On Monday we got on the road headed for Basel. Helena sat in front so that she could help Bob navigate, since she had been back and forth many times and knew the way. I gladly relinquished this role that I am not very good at and which often causes "friction" between my husband and myself when we are traveling!
As an aside to this story, before we left Italy for Switzerland we bought what we thought were the maps to the rest of Europe that we could use in our GPS system in the car only to find out that we had not purchased the right thing and it was too late for us to return it. Frustrated to learn that we would need to buy yet another electronic part costing around 200 more euros, to enable us to download from this disc to our phone we decided it was not worth it and we would just purchase a couple of maps and do it the old-fashioned way. This worked out fine, some of the time. Now we need to find someone who is interested in buying this thing from us who knows how to use it!!
A city of about 188,000 people, Basel is a much larger city than St. Gallen with origins that date back to the Romans who established a settlement here around 44 BC. The phrase "All roads lead to Rome" has finally made sense to me as I realize now it does not refer simply to the current or even ancient city of Rome, but to the fact that "Rome" was everywhere!
Basel is located on the Rhine River and is Switzerland's only port. It is divided into two districts, Grossbasel (Greater Basel), the oldest part of the city, and Kleinbasel (Lesser Basel), the mostly residential area. When we arrived, we settled into Helena's apartment that during the school year she shares with two other girls. We found a place to leave our car for the next few days and set out to explore the city with our lovely young friend and guide, Helena. We had enjoyed her company so much in Perugia when she would come to our apartment for dinner on Sundays, along with Eva and Anna, during her two-months in that city and promised we would see each other again.
My guidebook (an Eyewitness Travel Guide) outlined a walking tour of the city that took us through Basel's medieval Old Town or Alstadt. We saw the Mittlere Rheinbrucke, the stone bridge that links Grossbasel to Kleinbasel, walked along the Augustinergassee, the picturesque street along the south bank of the Rhine and Munsterplatz, the cathedral square and climbed to the top of the Munster, the magnificent medieval cathedral and enjoyed the views of the city. The pink sandstone Gothic cathedral (in Italian, it is called a Duomo, but in German, it is a Munster) was originally built in the 12th century and was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1356. During the Reformation many churches were stripped of their decoration and furnishings, as was the case in this Munster but still some wonderful details remain. We enjoyed very much the tile work of the roofs of some of these cathedrals and churches in Switzerland, in green, blue, yellow and white they were designed in a diamond pattern that shimmers in the light and sparkles in the rain. It is completely different from the red tile roofs we are used to and we were quite taken with the effect. The two towers reach into the sky culminating in the same fancy spires as we have seen on many of these Gothic churches.
We continued on past the Historiches Museum located in a former Franciscan church and on to Marktplatz where we admired the elaborately detailed, bright red Rathaus, the Town Hall with its many windows, decorations and allegorical figures, painted façade and clock face. Bob declared it "over the top" but I thought it was simply incredible!
And all of this on just the first day! On Tuesday we planned to go to Zurich by train to spend the day on our own.
(to be continued: A day in Zurich, Switzerland 8.22.06)