For my last weekend in Europe, I took a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I’d never been to Switzerland before and was excited to see a new place. Of course there were other reasons too, as Milos’ ship was going to be docked in town on Sunday, and we wanted to have one more visit before I headed back across the Atlantic.
I grabbed the first train out of Vienna on Saturday morning at 7:14am. That particular train was taking me to Zürich, then I would switch to another train that would take me to Basel. My first train of the day looked totally different than other ones I had been on yet so far over here. First Class was actually pretty well crowded – and no one got kicked out like that previous time. Haha! And this train had several TV monitors on the ceiling showing maps of our route (and where we were on the route), showed our speed, showed the stops – very handy!
As always, I had trouble getting to sleep the night before. I think I got a whopping three hours. Fortunately, I was tired enough to be able to get a couple more hours of sleep on the train. Originally I thought I’d get the overnight train to Switzerland and arrive there in the morning. But in this case, to take the night train would have required a reservation, which while only an additional 5 Euro, was still money I didn’t want to spend. Besides, I was going to be taking the night train back to Vienna on Sunday night, and would be spending the 5 Euro there. And in hindsight, I am SO glad I made the decision to take the day train! I got one of the most beautiful scenic train rides I could ever imagine!
Coming from the east coast of the US, I don’t have much experience with large mountains. I’ve pretty much seen the Poconos in PA, and the Adirondacks in upstate NY and VT. Yeah – no comparison. I was beyond fascinated as we rode through all the Alpine valleys and villages. I kept getting up to take pictures from both sides of the train car. The sun was shining so brightly and the sky was so blue behind the mountain peaks. (But the sun also created a bit of glare on the windows, so all my pics are a bit effected as a result.) And when the sun hit the snow on the tops of the mountains, the glistening shine they gave off was so bright, it almost looked like that really shiny icing they put on certain baked goods. I tell ya, it reminded me of the book “Heidi” (am I remembering that title right?) that we read as kids. Anyway – wow, just wow…. Now, I won’t lie, I tend to be a bit more of an emotional kind of girl. And the mountains were so beautiful, so majestic, that several times I almost felt like crying.
I brought along my normal things for keeping myself busy on the train – my book, my iPhone, my computer. But besides starting this blog post on my laptop, I didn’t need anything to keep me busy. While I was awake, I was just staring mesmerized out the window. Seriously, every time I thought I’d seen the best view of amazing mountains, we’d travel along further, and I saw more awe-inspiring sites. (And I was taking so many pictures, that I was also regularly getting my laptop out to dump the pics onto the computer.) As we continued along with our stops, there were less and less people in the car. I guess I was one of only a few making the full trip out to Zürich. (And the people who finished the trip with me were not the ones who started at the beginning.)
During our final hour on the way to Zürich, we passed a beautiful mountain lake – it was quite large actually. I’ll be looking up a map when I get an internet connection again so I can figure out exactly which lake it was. (Looked it up – it’s the Walensee.) The whole of it was this exquisite light blue color. Again, just wow. Although I feel like all over Europe I have these “wow” moments everywhere I go – from Vienna, to Croatia, to the Alps – just so much beauty.
Also during that last hour to Zürich, our train rode backwards the whole time. I was okay for awhile, but those last 15 minutes were my first case of motion sickness on my whole trip. I was certainly glad for that to be over.
It was a quick easy switch to find the train going to Basel once I got to Zürich – and this was my fanciest train yet. It was a double decker! So you KNOW I had to sit in the upstairs! (Haha!) They had all kinds of seat arrangements – not just your singles and doubles, but also curved bench areas and other loungey-feeling arrangements – so fancy! And now our train announcements were in German, English, AND French. (And I made sure to pick a seat that was facing in the forward direction! Although I have to say being on the 2nd floor, the back and forth movement of the train was much more pronounced than being lower to the ground. Duh, should’ve though about that – I was just so excited to sit upstairs in a train! But at least moving forward would keep my motion sickness from feeling too bad – although it might have been a good idea to bring my Dramamine with me. Oh well.)
When I arrived in Basel, I found a Tourist Information booth. She was able to give me a map with clear directions on how to walk to my hotel, AND she was able to look up Milos’ exact ship and tell me which tram to take to get to where it will be. What a great help!
I took pics as I walked to my hotel. I checked in and got to my room around 5:15pm. It was a small but comfortable single room. Tiny tiny bathroom, but I really don’t need anything with lots of space. After freshening up a bit and checking email and Facebook, I was off to see the town!
There were so many beautiful buildings. I went to the Rathaus (Town Hall), which was built in 1504 and is an interesting ornate mix of gothic and Renaissance. I also quite enjoyed walking around the Münster cathedral, despite part of it being covered up for construction. But one of the top highlights was undoubtedly the Rhine River. The city is built up on both sides of the river, and with the warm sunny weather we were having, it seemed that all of the town was out enjoying a walk or rest along its banks. I walked quite a bit up the river on the opposite side of where my hotel was. That was the side that was bathed in the afternoon sun, and I thought maybe I could walk up to where the ships dock, so I’d have an idea for the next morning. But it became clear the farther up the river I walked, the less desirable the neighborhood was becoming. And the sun was sinking lower in the sky by this point and I didn’t want to get stuck by accident in a bad neighborhood by myself once it started to get dark. So I turned around. Although while walking around back on my hotel’s side of the river, I did find the exact place to catch the tram in the morning!
I walked around until a little past 8:00pm. Most places had closed at 6pm, but not long after 7pm, it seemed that all the people in town also disappeared. All those crowds were gone and it was just us stragglers. As I approached my hotel to call it a night, I heard music coming from the church next door. And, no offense, it sounded way to good to just be a Saturday evening mass. I walked around to the front of the church and saw signs for the St. John Passion (Bach) that was being performed all weekend. I remembered that my room’s window faced the church, and sure enough, with my window open, I could hear the concert. I ate my PBJ sandwich that I packed for myself while sitting on the window sill of my room listening to some lovely music!
But it had been a long day, and I was ready to turn in early. I’m updating this just a little past 11pm, and I’m just about ready to pass out. Up early tomorrow to find the ship docks!
I was up bright and early at 6:45am to make sure I had enough time to get all my stuff together before going to find Milos’ ship. The internet said that the tram ride was about 20 minutes, and I read on some random forums online that it was not a long (but still substantial) walk from there to the port. So I walked to the tram stop and hopped onto the #8 towards Kleinhüningen. (Fortunately, my hotel gave out free public transit cards to all guests, so there was no cost for me to use the tram.) The tram ride took only ten minutes to get to the final stop of Kleinhüningen, and it was a whopping five minute walk to the place where the ship was docked. Milos saw me walking towards the ship, so he ran out to greet me. I got signed in on a visitor’s pass and was able to grab some breakfast with him. Then I hung out in the lounge until his break. It was kind of weird being on the ship – actually, surreal is a better word. Except for the color of the carpets, the ship was essentially exactly the same as our ship we were on for the cruise last year. So at least I felt very relaxed there, as I have nothing but wonderful memories from last year’s trip. When Milos got his break at 10:00, we had a couple hours to kill and spent it together off the ship. Then fortunately, later on I was allowed to stay on the ship for awhile as a visitor, even after he had to get back to work. We even got a little extra time together outside in the sunshine while they awaited their first bus of guests. It was nice to talk about our future visits together – my trip to Croatia in August, and his trip to the US in November/December.
Once the first bus of guests arrived just after 4:00pm, it was my cue to move along and for him to get inside and check everyone in. Saying good bye was hard, but I tried to just keep a positive attitude and think of how great it will be to see each other again in a few months, later on in the summer. I decided since it was so nice and sunny outside, that I wouldn’t take the tram back, but I would walk along the river back to the main section of the city. Since there were still a lot of people out and about, I didn’t feel nervous about walking back through that part of the city that looked a little “iffy” the evening before. Especially since I now knew just how far I was from the main section of town. (The ships dock above the town.)
Since I now had all my stuff with me in my back pack, I was traveling a little heavier, so I didn’t move quite as fast. I grabbed a Coke out of my bag (Milos helped restock my supply) and enjoyed my afternoon walk. I got some more great pictures along the river and again inside the old city area. But my bag was getting heavier, so I stopped at a Starbucks to give my feet a rest and to take advantage of some free wifi. After relaxing there for a good chunk of time, I headed to the only place I could afford to eat – McDonald’s. Don’t judge, people, So far, Basel is now the most expensive city I’ve ever been to. It makes NYC and Vienna look downright cheap. It was almost 10 Euro just to get two cheeseburgers and a small Coke. I kid you not. So I took my time eating my burgers, and using THEIR free wifi – haha!
Once I was all done, I still had about two hours before my train to Zürich. So I just kept walking around the city. I found a little side area that I had not seen before and got a bunch more pics. Then I decided as the sun started to sink low, that it would be really cool to get some pics of the buildings along the river with the lovely colors of the evening sky as a back drop.
I got some GREAT shots of the river, and started walking back towards the direction of the train station. But as I got to one of the side streets, I decided to veer off my path again. I had enough time to go back to the cathedral and get some shots of the river with all the lights starting to come on. I figured that if I at least started my walk back to the station by 8:30pm, I’d have plenty of time to get my 9:30pm train.
The lights were just starting to come on in the buildings and bridges along the water, so I didn’t get the full effect of the lights in the night, but I did get some beautiful photos nonetheless.
Then it really was time to start walking to the train station. I headed in that direction and knew I was on the right track, as I kept seeing signs for the station. As I walked, I mused to myself about my trip so far, thinking how I still wished my German was better. Eventually, I saw no more signs, and the street got ever more residential looking. Perhaps, I missed a turn….
I happened to see two women walking along the street – it looked like they were taking a nice fitness walk through the neighborhood. I asked them (in German) if they could point me in the direction of the train station. They were more than happy to help, and actually said they were walking that direction and that they would walk with me! They spoke German and Turkish, and of all things, the one woman complimented me on just how good my German was! Haha – go figure! (After I was just thinking about how NOT-good it was!) They were super super nice. (In fact, everyone in Switzerland was.) And the woman who did most of the talking said that for an American, my German was so good. So I did mention that my father was from Austria. She said I must practice with him all the time then. Haha – I told her no, he speaks a dialect and that all the German I know is from school in America. (And I guess it doesn’t hurt that as a classical singer, you get foreign language reinforcement on a regular basis.)
Once we got to the train station, I thanked them profusely for their help, and I chilled awhile until the big sign told me which platform my train was leaving from.
The train to Basel wasn’t a fancy double decker like the day before, but it was still really very nice in first class. I plugged my laptop in and loaded the rest of my pictures. I also started the update to this blog post!
Right now, I’m on the train back to Vienna. It’s just like the trains that I took to and from Croatia. The little room compartments with six seats each. My reserved seat has me in a little room with three other people – a mother and son, and my new friend Natalia! Fortunately, there is again a place to plug in my computer and get it charged back up. Which is a good part of having the window seat. (And I’m lucky that my seat reservation has me faced in the direction that we are moving. However, who knows if it will switch directions again like it did on our way here. Hopefully if it does, I’ll be able to go to sleep so I don’t have my motion sickness issues.) I got to talking with Natalia because the train DID switch direction, and after about an hour of going backwards, my motion sickness kicked in BIG time. I asked if I could switch sides with her, as we were sitting opposite eachother. Which started us talking for a few hours! Yay for new friends!
My overall thoughts….
All in all, my weekend was really great. I LOVED seeing the Alps on my train ride on Saturday – seriously beautiful and amazing – like nothing I’ve ever seen before. (SO glad I did the daytime train to get there.) And Basel is a really pretty city. The architecture in the old part of the city is just gorgeous – and it’s especially nice to walk along the river here, as the city is built up right against the water.
On the down side, is just how expensive this city is. (I’ve heard that that’s just a Switzerland thing in general.) Holy cow. If you go, be prepared!!!
And the other great part of my weekend, was getting to spend most of today (Sunday) with Milos, as it’s now going to be about four months until we see each other again in person. (Yup, I’m gonna be working my ass off to save the money needed to fly to Croatia in the summer!)
Now it’s almost time for me to fly back home to America. I’ll be working on a blog post about my overall thoughts on my whole European trip in general really soon. But I get back to Vienna tomorrow (Monday) and will need to make sure I get all packed up, as I check out of my apartment on Tuesday. Then I’ll take an overnight train to Munich, so I don’t have to get a hotel or anything. And Wednesday I hop a noon flight back to Philly. Wow! Did seven weeks go by already???