September 12, 2001
On the way to Basel we try and find castles. They are marked on our map with a little tower. Ruins and churches are also marked. It doesn’t take us long to figure out two important things:
1.Kastell doesn’t mean castle, but fort. Schloss means castle.
2.Brown signs along the highway will take you to historically significant places, just like at home.
We can see all kinds of castles off in the distance, but can never actually find one. We drive in their general direction, me looking at the map and reading signs, Brendan turning in what he figures is the right direction. He’s got a great sense of direction. But it still doesn’t work. So we give up for the time being.
Basel is a weird city; it is old and brand new at the same time.
We stumble across this church (one of many) that is open to the public and take a walk up to the top of the spire. The above picture was taken there. You can stand where the bell would be and look straight up to the tip.
There’s this canal that runs through town, and one can take a boat across. The current is so strong that they have tether lines up so the boats down drift too far. It was sort of cloudy and windy so we didn’t do any crossing.
We did stop in at a museum, the Kunstmuseum to see more Picasso (he lived in Basel for a while), Paul Klee and others.
Basel is right on the border of Germany and France. It was part of our master plan to visit as many countries as we could, just so we could say that we had; I was hoping for passport stamps (we didn’t get any). We drove across the border to France first. The guard didn’t even really stop us, he saw the “CH” (for Switzerland, Schweiz in German) sticker on the back bumper of the car as we slowed down, we started to get out our passports, but as soon as he saw we were American he just waved us through. No big deal. Getting into Canada is harder!
Again, we tried to find castles. All we found were churches, graveyards and ruins. We did see many cute villages with cream colored buildings, tiled rooves, colorful shutters and window boxes. Straight out of a movie.
Then we drove to Germany. (Of course, I could totally have it backwards. We could have done Germany first and then France.) At any rate, we crossed the German/French border with no problem. There was a nice little sign that told us that the back road we were on was not for persons who were carrying goods from one country to another. Those people had to turn around and go back to the national road to cross the border so they could be inspected. Thank you very much Mr. Sign!
We saw this guy in either France or Germany. Who knows. The Herbsmarkt sounds German, but the Ranspach-Le-Haut seems more French.
This sort of thing is typical. The Swiss have four recognized languages, German (the national language), French, Italian and Romanian. We’d walk into a store and the shop keeper would say “Bonjour” then proceed to talk in German. When we would leave they’d say goodbye in French again.
September 11, 2001
The next day we did a little driving around the city and generally fared better with the signs. Did a little window shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse.
Then it was off to Luzern. About half an hour away.
I can’t recall if we checked in at our second place before or after we hit town. Regardless, it was a much nicer place than the night before.
The strange thing about Europe is that they push two twin beds together to make a Queen/King. We had separate comforters, too. This was not such a bad thing, because as Brendan will tell you, I’m a big sheet hog.
This place was in the country-side. Rolling green hills with mountains off in the distance. I can’t get over how huge they are. I’ve only seen small, east coast mountains. These are amazing.
It is today that we decide to save money by going to the grocery store and buying cheese and bread. We discover some really good cheese, and some really strange curry butter, this way.
Luzern is a great place. I absolutely fall in love with it. The day we were there was a Tuesday, which is market day. They were just shutting down when we got there (so it must have been afternoon). I love the brightly painted buildings. I love the fountains. I love the Picasso museum. I love the old town center. I love the lake in the middle of town. I love the Kapellbrücke.
The Kapellbrücke is this wonderful covered bridge and tower built in 1333. The bridge has these triangular paintings in the eaves above that tell a story. You’ve got to walk across it and back to see them all (although some were damaged in a fire). The tower was once a prison/torture chamber but now it’s a gift shop.
Brendan has this theory that only old Southern Americans travel to Europe. He wasn’t proven wrong this day. There was this old man buying something in the gift-shop while we were there. The girls who worked there, as well as most of the thirty-somethings and younger, spoke English with no problem, but they started off in German. As the designated speaker, I would just ask if they spoke English and go from there. Anyway, this old man wants to buy something. He talks LOUDLY and S L O W L Y to the girl, pointing to the one he wants. Then, she tells him (in English) how much said item costs. He holds out his handful of Swiss Francs and makes her take the right amount. How hard is it to count? The numerical system doesn’t change. 20 means 20. Seriously. I was embarrassed to be from the same country as this guy. I hope the girl took herself a good tip!
I could go on an on about this city. But we come back on our last day, so I can say more then.
We drive back to our room to relax. I turn on the TV and watch Felicity dubbed in German. (We get no stations in English here, just German and Portuguese.) There’s this message that scrolls across the screen about New York. I figure they are speaking on the show about some landmark or New York specific thing, and they are just explaining it to the Swiss viewers. But the message keeps repeating itself. I remember the word for airplane, but that’s about it.
As it happens, it’s my little brother’s birthday. Turns out this place has an internet terminal (of all the places, this place in the tiny village has one!) so we head down to send him an email and to send a note to our parents. That doesn’t take too long, so since we’ve got money to burn, we head to the Drudge Report. Well, you can guess what happens now — we find out what exactly that little message was scrolling across the screen.
Back upstairs we put on German CNN and watch the whole thing happen. I’ve got the volume turned up so that I can hear the English underneath the translators. Doesn’t help much.
[It’s only after we get back home that Brendan remembers a man passing us on the street in the city saying “You are very lucky.” Creepy.]
At dinner in the restaurant downstairs, the chef comes out and introduces himself. He looks at me and asks if I like fish. I do, I answer. Great, he says, we have some caught today from the lake. He looks at Bren and knows immediately that he is a beef man. We both have incredibly delicious dinners. (Sense a theme?)