In the summer of 2014, a colleague who was visiting Germany at the same time as me, persuaded me to go on a trip to Mt. Titlis – the Indian impression of Switzerland formed by the Bollywood movies! I wasn’t so keen for that but wanted to travel somewhere nonetheless, so I asked if she was willing to go via Basel. She agreed and that’s when we started building of our wonderful journey which combined culture with nature.
Now no matter how many times I have used the awesome (read pocket friendly) service of the long distance bus services (fern bus) which have opened up in Germany, I can’t stop feeling that I haven’t yet utilized them as much as they have to offer. That is in addition to the old and reliable Deutche Bahn. So we looked at all the options and found that the best way was to go with the bus and return with the train.
We started on the bus early morning from Heidelberg to reach a bordering city to Basel – it’s called Lorrach and is on the German side. The bus dropped us close to the train station from where we purchased our ticket to Basel. We missed the first train which arrived while we were struggling with the ticket machine. But the frequency of trains was good and we got the next one in half an hour. This train brought us to a station in Basel called “Bad Bf.”. We disembarked there and with the help of the navigator app, walked towards the hotel which we had already booked online. It was close to “Messeplatz”. As we were early, the room was not yet ready. We decided to leave the bags at the reception and go to the city. But by the time we freshened and my fellow traveler R was finished with a quick breakfast of sandwiches that she had, the receptionist told us that the room was ready. So we went to the room, relaxed a bit, had a coffee and then started for the tour. Once again, the receptionist came to our help and gave us the city pass which we could use on all public transport.
So armed with our Free pass we went in a tram and went towards the main train station to find the Tourist Information center. Just outside the station, I saw a “Heisse Maroni” stand – that’s a cart selling roasted chestnuts. Since R had never tasted it before, I bought some and both of us enjoyed cracking the shells and eating the kernels.
Then we went inside and received some maps and information from the tourist information center.
The things didn’t look too far from there so we decided to start on foot.
Reached the church of St. Elizabeth and went inside, crossed the theater and then watched the mechanical figurines in action at the Tinguely Fountain.
We wondered what to see next. Analyzed the exhibitions running at an art museum but that didn’t appeal to us.
So finally we decided to get inside the Museum of Antiquities which was having one exhibition on the use of flora in the Egyptian society and another one about the Romans. We spent almost two hours there. By that time, we’d started to feel quite hungry.
So we went back towards the Messeplatz (that’s where our hotel was), as we had seen several restaurants there in the morning. But probably our timing wasn’t right because nothing seemed to be open!
Found an Indian grocery shop called Manik Singh. He also sold some mini meals and I got some kadhi-rice from there in a box which I ate on a bench at a tram stop! R had something from another place later as she wasn’t too hungry then.
Then we went back towards the city center and got down in front of Rathaus / city hall. That was a beautiful red colored building and there was also a market (could be the weekly farmer’s market). Oh one important thing to tell you before I forget – in Basel, it is possible to drink water from any of the public fountains! It is water coming from the mountains.
We walked on from there and reached the Basel Muenster (Cathedral) after some searching around.
It was huge like all the cathedrals, but one part of it was different – there were lots of engraved stones on some walls. It gave me the impression of being a museum of gravestones.
Now at the back of the cathedral was a beautiful view point called the Pfalz which overlooks the river Rhine and the city. We took some nice pictures there.
And then to my pleasant surprise, we saw that going down the stairs from there, you could take the boat to the other side which is moving simply by the current of the river with a rope tied to a cable stretched between the two banks of the river. I think they charge around 2 Euros. There are four such places from where you can take these ferries. Later I got to know that these ferries even have names – “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” and “Ueli”! I don’t know which one was ours.
On the other side was a place to sit and put down the feet in water. We were exhausted so we sat down soaking our feet in the water and taking in the scenery. Occasionally we would see people floating by – at Basel, people are allowed to swim in the river as the current though strong, is lesser so than at other places. So people put their stuff in a waterproof bag, tie it on themselves and then just go into the river. There are chains at different points along the bank holding which the people can come out when they want.
After getting refreshed, we got up to walk along the Rhine and saw an open air photography exhibition. Pictures from all around the world were put there. It was beautiful.
Then we had a brainwave and went to the main station to get schedule for next day’s connections. It was a good move because there we could also get the tickets for the cable car to go up on Mount Titlis. The combination of the train ticket to Engelberg and the ticket for the cable car from there, was slightly cheaper than if we would have taken the tickets individually.
After having arranged the tickets, we felt a bit relaxed and decided to explore a little more of the city. But it was getting dark and we were looking for some attractions that we had seen on the map but not finding them on the land. Found the Basel Papiermuehle (paper mill) just by chance. Also found a building with a really long wall – no idea what it was.
But ultimately we again reached the banks of the river and being dead tired, decided to call it a day. Took the tram back towards the hotel, had some falafels for dinner (had to use some broken German to explain what I wanted) and then were soon fast asleep in our comfortable beds to rejuvenate ourselves for the journey next day. I hope to visit Basel once again – even if the only thing I do is to sit beside the Rhine. Let’s see when that wish comes true!