Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A trip to Basel in which we discover how incomprehensible Swiss German is

I went to Basel literally the day after I got home from Paris...aka nearly a month ago. So I’m a little behind. Better late than never?
A few friends and I opted not to stay in Paris for the weekend, as the train fare home would have been crazy expensive, so we took the weekend to explore German Switzerland for the first time. Basel is right on the German border and so, despite being relatively close to France too, we spoke nothing but English and mis-pronounced German the whole weekend. We spent Saturday just wandering the city. We passed through a market to see the red stone town hall, a building elaborately decorated inside and out with paintings, where a street cellist was playing. We also found a random set of stairs and climbed them to a high point in the city to see over the rooftops. And we went to Basel Münster, high on a hill, overlooking the Rhine, and filled with the music of yet another street performer, this time playing one of those portable steel drums.

Saturday evening was what the trip was all about - football! My friend Kavya snagged tickets to see FC Basel (coming off wins over Bayern Munich and Man U) play its archrival, FC Zurich. We had been told that it was a “high security” game but that did not prepared us for the rows of riot police lining the street leading to the stadium. Our seats were close to the field and behind the goal on the opposite end from the Basel supporters. Great seats, except that we were one section over from the Zurich fans in the corner, and they were not nice. We’re pretty sure they threw a dud smoke bomb at us. But luckily FC Basel won, 1:0, and we booked it out before the Zurich fans, so there was no danger, just a fun night of football and people-watching.

Sunday we went to church at Basel Münster; it was an interesting experience as literally everything was done in Swiss German. Having gone to church a thousand times, I could guess where we were in the service, recognize pastoral mannerisms, and understand when they started saying the Lord’s Prayer. Other than that, we stood when other people did, bowed our heads when they did, and hummed along to the hymns.
We spent Sunday afternoon outside of Basel, in a town called Arlesheim, where there is a ruined hermitage atop a hill. We climbed up and around there and I felt like it was one of those fairy worlds kids make at nature camp (so I hear from my camp friends).

We also walked around Arlesheim, and popped into this elaborate and beautiful cathedral. It was the first Sunday of Lent and the day before a major festival starts in Basel, so while we missed the festival we did see confetti everywhere. Those Swiss really know how to celebrate 40 days of fasting and reflection. x

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