Travel: Day 4

Thomas and I arrived at his mother’s apartment on Saturday to find her quite ill. She spent the whole day in bed, dozing and refusing to eat due to her stomach. The rest of us went out to the flea market to see the sights.

My MIL says that the flea market is very popular with the French who cross the nearby border to come sell and see the wares. The market takes place surrounding the edges of a green park. The unusual items I encountered were a Lenin pin, Hindu icon pendents, and local old coins. I had my eye on leather bags after seeing the swell one the conductor of the funicular had carried the day before. My FIL and spouse indulged me, letting me look, even as they themselves indulged in things that interested them. We purchased nothing.

In the center of the market was the Children’s Market. My FIL read the sign which said that this was where the child were the sellers and their parents were to stand back and supervise. This is so the kids may learn to handle money. However, I noticed that most of the kids had gone off and it was their parents running the show. An exception was this one industrious boy who was determined to sell old toys and clothes that had probably fit him once.

My main impression/experience though was that people were much more likely to run into you than back home. Every few feet, someone would thump into me.

After the market, we went to the grocery store. I walked around a bit as the boys tried to find a Mother’s Day present (I suggested a cake which my spouse then purchased). However, I was weary and left to go stand outside the checkouts. My bones felt so heavy and it was difficult to move.

When we got back, we spent the rest of the day resting, reading, and keeping a low profile. The bells rang for what felt like hours but in reality were 10-15 minutes around 6 p.m.

Other impressions:
Bicycles are everywhere. Hundreds of them. If there isn’t a bike rack, people put their U-locks through the frame and the back wheel. Sometimes two bikes will be daisy-chained together.

A metal shoe scraper can be found on the first step of many houses. They must be relics since there is no dirt or mud streets.

The lower windows of many houses in my MIL’s ultra quiet neighborhood are barred. I asked why when it seems so safe and my MIL thinks they’re from another time too.

It’s expensive to throw out trash here. A single bag costs upwards of $8. So we gather our trash and then take it out in small increments throughout our stay to put in public waste cans. My MIL says this is how people are taxed for garbage here. The bags are blue — though the recycling bags are a lighter blue, but I’m not sure if people get charged quite so much for them.

Basel is the city of purple flowers. Around 90% of all the blooms are purple. The others are yellow and white. Faintly, a blush of pink or red roses can be found. But purple dominates throughout the city.

We walk nearly everywhere. When we can no longer walk, we ride a bus or tram. It’s expensive at 6.80 Francs for two.

Add small gardens

sewer smell
Lots of graffiti
Dirty national landmark buildings
Lots of public transport

Travel: Day 3

We went on an adventure! My spouse and I conquered our fear of heights and sailed high above a mountain side. The funny thing about that story is that I’m the one who felt brave.

After a very frustrating experience, we managed to figure out exactly where we’d go on a train ride to go see the Swiss Alps. It was complicated because the official Swiss train site was not written in perfect English, so we discovered that some of the translations are off. My husband checked the site in German and solved the translation error.

We woke at 6 a.m. and rode the tram down to the main train station. After getting there, Thomas got our tickets and then we paced around outside till it was time to go. On the train, there was some wonderful user experience: four seats faced each other with a table with leaves for the two passengers by the window. Then the ailse people have tables they can flip up. Power outlets were between the seats. We had plenty of leg room — I even fell asleep on the way back.

The further bathroom adventures continued. At the train station, the bathroom (water closet) cost $2.00. On the train, after much searching, I realized that the flusher was above the sink!

The view was spectacular. I gave myself away as a first timer as I gawked around looking at the mountains, the green-green-green countryside, and the buildings which called out “European!” to me. My cheap web provider doesn’t support uploading large photos or I’d upload photos of the scenes I saw. So I’ll share that later.

We arrived in the southern tourist city of Locarno around noon. To the left was a great lake, snug to the right was a mountain we’d go up, and surrounding us was the city. The climate is very Mediterrian — so I read — as palm trees grew in gardens, on the mountains, and about town. My mother-in-law had been worried that we’d be cold, so we had dressed warmly and brought along extra layers. However, as the train pulled into the station, I spied people in shorts. We bundled our coats into Thomas’ bag and set out to see the lake shore. It was beautiful but nothing much to describe at that point.

Next, we wandered about until we agreed upon a place for lunch. Thomas ordered me pizza. It was Italian style with little sauce but oh, was the cheese soft and white! Thomas ate some kind of flatbread wrapped around cheese and Italian ham. Why all this Italian with a waitress speaking it to Thomas? It was because we were within spiting distance to northern Italy! Thomas struggled to speak Italian (he’s a native German speaker) in what he called “Cave Man Speech), but our lunch was successful and delicious. A thing to note: the waitress carried a black wallet out to the table for the money transaction part. Our luch was a bit expensive at roughly $25 USD.

It’s difficult to describe the rest and I’m getting tired now. What we did was take a funicular, a cable car, and a chairlift to the top of a 1360m mountain. Each part was exciting and I behaved like such a tourist taking photos. I was overjoyous running about taking photos, wanting to try out the swings high above the town, and pestering Thomas to death to pose for photos. He was nervous going on the chairlift, but finally relented. I was scared too, but felt that we had come so close, I needed to make it to the top!

I have video I can share too of these experiences, so I’ll skip describing. The view was fantastic with the lake seeming to lift up towards us. The lake was also massive. In the lap of another mountain’s crown, there was a small lake. The mountains around us rose up frozen and we shifted back into our coats by the time we were at the top of the mountain.

I was a little disappointed in the Swiss Alps. I had envisioned them taller, more imposing more frozen. I feel the same disappointment at how short NYC buildings are, so perhaps my imagination is just too big for the real world.

At the top of the summit, we were on top of this small part of the world. Suppousedly, we could see Switzerland’s lowest and highest point at once, but I noticed nothing. The only signs at the top were for showing mountain heights. Unfortunately, the drawing was not quite right so it was hard to tell the difference. A group of Asian teens showed up a few minutes after us and they took turns pretending to fall off the top for photo opps.

We rode all the way down again and went back down to the lake shore, shedding our coats, to wait for our return train. Ducks, a swan, and pigeons moved about us. Thomas and I observed mating habits of the male pigeons (always turned down) and tried to figure out which pigeons were male. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the day because….SCIENCE.

We arrived back around 10 p.m. in Basel. The mountains was shrouded in mist on our way back after such a beautiful day. The city turned into a haven for twenty-something youths clusering on street corners, waiting at the tram station, and outside clubs. Many guys dressed in a style that I recognize from The Jersey Shore as “guido” and hung out in groups. Girls tended to be in 1s and 2s. Many females wore scarves and dressed like Ellen Page’s character in Inception — i.e. big scarves. A few older people were about, but stood out amongst all the youth. Many people smoke cigarettes — lots of people do here — and one older man dressed all in denim was smoking a pot cigarette!

Travel: Day 2

I’m writing this as a reflection on Saturday for Thursday. The pattern appears to be to go on an adventure and then take a day of rest. Day 2 of my trip was restful. I had pretty bad jetlag still, so I was just exhausted.

My spouse and I walked from our AirBnB apartment to join his parents for breakfast. We decided to go visit a local art museum. On the way there, we got waylaid by a fantastic church whose initial founding had been in the 9th century. Over time, additional pieces had been added. While the front doors no longer open and you need to go in a side door, Donna told me the history of the region. She said that after the Protestants took over, they kept the Catholic churches but removed evidence of the saints. Therefore, what I was looking at was a church stripped of it’s original furnishings. My father-in-law pointed out that the stain glass windows were all new. Back then, the glass would not have been made out of many smaller pieces. One of the church windows featured a Star of David in front of the stained glass which Ithought was unusual.

I walked around and saw the ….effigies? Stone carvings of people from the early to mid-14th century “sleeping” on the outer walls. I’m curious as to why they were usually standing on dogs. These huge wooden rows of seats were joined at the back. My father-in-law said they were for monks and other important people to sit while everyone else stood. Outside the church before we went in, my FIL told us about the statues. One male had his hand out, offering the Foolish Maiden the world. But if you look behind the man…he was made up of snakes, lizards, monkeys and other creatures. He was’t real.

Connected to the church walls was a set of halls that surrounded an inner green courtyard. The walls were hung with heavy plates and tablets listing people who had paid to be buried at the church. The open place behind the church by the oldest section overlooked the river. It was beautiful and many people were there for lunch.

I need to add here that before the church, we walked to the local marketplace and I saw a strange tomatoe. I can’t even describe it, but its top was shaped more like a pumpkin with deep groves radiating from where it grew on the vine.

Across from the market was City Hall. The building is a deep red with frescos of the Middle Ages painted on. Once you enter the inner coutyard, there are two statues together of men bound together under a sheet and ropes. Each statue stands on “wooden” legs. I overheard someone say that it is meant to represent that we are all unbalanced and must work together.

Otherwise, City Hall’s insides were painted with more frescos and a woman was touching up a door. One of Donna’s students says that visiting Basel is like visiting Disneyland — nothing is real. Too clean, too painted to be real.

Speaking of a side note — buildings appear to compete as to who has been here the longest. Under each building’s name is a date. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was the street number or not, but my in-laws confirmed that its “first built here on” date for the current building.

At the art museum… well, I don’t have much to say. I was exhausted and it was some of the ugliest paintings I’ve ever seen. The artists had apparently never seen naked women (or men!) before. What the artist excelled in was drawing people in various states of agony. My MIL said it’s very strange to see art that she had seen in the 1970s. Back then, the art had not been restored, so they were all dark. Now they appear to have garish colors (original or not?) And are very bright. The Jesus paintings were especially guilty of having too much gold that gleamed enough to lose the meaning of the paint in the lower half of the paintiing.

What I did appreciate were the few Monte and Van Gogh paintings. My favorite art movement is the Impressionists so this was a treat. In a self-portrait of Vincent, his mustache is painted in long, curved strokes. Each stroke is multi-colored orange-pink-white with no two strokes holding the same color combination.

After the art museum, we made our way back here because I was attempting to sleep in public and my FIL’s foot was hurting him. We rode the tram back. You can only buy tickets in coin or credit card and there’s a machine at every stop. Then the tram arrives and you hop on — quickly. No one ever checks your tickets which makes me wonder if official just rely on the honesty of the people.

Once we were back, I napped, everyone watched the informericals on TV, and then we had dinner. It was a quiet day.