• Deborah Kade

Basel, Switzerland

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

We met Frau Meier, with her Cadillac, at the train station. She was waiting to catch the bus to Matten.

We met Cordula and her boyfriend, Torsten, in Basel. We spent part of the day having lunch and walking around the city. It was so special to see Cordula again after a few years and to finally meet Torsten. It was so nice to be able to spend time together.

We didn’t realize there were two train stations so we decided to meet at City Hall.

The City Hall is the seat of the Basel government and its parliament. In the midst of Old Town, it is particularly eye­catching with its red facade, the characteristic tower and playful frescoes.

A visit to the Rathaus (city hall) is worthwhile especially on account of the council chamber, the attractive inner courtyard, the romantic arcades and the tower. It was built after the great earthquake to replace the former seat of government. After Basel joined the Swiss Confederation, the front part of the building was replaced with an imposing new structure. The coats of arms of Basel and the 11 other members of the then Confederation adorn the crenellations. At the beginning of the 17th century, the city hall was extended, and the artist Hans Bock decorated the facade with painted trompe l'oeil. In 1900, the building was extended again to include the left-hand wing and the tower at the right.

When Basel joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501, the city wished to express this politically important step with a profoundly visible gesture. The Cantonal Parliament decided to replace the old Town Hall with a grander and more representative building in 1503. It was agreed that no expense was to be spared to underline Basel’s new importance. Between 1504-1514, a new town hall with a connecting annex to the courtyard building was constructed. The oldest part consists of three pointed arcades, above which the richly decorated Legislative Hall is located.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Town of Basel had grown to a considerable size and the implementation of a new Cantonal Constitution in 1875 required new administrative buildings. In 1899-1901,the Tower as well as the wide block shaped building were added to the Town Hall.

The idea of the much higher tower was quite controversial and gave rise to many disputes. In a public election, the citizens of Basel finally agreed to build it.

The sculpture of Munatius Plancus, the founder of the Roman city of Augusta Raurica, some 10 km from Basel, is by far the most prominent one in this building. The large sandstone figure was created and donated by Hans Michel to show his gratitude to the city of Basel for offering him free citizenship.

The paintings on the interior and exterior facade bear two basic themes: Law and Legislation. The second theme is Basel’s membership of the Swiss Confederation in 1501.

The exterior facade shows a frieze of childlike warriors on the left; over the arcade vaults, angels of victory crown Basel’s shields with laurel wreaths; the figure of Justitia at the height of the Front Chamber is meant to be a reminder of its function of law; on a mock balcony at the top: weapon bears with Basel shields and peaceful citizens and children.

When Wilhelm Balmer and Franz Baur repainted the exterior facade in 1901, they replaced the gate guard with a woman with a distaff to express Basel’s new found sense of security as a member of the Confederation in relation to their Austrian neighbors. The proclamation balcony on the tower bears the words: Hie Schweiz Grund und Boden “here begins Swiss soil. These were the words, with which the Confederation Deputies were greeted at the Town Gates before they were gloriously accompanied to the Town to proclaim their oath.

We had lunch at the Warum Gifthüttli which translates to the small poison house.

Over a hundred years ago, the owner of “zum Ritter St. Georg” dared to start serving beer in his pub as well. So far, this had been solely the breweries’ business.

The town’s newspaper Basler Nachrichten announced “beer not consumed at the brewery is poison”. The owner responded by renaming his pub- the small poison house.

The Gifhüttli is a historical and one of the best known restaurants in Basel. Traditional interior wood paneling, combined with decorative ornaments create a typical Basler Beize atmosphere.

Throughout the year, the hearty Cordon bleus, made with either veal or pork, can be enjoyed in the Bierstube as well as in the Weinstube. More than just a few claim “the best in town!”

We all had the classic Cordon bleu. Did we take a picture? No, I guess we were too hungry.

Basel has many walking tours. We chose the yellow route.

Don’t you just love the name of this Christmas shop? We went in and looked at all the Christmas decorations.

Home to 40 museums, Basel, the city of culture for connoisseurs, has the highest concentration of museums in the country. Basel also has a beautiful Old Town, modern architecture, and the Rhine – an inviting spot to rest a while.

Basel is Switzerland's oldest university city. Historic landmarks of the city include the large market square with its richly decorated red sandstone town hall and the late Romanesque-Gothic cathedral. During a walk through the Old Town, past small boutiques, antique book shops but also shops of modern designers, a visit to the "Läckerli Huus" to try the traditional Basel honey cake is well worth your while. Basel is tradition-conscious and open-minded at the same time, a fact born out by several modern buildings designed by renowned architects such as Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta, Diener & Diener and Richard Meyer. Almost 40 museums make Basel the city with the highest density of museums in the country. Internationally known museums, such as the Basel Art Museum, the museum devoted to the iron sculptor Jean Tinguely, the Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Cultures attract a great many visitors, as do several galleries and playhouses. Basel is among other things home to the symphony orchestra and the chamber orchestra as well as the musical theatre featuring international productions. A wide range of classical and contemporary productions are shown on the stages of the Basel Theatre and the Playhouse. Basel is a green city. The Botanical Gardens, several parks and the banks of the Rhine are perfect places to relax and linger for a while. The Etoscha House at the zoo offers spectacular insights into the Namibian Savannah. At nearby Augusta Raurica near Augst impressive ruins and a great many finds at the museum bear testimony to the busy lives of the Romans in the region in the past. The charming countryside of the Basel region with its many cherry trees in spring boasts a particularly beautiful display of blooms. Germany and France, the Black Forest and Vosges Mountains are only a stone's throw away from the border city of Basel. The yearly Fasnacht (Carnival) is the most important celebration for the people of Basel. On the Monday following Ash Wednesday the city rises with the "Morgenstraich". At four in the morning on the dot, all the lights in the city go out and a colourful and brilliant procession through the streets of the city begins.

Between Basel's five bridges across the Rhine you will find the city's four ferries, “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” und “Ueli”, with which you can cross the Rhine without motorized assistance, using only the natural power of the river's current. It is not only tourists that are thrilled by this mode of transport, the inhabitants of the city also regularly use this means of transport around the city.

You can call the boat over if it is on the other side of the Rhine

The cost to cross is SFr. 1.60. The boat is turned into the current. The current hits the boat and starts to push it backwards and then the cable becomes taut. The boat slides across the cable across the Rhine River.

Cordula and Torsten crossing the Rhine.

Hardly another monument in the city of Basel has become such a symbol of the city as the Mittlere Brücke. Opened in 1226, it is one of the oldest Rhine crossings between Lake Constance and the North Sea.

The Mittlere Brücke was initially used for local traffic, in conjunction with the development of the route over the Gotthard Pass as an international trade route, in the 14th century it gained significance as a crossing over the Rhine for international trade. With the advent of electric trams, the old bridge had to make way for the new Mittlere Brücke in 1905. A copy of the old bridge chapel, the so-called “Käppelijoch”, where in the Middle Ages convicted criminals were sentenced to death, was erected as a reminder of the original construction.

So much traffic on the Rhine River.

The Spalentor (Gate of Spalen) is the most magnificent and impressive of the three city gates still remaining from the city fortifications dating from 1400.

In times gone by, many important supplies and provisions entered the city through this gate having arrived from Alsace. Its square main tower, flanked on each side by two round towers, would have been seen long before arriving at the gates of the city. The façade facing away from the city is also decorated with three figures dating back to the 15th century - the Madonna and two prophets.

Together with the Mittlere Brücke, the Basler Münster (Cathedral) is probably the most famous landmark in Basel. With its red sandstone walls, colorful roof tiles and twin towers, no other building adorns the cityscape of Basel like the Cathedral.

Visit the former episcopal church, built between the years 1019 and 1500 in the Romantic and Gothic styles. The crypt, the chancel, the tomb of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Gallus gate and the two cloisters are witness to a fascinating tale of construction over a period of several centuries. The piazza in which the Cathedral stands is today a popular meeting place and is often used for concerts and events. The Pfalz - the terrace offering wonderful views over the Rhine - is one of the most popular viewpoints in the city.

This is the location where wedding announcements were displayed.

What a wonderful way for blind people to get a sense of what Basel is like. Braille descriptions are written in English, German and French.

When you walk through a new city, you should look up sometimes. Interesting things can be found when you look up.

Many interesting homes can be found when you follow the Yellow Walking Tour.

The witch's house

Interesting doors

Unique door knockers

Fun day in Basel with Cordula and Torsten!


Copyright © 2017. BeyondArizona. All Rights Reserved.

BeyondArizona is a registered trademark of Deborah Kade.