Hmm April is almost over! It has been such a busy month! It started with my best friends from the Netherlands visiting me and continued with two Easters. Why two? Because my husband is Catholic and I am Greek orthodox, so we had two Easters one after the other. In case you are interesting what is a typical way to celebrate Easter day in Greece, check my blog post from last year: Easter customs in Greece.
Anyway, today I don’t want to write about Easter, but about my new almost hometown: Basel. I say almost because we are not living inside the city. Although I grew up in Athens that has about 10 million inhabitants, I find cities far too big, crowded and stressful. But they are still interesting to visit, and definitely Basel complies with that description.
As I mentioned already, in the beginnning of the month three of my closest friends were visiting me. We were blessed with summery weather and of course I had to take them to visit Basel.
For most people, Switzerland is mountains and lakes. Well, Basel is not inside the mountains and doesn’t have a lake, but that does not make it boring. It is the third most populated city in Switzerland (after Zurich and Geneva and before the capital Bern), and it is really expanding with suburbs to France on the west and Germany to the north.
Basel’s heraldic animal, something like its mascot, is the Basilisk. It is an imaginary animal, a hybrid between a rooster and a serpent. Although it looks like a dragon, it should not be mistaken for one, as it has the head of a cockerel. A basilisk is not a big animal, but is so venomous that it can kill people with only its breath and wherever it touched was doomed to die. With a single glance, he can kill a person or turn stones to dust, the latter only as long as the sun is shining! Quite a frightening creature, no? According to the legend, there was a basilisk living in a cave in the Old town of Basel.
The city of Basel is full of statues or depictions of basilisks, so if you visit the city, you should or will see one of them. One of the biggest statues, is the basilisk standing at the south entrance of Wettsteinbrücke. It is one of the four old guardians of the bridge and it is quite impossing!
And if you walk around the city, the possibilities are quite high that you will meet a basilisk fountain. By the way, the fountain basilisk are in the actual size of the legendary basilisk.
As I mentioned earlier, Basel doesn’t have a lake, but it has a big river: the Rhine. It has crossed almost of Switzerland, and at the point of Basel it is big enough to see the big riverboat going up and down. Except from the big boats, there are four small ferries too, spread between Basel’s five bridges. They offer a slower and cosier alternative to cross the river, compared to using the bridges. They are environmentally friendly, as they have no motorised assistance. They move with the power of the current of river and assisted by nothing but a steel cable, so that they do not drift downstream, but move back and forth the two banks.
Another fun activity in the Rhine is swimming it! It is still a bit too cold in April to do so, but as the summer will be peaking, there will be more and more people swimming down the Rhine. My husband and me did it last August, so you can see our experience here.
Two of the most visited buildings in Basel are its Minster and its City Hall.
The Basel Münster stands out thanks to its red sandstone and its distinct coloured roof tiles. Its construction spans through several centruries, as the Minster underwent several expansions and alterations. The foundation of the building we see today took place on 11th October 1019, so this year it celebrates the 1000-year anniversary. It started as a building of the Romanesque style, but its final form has Gothic characteristics and was completed in 1500. It was first a Catholic church, but in 1529 it was transformed to Reformed Protestant one. There are several important people buried inside the church, such as Queen Anne of Habsburg, but I was more interested to the tomb of Erasmus.
If you are strawling in the Old Town of Basel you won’t manage to miss the City Hall. It is a massive, eye-catching red building. It is the seat of the Basel government and its parliament. Its foundation dates back to 1290 and it dominates the massive Market square. In front of it there is most times a market (surprise, right?), so the whole area is busy with people.
Basel has several museums and loves art. One of its most beloved artists is Jean Tinguely. If you have not heard him before, do check him! His works of art are full of motion and consist of kinetic sculpturs created mostly from pieces of machinery that he was finding thrown. The only common characteristic of this creations is motion or noise. There is a big museum with a lot of his works eastern than the centre of the city, which my husband and I visited several years ago, when we first visited Basel. I totally recommend it, as it is an absolutely interactive museum. In most museums, they discourage you from touching the exhibits, but in this one they welcome you to press the buttons.
But in case you do not have enough time to visit a museum, you can still see a speciment of Tinguely’s art: the Tinguely fountain. It is located quite close to the central train station, just behind the Basel Theatre. You will see a few crazy creations moving and spitting water! It is mesmerising!
P.S. Thank a lot girls for the nice visit and for the nice photos you made, so that I could use them in my blog post!