My recent trip to Basel/Switzerland had a double purpose: I wanted to attend the Fasnacht, as the carnival in Basel is called and, go on a trip down memory lane. You see, I went to university in Basel, in 1967!!! The faculty of law was housed in a medieval building near the Münster, we were about 20 students per class, our lecturers knew all of us by name and told us off, personally, if we missed a class. One of them owned a castle and invited us to splendid parties, another one took us on a trip to Rome to study Roman Law in situ. We studied night clubs in Rome more extensively, but that’s another story.
Anyway, I just wanted to see how much the city where I spent a wonderful year of my youth had changed. Surprisingly, not all that much, at least not the historical part around the Barfüsserplatz.
The university got a brand new building, but one of my first enterprises was a walk across the Mittlere Brücke, the oldest bridge to cross the River Rhine. Then as now, you can cross the river by ferry. These ferries are operated by cable and the tide of the river, no motors or other mechanical help is needed.
Much of student life was conducted in cafes, of which Basel has to offer plenty. In the summer the city takes on a rather Mediterranean flavor, with outdoor tables and cafes or sitting on the terrace of the prestigious and traditional Hotel Drei König, overlooking the river.
One of Basel’s most famous attractions is the Münster, construction of which began in 1019. The distinctive yellow and green roof tiles sparkle in the sun, people sit on the benches or the lawn of the Münsterplatz and enjoy themselves. Münsterplatz is also the location of the famous Basler Marionettentheater with outstanding performances.
Basel’s Kunstmusuem (Museum of Fine Art) is the oldest museum in the world to give the public access to collections. Right across you find the toy museum and not far the Stadttheater. Basel is a city awash with art and culture in sedate surroundings which invite to long walks simply enjoying the river and the panorama.
Basel is a multi- national city, due to the closeness to Germany and France. Both neighboring countries influence the atmosphere, the food and the language. French is as widely spoken as is German and of course, the local lingo, Baseldytsch.
Don’t forget to visit Confiserie Brändli and to buy the roasted almonds or Basler Leckeli, shortbread pieces with special spices and, admittedly, a bit hard on your teeth. Although it’s Switzerland’s third biggest city and a center for commerce and the pharmaceutical industry as well as for trade fairs and a lot of other business activities, Basel has preserved a quiet charm which makes it well worth a visit.