Basel, Switzerland at a Glance

by | January 3, 2017 |

Title Image: A view of Basel’s Old Town from the Rhine River

Happy New Year! And New Year 2017 has me in Switzerland – first stop Basel. I’m giving a talk at a linguistics conference in Geneva in a few days so I thought I’d expand my excursion a bit.

First impression: everything is gray, unrelenting gray. I hasten to note that I just came from Florida, so my perceptions are out of sync with winter in northern climates.

Of note:

Basel is German speaking. Most signage around town is exclusively in German, but there are some that include French. In commercial situations English pops up. Many stores have signs in their windows with one word: SALE.

At the international airport, of course, English appears. I particularly liked these signs at baggage claim.basel-airport

Basel sits near two borders, so you can either exit right to head into Basel or you can exit left and head toward Mulhouse, France or Freiburg, Germany. For a second I felt like I was in New York City and trying to determine whether I wanted to come out of the subway on the north side of Columbus Circle or the south.

The Altstadt (Old Town) is charming. It’s a warren of narrow streets with traditional architecture like this:

basel-altstadt

Mixed with older architecture like this:

basel-altstadt-2

The date on the house is 1438.

The Rathaus (Town Hall), in the center of Old Town, is a beauty.

basel-rathause

The interior courtyard of the Rathaus – and I suppose everything in the interior – is magnificent.

basel-rathaus

This is the wall you see when you enter the courtyard. To the left of this wall is the stairway:

basel-satue

Who is this guy? I have no idea.

In case you weren’t 100% convinced you were in city center, the McDonald’s across the street clinches the matter. McDonald’s has famously declared itself primarily a real estate company and has long placed its restaurants in only the best locations.

This picture was taken at about 2:00 in the afternoon. Yes, everything is grey.

This picture was taken at about 2:00 in the afternoon. Yes, everything is grey.

See the Davidoff store on the right? It used to be the place in Europe where Americans bought their Cuban cigars. Now, I suppose, they can go to Havana.

basel-cuban-cigars

The street life is European, which means its great. Everything is walkable. People are out. There is always something interesting to see. In winter it’s the roasted chestnut stands that are everywhere.

basel-heissi

Heissi must be Swiss German, instead of the expected Standard German heisse for ‘hot.’

I’ve noticed a number of cafés and restaurants with outdoor seating, supplied with rugs or blankets over the backs of the chairs, for their heartier guests. Here’s a kinda cool restaurant/brewery within sight of my hotel:

basel-brewery

I note, however, that no one at the moment has taken up the host’s kind offer of warm animal skins! In fact, I haven’t yet seen anyone seated at an outdoor café.

There are an amazing amount of chocolate shops. Why am I surprised? If you look back at the picture with McDonald’s you will see a scrumptious chocolate shop, Läderach, to the left. On the right the Schiesser coffee house and bakery also looks fantastic.

Germans, here Swiss Germans, like their cake and coffee. I’m stereotyping, but it’s hard not to when you are surrounded by strong evidence of the stereotypes.

Speaking of which, there are also an amazing amount of clocks around town. In fact I am looking out of my hotel room window at one right now. 

As you see it is now 3:50. Oddly my perception of the light is much greyer than it appears in the photo.

As you see it is now 3:50. Oddly my perception of the light is much greyer than it appears in the photo.

Swiss bedding is divine. I’m staying in a far from fancy hotel (although it is centrally located and only a block away from the Rathaus) and didn’t expect much, but when I walked in the room and saw the fluffy duvet with the snowy white cover, my spirits rose. The Swiss don’t skimp on proper bedding.

basel-swiss-bedding

This picture does not do justice to the quality of the cotton of the duvet cover or its super clean yet creamy feel. By the pillow you see a little chocolate rectangle (lemon and cardamom) on a cloth that says Gute Nacht – Bonne Nuit – Good Night. I’m sure to have a cozy Swiss sleep.


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This post was written by Julie Andresen

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