As we didn’t have a plan to come to Switzerland, we did no planning at all regarding activities or find out what to do. We had heard it was expensive so left this out of our trip, but with Meagan’s “intensive research” for cheap hotel rooms and our journey having to go through there, we made some plans in a hurry. More about that later. First stop was Basel and driving from food heaven of Lyon, we had little expectation. Little did we know how beautiful this country was. The town of Basel is the 3rd largest city in Switzerland after Zurich and Geneva, but one of the prettiest. As soon as we drove through the outskirts of Basel, we had a great vibe about the city. The cute colourful houses, tree-lined streets and vintage trams were idyllic.
We checked into our favourite chain of hotel (Ibis), hehe and set out immediately to explore the city. We heard how expensive Switzerland was and wanted to reserve it for another time but this all changed when we found out that Meagan’s Mom and sister would be flying out of Geneva. We wanted to spend every last minute with them so decided that we would include Geneva into our trip. Meagan did her magic and when a magical email arrived in her inbox titled, “40% and 50% of Accor hotels in July all over Europe!”, we quickly made new plans. This was our saving grace as we managed to book Ibis hotels at half the price throughout Switzerland. We booked in 2 nights in Geneva, 1 night in Basel and 2 nights in Zurich.
Our hotel in Basel provided us with free public transportation passes and luckily the tram stop was right outside our hotel. We took the fun vintage looking train to the city centre and went for a wander through the windy cobblestone streets. It was a Sunday night and the shops were all closed, however it didn’t cramp our style. We found a beautiful stone bridge which crosses over the Rhine River and found locals laying out and jumping into the river. I guess if it is the only water source around, the locals will take advantage of it. The river moved so swiftly that each person in the water was required to attach themselves to a floating device! Hehe
We then found ourselves in the middle of the Basel Military Tattoo outdoor fair! This really was an experience! We sat down at one of the booths and ordered sausages, a tuna sandwich and a beer! The locals were definitely enjoying themselves as they engaged in conversation, watch the Tattoo show and drank delicious beer! And we believe the Swiss are hard working except for the guy in the picture below.
The next morning we woke up at 8:30am and went for a large run along the water! Meagan ran as far as she could go until she hit a border crossing. She thought it was best not to cross the border without any identification. We then went to the tourist office and booked ourselves on a guided walking tour of the city. Before the tour commenced, we strolled through the city looking at Swiss army knives and Swiss watches! Too bad they were too expensive for our budget. One thing about Switzerland is the high cost of food and to be honest EVERYTHING! We decided to go to a café for lunch and to keep within our budget, we both ordered salads. I had been craving a Coke and decided to splurge a bit. When we got the bill, we were a bit shocked to see that a small bottle of coke was 4.60 Swiss francs which converted to about $5.50AUD.
We then met up with the rest of the group for our guided walking tour. The tour was in both German and English with most of the participants speaking German. This was to our disadvantage as our guide spoke mostly in German and gave the quick version to us in English. It was still a pretty good tour and we learned a bit more about the city.
We met at a very interesting fountain where the old Theatre used to be located. The architect of the fountain decided to use old parts of the theatre in the fountain. It was really cool and probably one of my favourite fountains I have seen to date!
As explained earlier, Basel is the 3rd largest Switzerland city with 200,000 inhabitants. There are actually 201 water fountains found all over the city which uses fresh drinkable water! This is about all that you can get for free in Basel. Meagan and I were busy refilling our water whenever we could.
Basel originally had a medieval wall dating back to the 12th century which was destroyed by an Earthquake. A new wall was rebuilt which expanded the city to fit more people in the 15th century. Eventually the city became overcrowded and disease ridden so the wall was torn down so that the city could be further expanded. We managed to see a part of the medieval wall which was still standing.
We then headed to the Barefoot Church which was one of the only things that survived the earthquake. It is called the Barefoot Church because the Franciscan Monks were barefoot during the summer months.
The coat of arms of Basel is actually a Bishop’s hat which comes from the times when Basel was Catholic. The coat of arms was the Bishops hat at this time. In the 16th century, Switzerland converted to Protestantism, however Basel kept the coat of arms the same as it was as it was difficult to change it and communicate it to the world back in the day.
Basel used to be known for their silk ribbon production which was used in women’s and men’s clothing. Eventually, in the 1900’s this industry was no longer in mode. The manufacturers of the silk ribbons started to focus on dye and chemicals. This is when the chemical/pharmaceutical industry started in Basel! Basel is now headquarters to Novartis and Roche! Around 50,000 people come into Basel everyday just to work in the Pharmaceutical industry.
We were also told of a sad event in Basel’shistory which has created a tainted view of the the Pharmaceutical industry. Back in 1986, one of the buildings of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals burnt down and released hazardous materials into the Rhine River which completely wiped out all plant life and species all the way to Rotterdam! There was a memorial table in one of the church’s which discusses this tragedy. Because of this, new Environmental laws were put into place to prevent this from happening again!
We ended the tour in the old labourer guild alleyways. Labourers used to be part of guilds and the street names were representative of the type of jobs that took place in the alleyways. Most of these homes were destroyed to build hotels and other modern buildings, however a few remain from the 1200’s which are still standing today.
After the tour, we decided to treat ourselves to what else but Movenpick Ice cream!!!! We sat down at one of their cafes and enjoyed an espresso and scoop of ice cream. This was a perfect treat in the hot 33C weather!
Sadly our time in Basel had come to an end. We really enjoyed this cute city and would definitely come back……maybe with more money next time!
Next stop on the trip was Zurich, home to one of our favourite foods, chocolate. We arrived and immediately set out to explore the city. We decided to stay a little bit outside the city in a new area earmarked for redevelopment. This area is home to some new tech companies but is also home to the nightclub scene of Zurich. There are many warehouses here that are converted to warehouse clubs on weekends. Again we ran from the hotel and found the Rhine River and yep you guessed it, the locals were all in the water being pushed along by the strong currents. It was a cool sight to see the locals enjoying the warm weather.
At night we had planned to meet up with some friends in the city centre so we dressed up and went into the city. The city is quite beautiful with many historic buildings lined along the river. One that caught my attention was the Lindt building, the original place of chocolate that is still in manufacture today. Our friends Sonia and Bec showed us around and we spent the night taking great pictures.
The next day we headed out to explore a bit more of the city. We headed along some cute canals, walked through some beautiful parks and stopped at some nice shops.
Our time was up in Zurich and Switzerland, but on the way out, we thought we would stop by to catch up with some friends in Schaffhaussen. Ivo & Monica treated us to dinner and we had such a great time with them in their hometown. We walked the streets in rain, something we brought with us as they hadn’t seen it in weeks, They had cute art installations in the city street. The picture below is of the toilet art installation, trust Meagan and I to try it out. They even took us to see the Rhinefall, the largest waterfall in Europe.Thanks Ivo & Monica, can’t wait to see you guys in Australia.
Switzerland is an amazing city everyone should have on their bucket list along with a bucket of money.