Saturday, September 9, 2017

[BASEL] The Swiss Daytrip

Basel is one of several daytrip options you have if you are based in Freiburg. This is yet another tri-border zone, this time shared by France, Germany, and Switzerland. Basel’s airport serves as the gateway to the regionand also causes some headaches from time to time because it has three IATA codes which can make it confusing for the traveler. That aside, there are connections aplenty, and Basel itself is a tourist destination in its own right. And so what is there to see?

Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland. Zürich is in first place, which makes me think that either Bern or Geneva is the first runner-up here. In any case, don’t be fooled by the “large city” tag because even Zürich feels so small in comparison to other European cities. Coming from Freiburg, you have the option to take a DB train, although I recommend going by bus. Flixbus plies the Freiburg – Basel Central route and the journey does not exceed one hour. Make sure you take the right bus, though.

Yeah, there’s Basel Airport and there's Basel Central. One-way fares start at around EUR10 (~PHP600) and tickets can be booked online. As for me, this is just one of my weekend daytrips. The university is offering a similar weekend excursion but for a different date. I already booked my tickets months ago so I just decided to go on my own. Getting off at Basel Hauptbahnof, I started the day with a stroll around the vicinity where I was greeted by cool graffiti as well as stylish architecture definitive of the region. Nice mix!

This is Switzerland, lest you forget. Buy everything you need in Germany or in France because everything is just so freaking expensive here. I decided to have lunch at Subway before taking a stroll at Elisabeth Park, where there is a fancy looking mansion of sorts as well as a monument or two worth the photo-op. The park is not that big but seems like a chill spot, weather-permitting. Today is gray and it’s drizzling, and it sucks!

Or maybe that’s because I’m simply not a fan of museums, of which there are plenty here, too. But the old town almost always does the trick for me. I mean, that’s a living museum right there preserved since the medieval era! Basel’s old town is not far away from the main train station. Once you see the cobblestoned streets, you’ll know you’ve arrived. But first I checked out St. Elisabeth’s Church, which was the first religious place of worship that crossed paths with my line of sight.

Bell tower open for panoramic sightseeing? Check. Scary spire? Check. What makes this church unique is the group of pyramids in front of it. Perhaps the Basel Theater is to blame for the clash of architectural designs? But you must admit that it added a somehow unique flavor to the place. The interior is not that grand, but you can still hang out there to rest. I usually take advantage of the pause to edit and delete photos on my phone. You can go up to the tower but it’s not free of charge.

I headed towards the direction of the Rhine River and then stumbled upon the Rathaus, which I guess is the most colorful one yet that I’ve encountered in the region. Most town halls here in Europe are a sight to behold, but this one’s motif and choice of red façade is a not so traditional combo. The paintings on the walls are lovely and there was a Belarusian tenor quartet singing hymns when I was there. Along with the fresh produce market at the plaza, your typical Alter Markt is now complete.

Next stop was the bridge called Mittlere Brücke. This one is not that old yet popular nonetheless. It was constructed as a replacement for the original built in the 1200’s, if I remember the century correctly. The bridge is flanked with various flags and one side has a decorative mini wall with intersecting iron grills full of colorful locks. Bridges and love locks are the norm nowadays, you know. Under the bridge, the river Rhine runs its course. A ferry ride on the river is highly recommended. Swimming, however, is not.

As with most cities and town with a river to boast about, there will always be an area where people get together and just chill. For Basel, it’s on this bridge and its surrounding areas. The benches on the banks of the river are good venues for relaxation, with an excellent view of the Münster on the other side of the water. Today has been a bit cold, though. It looks like Basel is in a hurry to get rid of summer, although I think the scattered rain showers are the ones to blame for these cold spells.

I am ending my Basel itinerary here on a bench at Münsterplatz, currently chilling. Literally. 17 degrees Celsius isn't that cold, though, as long as you are well bundled-up. This is the cathedral’s plaza so the church is just here to my left. There's also an area at the back directly facing the river. Go down the stairs and ride a boat to get to the other side if you're too lazy to walk all the way to the bridge. Overall, Basel is fine. It is an easy daytrip and the old town is worth the journey. By all means, go.

[BASEL] The Swiss Daytrip

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