Thoughts from Places: Basel, Switzerland

01/02/2011

Good morning John, Hank and Sam Schwab. I woke up Friday at 9am because I had a train to catch.

Friday was New Years Eve day, and I had nothing to do. My friends are out of town for winter break, and the girl I was supposed to have plans with dipped, leaving me with no plans, and nothing to do. Fortunately, I know how to problem solve. Thursday evening I decided that I wanted to go somewhere on Friday, after looking at a couple of different options, I decided to stay close to home and go to Basel, Switzerland.

Basel is only a 45 minute train ride from Freiburg, which meant that I could go for pretty much an entire day and not have to pay for a hotel room. It was an adventure.

The first thing I did there was go inside a church. As I was leaving, I noticed a sign that said that for two euros I could climb to the top of the tower. I paid my two euros and headed on up. At first the stairway seemed rather normal, as you can tell, its steep, but not very narrow. That changed pretty quickly. You can see at the top of the photo there is a wood ceiling, and in that ceiling is what looks like a half circle. That’s the next staircase. It was narrow, steep with no handrails besides the wall itself, and it felt like it went on forever.

I dont know if I can say that the view from the top was worth it, Friday was rather cloudy and slightly foggy, but you can see the Basel Münster in the distance with the two spires, and the Rhine river is right behind it. The path around the top was icy and slippery, and even though there were high stone railings, I took a look around and then headed back down. That’s where it got interesting.

Climbing up was really no problem, granted I was a little tired when I got to the top, but nothing remarkable. Going down is altogether a different story. The stone steps were extremely narrow and steep, and had been worn smooth by countless amounts of people climbing to the top. It was only wide enough for one person, so running into someone heading the other direction meant I had to literally cling against the wall as they squeezed past me. And I’m a pretty little person. There were points where the only light was coming from a single lamp against a wall, and as you past by it, your back blocks the light for the next four or five steps in front of you.

Needless to say, by the time I made it down those stairs and out into the street, I felt like I had legitimately survived the climb. My legs were so tense from trying not to fall, that it felt like I had just climbed a really steep hill on a bike, they were that shaky.

I didnt take that picture of the church, but I just wanted you to see what I’m talking about here. The part where it starts to go pointy is where the stairs lead to, and since there are windows in the middle of the part below, the staircase was, based on where I stepped out on top, squeezed into one of those corners. Never again.

After almost dying, I wandered around the city for a while, crossed the Rhine and wandered a little more. Everything in Switzerland is really, really expensive. A pretzel that I can buy here for 45 cents cost a little over seven Swiss Francs. Thats the other bummer about Switzerland, not only is it expensive, but they dont use the Euro. What a pain in the ass.

I know that this just looks like a rather ugly fountain, but dont let that trick you. It’s too small to read in the photo, but that plaque above the pipe says “potable water” in four different languages. It’s a drinking fountain! I filled up my water bottle from the running water and it tasted just fine. Seriously, every city should have these.

Basel has a lot of museums, and though the majority were closed for New Years, I went to the natural history museum and the art museum. The natural history museum was kind of disappointing, it was small and unimpressive. The art museum was better though. I’m a big fan of impressionist paintings by artists like Monet, Manet, Degas and Renoir, and there was almost an entire wing of them there. The museum had absolutely nothing on the one in Chicago, but it was nice nonetheless.

I had lunch at an “American” diner. The minute I saw the sign, I knew I had to have a burger. It tasted nothing like an american burger, which was kind of disappointing, but at least it doesnt count against my no american fast food rule (aka, no fast food like McDonalds, BK, Subway etc for the first six months). Only two more months to go and I havent broken it yet!

After the art museum it was about six pm and everything was closed for the new year. My train home didnt leave until 9, so I had almost 2.5 hours to kill until I needed to be at the Bahnhof. I managed to find a small cafe where I had a sandwich and took up a table for 1.5 hours reading a book I had brought along with, but left because the waitresses were giving me a look.

With nowhere else to go, I went back to the Bahnhof and found a small cafe, bought an english copy of Dan Brown’s latest book (which was a little too preachy, if you ask me) and read for another hour or so.

The train back was empty, I had my own compartment which made me feel like I was going to Hogwarts. The only bad thing was that the loudspeaker in my car wasnt working, so the only way I knew we were at the Freiburg Bahnhof was because I recognized a church in the distance. High-tech.

I got back to StuSie at like 10:15, tired and just expecting to curl up and watch a movie til midnight. Instead, I ended up talking to my mom, dad and brother on Skype for 2.5 hours. A record. As dumb as it may sound, it was really a perfect way to end 2010. We toasted to the new year with brandy, clinking them against the webcam and then watched the fireworks from outside my bedroom window. I know it sounds nerdy, but it was actually really nice.

New Years Eve here, or Silvester as the Germans call it, is like their fourth of July. All the stores were selling fireworks, and the park across from my building was one giant amateur fireworks show for almost a half an hour. It was really fun to watch.

You know what’s a crazy thought? I’m spending the majority of 2011 in Germany. And I never want to leave.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, I made onion rings from scratch last week. I just had to tell you, because I was pretty excited too. They tasted alright, but now that I know that I can make them, it’s opened up a world of recipes. Yum.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Oh, and John, Hank and Sam Schwab, I’ll see you next Sunday!

(If you dont get that, you obviously didnt watch the vlogbrothers video in my last blog. Your loss!)

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