Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Town in Three Countries

My final weekend of the European tour was spent in the City of Basel, Switzerland. With a little time spent in Basel, Germany. All with a fine view of Basel, France.

I was here to meet Jenny, an old school friend who now lives here with her German fiance Bjoern. With SatNav's help I negotiated the one way system but we still had the challenge of parking Cecil. Jenny and Bjoern hopped in outside their flat and we drove around the quarter on the lookout for any empty space marked in white (not blue) that was large enough to parallel park in. After around fifteen minutes we found an end-of-the-row. To my surprise there was a cream Late Bay with its hazard lights on across the road! But there was no time to take any pictures - we found our way neatly into the space and switched off the engine with relief.

The first evening consisted of dinner, fine wine, gossip and an early night since we'd all had long and tiring weeks to recover from.

Lots of Friends

It was difficult to miss the concentration of VW buses in this place. Having not seen another T2 in all my time in France, I saw 5 within a day here in Switzerland - four late bays and one early bay - plus countless T3s and T4s. I don't know why. But Cecil felt quite at home.

Just one of our new friends
Wave at the Animals

On yet another hot, sunny day, we took a long walk across the city (and across a country border) to a public animal park. Many of the animals, particularly those of a cat persuasion, were sensibly hidden in the shade but there were plenty of large birds including herons and storks perched on distinctive high up nests. Peacocks and peahens skipped away from small children on the paths and occasionally peered into the monkey enclosure looking charactistically grumpy.

Baby storks, not yet strong enough to leave the nest

Drowning in the Rhine

Jenny confided in me that 'Rhine swimming' was her very favourite thing to do, and that we should partake that afternoon to cool down from our sweaty hike. I agreed, imaging splashing about on a little stoney beach somewhere, and we changed into our swimming costumes.

It wasn't until I was chest deep in the river water that I understood what we were actually doing. 'Rhine swimming' consists of packing your gear into a waterproof bag, swimming out to the middle of the Rhine, and then trying to stay safely a float while the undefeatably strong current thrusts you downstream at a rate of several knots. It's important to avoid being flung into any obstacles along the way, such as moored boats or marker bouys. Then, approximately 2km later, you paddle desperately back to the side and grab a ladder in the wall with which to make an exit.

An exciting and frugal way to see the city
I took my waterproof camera again - there are still more photos to take before I can develop the film though!

Switzerland falls down

Once we'd showered, changed and eaten Jenny's fabulous home cooking, we wandered into the City centre for a tour of its sights and a beer on a busy high street that buzzed with every variety of human being. We ambled home and reentered the flat within seconds of a mighty hail and thunder storm, which we then enjoyed from the covered balcony with a cup of hot tea.

It's Art

The rain continued throughout Sunday so we hopped on a bus to the Tanguely museum to enjoy its range of 'machine art'. This local artist focused on putting together bizarre combinations of objects and then making them move in interesting ways. One particular piece included musical instruments to add an eerie sound dimension and another was large enough to enter and walk around. Frustratingly for us visitors, the machines were only allowed to be turned on infrequently so that they wouldn't wear out... there seemed to be a group of excitable children constantly ahead of us turning the sculptures on so that they were immobile by the time we arrived.
Exploring the art
The afternoon was spent back at the flat playing Carcassonne, a highly addictive board game, with a fourth friend of Bjoern's and enjoying a traditional Swiss fondue with some surprisingly drinkable English white wine.
A healthy meal
The end of the Adventure

... Or this leg of the adventure, anyway. I said a sad farewell on Monday and drove back South into France. Cecil was cleaned and aired and left in a sunny airport while I flew back to the grey and drizzly UK for work. Now my task is to get through my contract as quickly and efficiently as possible so that I can return and squeeze just a little more Europe in...

No comments:

Post a Comment