The Rhine River
1. The Rhine River in Basel
2. Looking across the river
3. Looking downstream towards the city center
4. View through the trees
5. View from the left bank
Basel is the last Swiss city on the Rhine, and is about 380 kilometers downstream from the source of the Rhine in the Swiss Alps.
Below Basel the Rhine leaves Switzerland, flowing north, and for the next 170 kilometers it forms the border between France and Germany.
The distance along the Rhine from Basel to Mainz is about four hundred kilometers (most of which I have cycled at one time or another), passing by or through Strasbourg and Mannheim.
From Mainz the Rhine flows in a generally northwesterly direction through Germany and the Netherlands for a distance of 535 ½ kilometers (that's the figure given in my cycling guidebook) before reaching Rotterdam and the North Sea.
Aside from being very nice to look at and cycle along, the Rhine River is also an important transport route, because it is navigable for large river barges all the way up to Basel, well over nine hundred kilometers from the North Sea.
The Antikenmuseum Basel is dedicated to the heritage of the Mediterranean cultures of antiquity. The collection focuses on Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Near Eastern artefacts. Location: St. Alban Strasse.
The best view of the Rhein panorama of Basel can be had either from a square behind the Baseler Münster (cathedral), or from the opposite bank of the Rhein. Unfortunately, the view in both directions is tainted by some industrial buildings, as Basel has a high density of chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
Haus am Kirschplatz
The "Haus zum Kirschgarten" in Elisabethenstrasse/Basel is the former city house of a wealthy Basel patrician, built in the late 18th century and since 1951 open to the public. The exhibition shows typical rooms and furniture of affluent 18th/19th century Basel citizens; furthermore, the house has collections of antique porcelain, clocks and toys.
Usually I am not a big fan of Toy Museums, but the "Spielzeugwelten" exhibition in Basel is really great. On three levels, they have a huge collection of teddy bears which are mostly arranged in "themed" settings, for example teddies attending schools, having a picnic, or participating in a car race. Even more impressive is the doll house collection; the doll houses cover every subject imaginable, a Parisian street, a torture chamber of the Inquisition, Pharaonic throne rooms etc. etc.
Basel has a very nice Christmas Market; one part is located near the Tinguely Fountain and the other, smaller, near the Cathedral (Baseler Münster). What I especially like is that there are plenty of unusual market stands that sell arts & crafts you rarely find elsewhere. Quite pricey, but really worth the visit.
The Mittlere Brücke might look straight from the middle ages, but it's a reconstruction. The original was knocked down in order to build another wide enough to carry trams and traffic, but has retained much of its original charm. It's arguably the most pleasant bridge across the Rhine and offers nice views of the old town above the river.
Jean Tinguely's Carnival Fountain by the theater
After the old theater building was demolished, its site was made into a square by the name of Theaterplatz and the artist Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was commissioned to create an elaborate fountain called the Carnival Fountain (Fasnachts-Brunnen), which he did in his own inimitable way by building ten machine sculptures with lots of moving parts, some of which were salvaged from the stage machinery of the old theater before it was torn down.
The fountain was paid for by the Migros cooperative, a unique Swiss institution which at the time was celebrating its 50th anniversary. To me as a Fremdländischer i.e. non-Swiss person the Migros organization has always seemed rather mysterious, but about two million Swiss people are members of it, that's roughly 28 % of the population.
1. Jean Tinguely's Carnival Fountain
2. One of the ten machine sculptures in the Carnival Fountain
3. Another view of the Carnival Fountain
4. More of Tinguely's machine sculptures
- Arts and Culture
Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was an artist who grew up in Basel and later belonged to the Parisian avant-garde in the 1950s and 60s. He is well known in Basel for his machine sculptures in the square in front of the city theater.
The Museum Tinguely, on the right bank of the Rhine River, was designed by the architect Mario Botta and inaugurated in 1996. The artist Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely’s widow, donated over fifty of her husband's machine sculptures and a considerable number of drawings and documents from his estate. The museum is owned and financed by a prominent pharmaceutical company.
According to the museum's website, this museum "is unlike others: here, things rattle, squeak, crash and thump. Colourful scrap rotates, multi-coloured lights flicker."
Opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday 11 am to 7 pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 15 Swiss Francs for adults or 10 for those who get a reduction (including us elderly folks, by the way).
1. Museum Tinguely
2. Park by the Tinguely Museum
3. Museum Tinguely from across the Rhine River
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
This bridge has the distinction of being the oldest documented bridge (1226) over the Rhine between Lake Constanze and the North Sea still in use today. The present structure however dates from 1905, replacing a century-old wooden structure. The bridge connects the two main parts of Basel, Grossbasel and Kleinbasel, with the latter one beginning its life as a protective fortress for the bridge.Related to:
The Hammering Man
Jonathan Borofsky's project involved large sculptures of working people placed in cities all over the world. They all differ in heights, but are usually several metres tall. Basel was given one of them so that we see a worker hammering on the building at a place close to the central train station. It has a height of around 13 metres. This one has even a moving function which means that he is actually hammering, but not touching the building. Close to this one, there are also two smaller ones resembling him.
Basel is blessed with an interesting collection of fountains all over the city, with the Tinguely fountain probably being the most famous. There are many more of them on little squares or in side streets. One with a quite prominent location, just in front of the minster, there is the Pisoni fountain from 1784. Paolo Antoni Pisoni designed it in the baroque style of its time. When it was refurbished in 1937, a small bassin was added to serve as a watering place for dogs and other animals.
St. Alban Gate
St. Alban Gate is quite isolated from the rest of the city, located in a small park. The gate was built in the 13th century and has most of its medeival structure preserved, including the wooden doors. St. Alban Gate has a height of 32 metres. Together with Spalentor and St. Johann Gate, it is one of only three remaining city gates in Basel. Close to St. Alban Gate, you will find the only preserved stretch of the medieval city wall.Related to:
Basel Badischer Bahnhof, a reliable oddity
We happened to park our car at the "Basel Badischer Bahnhof" (Basel Baden Railway Station), and regardless if you drive or take the train to Basel - the Basel Badischer Bahnhof is a must-see! You might be used to different embassies being extraterritorial, however, Basel even boasts a railway station that's entirely located in Switzerland yet is a genuine German railway station belonging to German territory. Not many cities have the pleasure to feature such an odditiy.
So what had happened? In March 1838 the Grand Duchy of Baden (one of the predecessor countries that make up modern Germany) started a railway line from Mannheim way down south to the Swiss border. The Swiss were interested in having this railway line continued into their territory, to the city of Basel. And since the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Swiss Confederation had always been great friends, they decided, in July 1852, to set up a mutual treaty to continue the Baden "Rheintalbahn" (Rhine Valley Railway Line) into Switzerland. Unfortunately, the great friends couldn't agree on the design of the railway station in Basel, so the Grand Duchy of Baden lost patience and built their own railway station. The Swiss figured: hey, we can do that, too and promptly constructed the "Basel Schweizer Bahnhof" (Basel Swiss Railway Station). The treaty is still in effect today (although the Grand Duchy of Baden is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg) and that's why things still are (more or less) the way they've always been. And I do appreciate things that are lasting and reliable! The Badischer Bahnhof is exclusively operated by the German railway company with railway schedules for trains in Germany. In the railway station's stores you pay with Euros, but they're kind enough to accept Swiss Francs (as they do vice versa with Euros in Basel). Also, in that railway station you can find ATMs for Euros and Swiss Francs, and as a special treat for Germany's Swiss friends they put up a Swiss mailbox and a machine for Swiss stamps. Before Switzerland joined the Schengen Treaty (and I remember my train trips to Italy back then), you first had to go through customs at the Basel Badischer Bahnhof and then once again a few minutes later at the Basel Schweizer Bahnhof.
We parked in the parking structure to the right of the Badischer Bahnhof (which is Swiss territory) and there what I had known all along was one more time confirmed to me: the Swiss are honest, well-organized and reliable people. The machines in the parking structure also accept Euros (of course), but only 10 Euro bills and higher. We didn't notice that right away and put in a 5 Euro bill, which was promptly returned to us and, as an apology, together with 2 Swiss Franc coins. Where on earth can you find such kind and honest machines? In Switzerland and in Switzerland only - and nowhere else on this planet! Lucky us that the parking structure was not part of the Basel Badischer Bahnhof and German territory, since in that case it would not even have returned our 5 Euro bill, let alone given us 2 Euro coins as an apology ;-)Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
After a river crossing by boat a walk along the banks of the Rhine. A warm afternoon and soon attracted into one of the cafes along the way. A lovely place to spend an hour people watching with a beer!
Maybe even spot some intrepid bathers too, braver than me.
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