Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Basel-a two parter

After our day/night in Venice, we hopped a train for Basel, Switzerland to visit Anthony's sister Maureen, her husband Bernard, and our nephews Noah and Aaron. Travels days were just as relaxing and fun as the days we spent in towns. This trip was a seven hour train ride, switching trains in Milan and then climbing up through the lakes and mountains of northern Italy and southern Switzerland. The mountains were more magnificent than the ones I'd seen in the American West, at least from my seat on the train. The lake region reminded me of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, where my dad's family has spent a significant amount of time. Hilly edges around a long, oval shaped lake with houses high and low. I spent some serious time with my book that day.

We arrived in Basel in late afternoon and Maureen met us there. I know that kind of excitement of waiting for loved ones to arrive, but it must have been triple for her living on another continent from most of her family. That night we walked around their neighborhood, checked out their grocery store (which provides no end of fascination for me) and celebrated with fondue.
On our last full day of vacation, we were treated to two tours of Basel. One from Maureen and one from Bernard and the boys. With Maureen we saw the Rathaus (or town hall) and the market downtown, with fresh mistletoe hanging in one of the vendor's stalls. The town was preparing for the holidays.We found this awesome mural outside of a music cafe.
After lunch, Maureen went to work at the library and Bernard and the boys took us on a tour of their hometown. Starting with the gates that protected Basel back when cities needed physical barriers.
Bernard pointed out the different names of the houses in Basel. Instead of telling someone you live at 1234 Awesome Way, you would tell them you lived in the House of the White Horse.
In the town knife shop we found some gifts, as well as the world's largest Swiss Army knife. The shopkeeper said she had sold two so far: one to a Canadian and one to someone Swiss.
We wound our way through town with the intention of visiting another church, the Basel Munster, and climbing to its top, but we got therejust as they were closing. The man was nice enough to let the boys ring the bell to signal the church closing time.
We then took the Basel ferry across the Rhine. The ferry uses the strong current of the Rhine to move passengers back and forth from Little Basel to Big Basel. It was cold, windy and fast! After another fine dinner at casa Senn, we took off the next day from Zurich. I highly, highly recommend ending any trip to Europe with some time with family. While I realize not everyone can do it, it capped off our trip in the best possible way: hugs and kisses from the people you love.

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