Ashleigh and I took the high speed train from Paris to Basel. The trip was fast and comfortable. Getting through the Basel train station was super nice because the elevators and escalators all worked; we were able to smile for the camera outside the Basel station because we did not have to haul our luggage up or down stairs.
The sun was shinning in Basel, but the forecast gave us little to rejoice about. Our stay in Basel was going to be cold. Fortunately, seeing our next home away from home gave us a lot to feel warm and fuzzy about. It was easy to settle into our room on the River Empress. This ship is where we will bunk the eleven days we explore the towns located between Basel and Amsterdam.
First stop, Basel. The city of Basel, Switzerland is situated on the Rhine River and is the perfect place to start river cruising. There are a number of airports close by and a major train station is right in the city making Basel easy to arrive to and depart from. The city is close to Switzerland’s borders with France and Germany, and the influence of those countries on Basel is strong.
Basel is divided in two by the Rhine; average wage earners live on one side of the river and above average wage earners live on the other. You can get from one side to the other by walking across a bridge, but it is more fun to take one of the water taxis that get pulled across the river by cable.
Switzerland does not belong to the European Union. Most residents think there is no reason to belong to the EU because Switzerland is quite wealthy. The city of Basel shows this wealth, but not in an ostentatious way. The people of Basel quietly enjoy an excellent quality of life and have found a way to live side by side with a contemporary life style and a history that is thousands of years old.
Basel is as clean as a whistle. People are fastidious. The streets are swept regularly, and no one litters.
The medieval old town portion of Basel is colorful, and there are plenty of stories to add in. This small house on a bridge was the scene of Basel executions. People were beheaded, and afterwards their heads and bodies were tossed directly into the river. Many people died here. However, the most famous criminal was a rooster that was tried for witchcraft, found guilty, and sentenced to die in 1474. The unfortunate rooster was accused of laying an egg. An egg laid by a rooster was an important ingredient in witch recipes. In addition, an egg laid by a rooster could hatch a basilisk or cockatrice, a deadly monster if sat upon by a frog, toad, lizard, or snake. An egg producing rooster was a serious situation for a town. The roosters head was removed, and its remains were tossed into the river. The medieval residents of Basel were very superstitious indeed.
Red sandstone is the stone of choice in this region. The town’s beautiful medieval Munster Cathedral is constructed from it. There is a statue on the outside front wall of the cathedral of Saint Martin. The story goes that Martin divided his own coat in two and gave one of the pieces to a beggar that he met on the road. That night Christ appeared to Martin in a dream wearing the piece of cloak Martin had given away.
The same red sandstone was used to build the town hall. There are paintings of medieval life across the top. On weekends, there is a wonderful street market.
Ancient town squares like the one in Basel were the places where Swiss citizens gathered to vote on various important issues. According to some sources, public balloting began in 1291, but only men were allowed to vote. Women began asking for the right to vote in the 1880’s, but Swiss men said, “NO NO NO” over and over again. Currently, Swiss men and women are allowed to vote. However women did not gain the right to vote in federal elections until 1971. (I did not know this….did you?) One tiny part of Switzerland resisted suffrage until 1990 the Swiss Supreme Court forced the issue. Sometimes change is slow.
Love, the Unseasoned Traveler.