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August, 2016

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Set on the Rive Rhine near the point Switzerland, France and German join, Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland. I was expecting something special but was disappointed as the old city wasn’t as attractive as I’d expected with its big plastered and painted buildings. But I was intrigued by the modern Children’s hospital to the north of the old town with its facade which changed from green to deep orange as you drive past it.

Good traffic management keeps the cars out of the old town although there are trams everywhere.

The old town is a network of narrow streets. It is easy to get lost, even with a map. The remains of the original town gates can be seen at Spalentor and also on St Johannes. There was a lot more relief than I’d expected with some really quite steep roads, some with steps running at right angles to the river.

There are large bridges across the river with small ferries carrying foot passengers across. One of the best views of the C12th “Cathedral”: with its brightly coloured tiled roof is from Wettstein Bridge.

The outside with its Romanesque north doorway and detailed carving is possibly more impressive than the inside which feels big and bare. Apart from climbing the towers, the other main attraction according to the guide books is the tomb of Erasmus of Rotterdam. To be honest, this is a bit boring, just being a carved slab. My best bit were the stained glass rose window and clerestory windows in the chancel, along with the crypt with its painted ceilings.

There are more medieval wall paintings in “St Peter’s Church,”:
which get ignored by the guide books. This is off Petersgasse to the north west of the old city and gets few visitors.

The splendid tower of the Protestant “St Elisabeth’s Church”: next to Theatre Basel rivals the cathedral in splendour. Again the inside isn’t as impressive although it has a glorious east window. This is the first Swiss ‘Open Church’ catering for the spiritual, cultural and social needs of all the people of Basel and has a small cafe at the back.

The Market Place is dominated by the bright red sandstone Radhaus. The centre part of the building with its courtyard dates from the C16th and was built when Basel joined the Swiss Confederation and was intended as a statement of grandeur with no expense spared. The paintings were added in the C17th and are by Hans Boch. There are two themes; Law and Legislation and Basel’s membership of the Swiss Confederation. There are free toilets in a corner at the back of the courtyard.

By the end of the C19th, Basel had grown considerably and a large extension was added to the Rathaus as well as the tall clock tower. The front of the building is almost impossible to photograph with all the eateries and market stalls in front of it.

For those planning a long stay, there are plenty of museums in Basel from paper making to doll’s houses with history, music and art as well. There is also a zoo and a botanical garden.

There is an attractive tree lined walkway with plenty of seats along the east bank of the river in Kleinbasel. The river is popular with locals who sunbath and swim in it.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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