Basel, Switzerland is a border town to Germany and France. When we arrived in Basel it was a cloudy day. Just what we had expected but it was a little warmer than usual. After our lunch on board the Viking Atla, we took a guided tour to Basel. It was a short bus ride to the Old City center. Situated along the Rhine River, Basel is steeped in history yet it is a very cosmopolitan city.
On our stroll through town our guide explained about the architecture and the city life. Many of the streets are pedestrian only but you have to be aware of people riding bicycles. This was the first city that we saw how many people use their bicycles as their transportation year round. The first sight we saw was the Basel Munster, the 13th century Gothic cathedral that sits high above the Rhine River with two towers. After the guided tour we climbed the 242 steep wooden stairs to the top of the tower. You could walk out a small door and walk around to the other tower. From there you get an overwhelming view of the city of Basel and the foothills of the Black Forest. From the terrace in the back of the cathedral you have a great view of the Rhine River and the many bridges that connect the two parts of the city. On the Rhine in Basel, there is a boat you can take across the river called Mr. Faare, this is a non motorized boat that is pulled on a wire across the river and is guide by the current to take it back and forth across the river. This mode of water taxi is still used today.
On the bridges in Basel is where we were first introduced to the locks. These were not locks as in locks to move ships through by the rising and lowering the water (though we did go through 15 of those locks along the journey). These locks were “locks of love”. On many of the bridges throughout the Rhine tributaries we saw padlocks locked to the bridges. When we get to Cologne, Germany, I will share how the tradition started and what it has grown. The guide also explained that in the summer months, the children of Basel float down that Rhine. I am not sure I would want my children floating down that very strong current.
While we were in town there was a festival going on with carnival games and one of the larges ferris wheels I have ever seen. There were two older gentleman roasting chestnuts which brought back many memories of my Nana who loved roasted chestnuts. It was a Friday afternoon so many of the children were out of school and everyone was enjoying the festival with their friends and family.
After a rest at the local Starbucks we went back to the ship before it departed Basel for the start of our Rhine River cruise.
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