swiss chocolate is good chocolate in my opinion, and there a few local Chocolatiers to try.
The Vitra Design Museum is easily accessible from Basel, which takes about an hour by bus, crossing over the German border to Wheil Am Rhein, where the museum is located. Read about it on my next blog post.