Basel (Day 1)

Everyone says that European railways, especially the German and Swiss railways, are always precisely on time. Not today – there was track and signal work and our train from Frankfurt to Basel left Frankfurt nearly 30 minutes late, and it kept falling farther behind schedule at every stop. Deutsche Bahn finally declared victory and terminated the train one stop early at the “Basel Bad” station instead of “Basel SBB” so that they could start it on its next journey on time.

Fortunately, our hotel (Hotel Märthof) was between the two Basel stations, so instead of getting on the following train to Basel SBB, our travel agent put us into a taxi which drove us directly to the hotel.

The hotel is a definite step up from Flemings, our hotel in Frankfurt. The room is probably twice as big, which gives us a little room to breathe for the first time on the trip. The location is nice, right off Marketplatz; we have Basel Cards which include free use of the public transit system, but I don’t expect to use that feature. And the Internet is enormously faster than it was at Fleming’s (uploads are much faster than at home, too).

It was nearly 4pm when we were ready to leave the hotel, which didn’t give us enough time to visit museums. The desk clerk suggested we walk up to the Basel Münster, which gave us a goal, and off we went.

We soon found ourselves walking through the University of Basel campus; it was founded in 1460 and still uses some of the original buildings (renovated, of course). Along the way, we enjoyed some new public art (Gänseliesel by Samuel Buri), a pleasant view of the Rhine, one of Basel’s 28 basilisk fountains, and the Natural History Museum‘s Halloween preparations.

Basel Münster is huge (about 200 feet high) and imposing. It was officially finished in 1500 and is the third church on this site. The interior was surprisingly plain, with no altar and no Jesus on the Cross; I guess that has to do with its being a Calvinistic church, but I really don’t know.

There is a good bit of stained glass; this picture of Jesus and the angels in a Star of David caught my eye.

We left the Münster proper and wandered through the cloister and the grounds.

We walked through the shopping district, but there wasn’t much to distract us – I was even able to avoid going into the Apple Store!

The Marktplatz was at the end of the main shopping street; it had the Rathaus (City Hall) on one side and a McDonald’s on the other (at least it was in a nice building!).

It was too late to explore the Rathaus, but I did pick up a brochure for their self-guided tour and we might look at it tomorrow.

I have to mention the “Singerhaus”, which is just across the street from Marktplatz.

The Fischmarkt Fountain is across from our hotel; it’s hard to get a decent photo because of all the trams and buses passing by.

We made a short trip to the Coop grocery store to buy some Swiss chocolate bars and returned in time to meet our group for a fondue dinner at Restaurant Löwenzorn. The restaurant has only been in business since 1874, but the building dates back to the 13th Century!