Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Rivers - Part II: Der Rhein

Recently I traveled internationally for work, and I posted about my trip to London here: A Tale of Two Rivers - Part I: The Thames.

Just a week after that trip, I flew again for work, going to Basel, Switzerland. The corner of Switzerland I went to is right where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. It is near the Alsace-Lorraine region which is near and dear to my heart due to my maternal DOMELLE surname. In the 18th century, many people from the Alsace-Lorraine region migrated south to what is modern day Romania (then it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire), so it is likely my DOMELLE ancestors came from near that region as they were german speakers living in Pre-WWI Hungary.

Anyway, back to Basel!

So where London was two weeks ahead in spring compared to my home, Basel was 2 weeks behind. Bulbs had come up, but the trees weren't really showing their buds yet. The weather was a bit dreary for most of my visit, not pouring rain, but that misting type of rain, although the sun did make some peeps.

Basel is ancient - they've found pre-Roman settlements and the old city is well-preserved with lots of winding little streets. It's a bit hilly where the old city is, but nothing crazy. I didn't have a lot of time for site-seeing so I made my way straight to the Basel Munster which is the cathedral right on the Rhine river.

I guess because it was a Monday and because the weather wasn't great, I was completely alone in the cathedral for about 20 minutes before any other tourists made their way in - very different from Westminster Abbey!

The cathedral was mainly built in the 1400s - there was one there earlier but it fell down during an earthquake in the 1300s!

There is a beautiful colored roof on the cathedral outside, as well as a little walled garden attached to the south of it. This picture is from behind the cathedral which faces right onto the Rhine river. There's a drop of a couple storys to the river.

This might be the first sandstone cathedral I've ever seen.

In the area next to the main cathedral and attached to it, there were some doorways to clergy offices and covered walkways around a small garden.

In that area, of all things, I heard a female opera singer singing, I could tell it was inside because I could here the echos, but I couldn't place where it was coming from. I am no opera student, but it didn't sound like Italian opera, it sounded like German opera.

Finally I found this door and that's where it was loudest. So naturally I immediately decide it's like Phantom of the Opera and the little door must lead to steps down to and underground room that can be accessed by caves from the shores of the river.....

But then I realize the little door leads to steps that lead UP to this large chamber next to the cathedral and that's actually where the singing was coming from. :-) So much for my imagination! But it was beautiful and a little odd to hear live muffled opera like that while walking around empty cathedral walkways and gardens.

This is a picture from right out back of the cathedral looking to the right. So now I could say I saw the Thames and the Rhine rivers 2 weeks apart. :-)

Here's the view looking to the left. These houses here that are right next to the cathedral have been here in some cases since the 1400s - I saw the plaques on the houses.

Once on modern day streets, what I saw were banks, banks, banks. So I knew I was in Switzerland!! People were very friendly and nearly every one spoke English, which was good for me, since my tired brain kept trying to provide me with French phrases rather than the German one's I had looked up!

And finally, just a few more pictures from my brief visit!