Switzerland – home of the chocolate, cheese, watches, chard, army knives, bank accounts and the Alps. While living in the Eastern part of France, it is easy to take short trips into Switzerland. So Jeannie began her research of the area and possible 1- to 3-day trips that would give us some more quality time in nature and out of the city. Basel, Switzerland is less than 1.5 hours out of Strasbourg so we would also be able to see a bit of Lucerne as well as a day in the Alps.
Prices in Switzerland prices are considerably higher than France so it took quite a bit of research to come up with a reasonably priced plan. Jeannie found a well-located hotel (close to train station and into the old city) in Basel and we booked it for 2-nights (it had air conditioning also!). The idea was to have one day in the city, then travel to the Alps near Lucerne for the day before returning to Basel for second night. We stopped at the TI and inquired about walking routes in Basel, and options for Lucerne. The self-guided tour to Mount Pilatus looked like a great way to get into the Swiss Alps. The multi-faceted travel route was bundled into one price, and though definitely not cheap, we would not have to negotiate multiple ticket purchases and scheduling.
After booking the trip to the Alps, we were able to wander through the old town. The history of the town of Basel extends back far more than two millennia. Old Celtic settlements and a fort have been discovered in the area predating the Romans, whose first settlement dates to 44BCE.
War, “Black Death” plague, fire and earthquakes have all had their toll on Basel over the centuries. Yet the historic old town center has many buildings over 700 years old. As we walked through this historic city we were also somewhat surprised at the number of beautiful modern buildings as well. It has the reputation as the Swiss capital of architecture based on the fact that during the last 25 years many well-known architects have contributed to this modern Basel.
Basel is also a center of art, with almost forty museums covering from antiquity to the present and including historic and established works of fine art as well as more avant garde creations.Unfortunately, time would not afford us the luxury to visit but only one museum and that would be tomorrow.
As we headed towards the Rhine River, we encountered a sight that we had heard of, but were nonetheless surprised to see. As the Rhine flows northward from its origins in the Swiss Alps toward the North Sea at the Netherlands, it is already a large river as it flows through Basel. At 20° C (68 ° F) it is a popular place to cool off during the hot summer, and as we looked both upstream and downstream there were dozens of people floating in the cool, clear waters of the river. During the course of a day, hundreds and hundreds of people pack their clothes and belongings into large waterproof bags that double as flotation devices and make it easier for people on ships, boats and smaller watercraft to see them. In fact the swimmers are often in the company of very large ships that move cargo on the river.
Later in our day, after still more wandering through Basel, we returned to our hotel where, in spite of the heat, we enjoyed a drink in the shade of the courtyard garden, before going out for dinner. We knew tomorrow would be a big day so we turned in early.