Time to leave Romania. ☹ I really did enjoy this country way more than I imagined I would, and wish I had more time to explore. 10 days really isn’t anywhere near enough, and I only covered a small portion of the middle of the country. Got an uber, and had a wonderful driver. We chatted about tourism in Romania, and he echoed the sentiment of Alex from last night- the government just doesn’t seem interested in promoting it. Such a shame. Or a blessing. I guess it depends on how you look at it.
Another day, another European budget airline. This time, Hungarian carrier Wizz Air. I had priority which allowed me a carry on and a personal item, so I wasn’t worried about baggage issues. About 2 hours to Basel in a middle seat, which kinda super sucks, but such is life. I’m not paying extra for a seat on such a short flight.
Got to Basel Airport (which is actually in France), and made kind of a boo-boo. At passport control, the officer asked me where I was coming from, and I hesitated, then asked myself out loud, “Where AM I coming from?”. Seriously, it’s all kind of blurring together. That started a mini-interrogation, well deserved because I admit that was dumb. Got my stamp and headed out. Then I saw the most FABULOUS sign I’ve ever seen in any airport!!
Ha!! The countries in Europe are so close together that your choice of exit determines your location! Oh, France, you know I love you, but I had to go right- into a brand new country. Switzerland.
Again, not interested in dealing with busses and baggage, so called an Uber. Here they use Swiss Franks (CHF), not Euro. I really, REALLY don’t want to have to get cash. Since I’ll be here for a little over 2 weeks though, it’s probably inevitable. But not yet. CHF is almost exactly the same rate as the dollar. The 15 minute trip cost me $25. I’m not in Romania anymore… Oh, and Switzerland has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different official languages!! French, German, Italian, and Romansh. I had my fingers crossed for French. I was met with German. ☹
Checked into my airbnb. Now, this is not one that I booked way in advance like the rest. In fact, I only realized I hadn’t booked one a few days ago, and kinda had to scramble. Airbnb is EXPENSIVE here. No awesome $15 a night private apartments…more like $70 a night for just a room. So I did something I never do. I booked a room for $35 a night that didn’t have any reviews. It was a new property, and I thought they were probably doing what I do when I list a new property- super cheap rate to attract guests and get those much needed reviews, then you jack up the price to market rates. You would also expect the host to be going above and beyond to make sure those first reviews were stellar. Ok, look. The place was in a nice neighborhood (I’m not sure there’s any other kind in Switzerland). It was within walking distance to the old town, where the things I wanted to see were, AND to the train station I needed to leave from in a couple of day. And it was half the price of everything else in the area. But it wasn’t very clean. When you get a message that says, “If your sheets don’t seem fresh, there are fresh ones on the shelf.” That says to me, “We aren’t going to change your sheets. If they’re covered in bodily fluids, here are some spares.” I set my black backpack down on the floor. I had to flip it over to get my laptop out, and the side on the floor was covered in dust. The trash cans in my room, the bathroom, and the kitchen were full. And there was just a general “not filthy, but not clean” feel to everything. Sigh. I could live with it for 2 nights for the price. I’ve stayed in worse…
My phone was in desperate need of a charge, so I pulled out my adapter. It didn’t fit! They don’t use the European 2 prong here- they use the 3 prong. Grrrrrr! First item of business in a new place is usually groceries. Now, it was new adapter. I googled for electronic stores and found one about .8 miles away. Headed over, and found one for only $10 on sale, except it was a 2 prong to 3 prong adapter- meaning I had to plug it in to my existing adapter. #firehazard
Next stop, groceries. I googled for Carrefour, since we’re right next to France, but no luck. There was a Coop right next to the electronics store, so I headed in there. YEE-OUCH!!!!!!!! No wonder everyone is so skinny here- who can afford food?! I passed on the insect balls. I ended up with a part of a rotisserie chicken (leg/thigh/breast) and a pack of French bread from the bakery. $8!!!!!!!! And no Dr. Pepper. ☹ Holy crap, I miss Romania!!!!
Went back and only ate part of the part of chicken so I’d have some for tomorrow. Did some work and some blogging. It was so freaking hot in my room! I had the window wide open, but there was zero breeze. By the time I went to sleep, I had two choices, window open and lots of noise, or window closed and suffocate to death in the heat. I chose window open until it was after midnight and I still couldn’t sleep. Closed the window. Tossed and turned all night. Sigh.
Day 2: Today was adventure day!! Except I felt like I’d been hit by a truck since I’d basically had no sleep. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do today. I really had stopped my research after I finalized everything for Romania a few months back, and figured Switzerland would just kind of fall into place. I searched for free walking tours- only on Sundays. I searched for paid walking tours. There was one at 2:30 for $20, but it was in both English and German, and the reviews were a lot of English speakers complaining about having to wait around for the German explanations at each stop. So I just looked at the walking tour itineraries, looked at few blogs, and pieced together a few of what seemed like the “must see” places in Basel. Mapped them, ate a little bread, and headed out.
I wandered down narrow cobblestone streets with shops of all sorts on either side- clothes, watches, old historical prints, shoes- each with nice little window displays. It literally looked like Main Street if Switzerland was Disneyland! Honestly, it doesn’t feel old and historic like most of “Europe Proper” does. I swear, it almost felt manufactured to look like how you would expect a Swiss street to look! Almost TOO perfect and stereotypical! It was early, and there were no tourists out yet. Just locals who all seemed to be going somewhere with a purpose.
I made it to the first place, the Marketplatz- basically market square. The draw here is the Rathaus, or city hall. It’s over right at 500 years old. And I swear to you, it looks like Walt Disney told his architects to build it. It is SO whimsical and colorful! And it just doesn’t have that old look or feel to it. I have decided that Switzer means “Disney”… You walk inside, and the courtyard area is just as fun and colorful!! I was very close to the Rhine River, and saw a bridge on Google Maps, so decided to go check it out. Turns out, this is Mittlere Brücke, or Middle Bridge, and is the oldest crossings over the Rhine! The original was built in 1226! But I’m telling you, this city is just so Disney-esque, that it’s hard to believe anything was here before 1950!! I crossed the bridge and then crossed back again. On my way back, there were people floating down the Rhine on little fish shaped floaties. It was so freaking hot, that as much as I’m adverse to the idea of getting into water, had Brian been here I totally would have done it! Later, I passed a store that was actually selling the little floaties! I was seriously tempted to buy one, because #fish. But didn’t because #cheapass.
Across the water from me was a building. And the three words on it were in Frenc- Les Trois Rois. Hot damn, I knew exactly what that meant!! THE THREE KINGS!!!!!! EEEEEE!! I just so happen to love three kings!! Henry IV, Louis XIV, and Louis XVI!! Could it maybe have anything to do with French kings?? I had to take a detour and find out! As soon as I saw the figures above the door, I knew it was the 3 wise men of Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh fame. Bummer. But I did do a little research, and during the French Revolution, when kings weren’t exactly on anyone’s Christmas list, it was renamed Hotel aux trois magots (Hotel at the three bundles). And then I turn around, and what does the universe greet me with in a 2nd story window?? Oy.
I walked up some narrow cobblestone, mostly deserted streets. The buildings here were really old. Not because they looked old (because NOTHING looks old- it’s “Swizter”land, afterall!!), but because there were dates from the 1400s and 1500s on some of them. And things are just so damn….WHIMSICAL! I really should look up another word for that in the thesaurus…. This was the part of town where I most wished I had a guide to give me some of the history.
I made my way to Munsterplatz, which wasn’t a cheese plaza, but a cathedral plaza (cheese/cathedral, same thing). Dominating the plaza is the Basler Münster, or Basel Minster- built between 1019 and 1500 (with an earthquake in between for good measure). It looks suspiciously like a Catholic cathedral you would see if you went outside of
Disneyland Switzerland into France or Germany. And it used to be. But today, it’s Protestant. However, there are some signs of whimsy on the outside! For example, I’m not sure what that knight is doing to that puppy pigeon with a fish tail, but hey, it works! There was a crypt below, where there was a sarcophagus of someone named Bischof Ruodolf and the date 917!! Well, apparently survey says that there was a Hungarian invasion of Basel in 917, and the Bishop was killed. Obviously, that was about 100 years before this church even started being built, so not sure how he ended up here. Honestly, I had a hard time finding much information about the whole thing.
I wandered through more Disney-esque streets with perfect little buildings all in a row. Heck, there is even an entire “monorail” system that runs all over! In fact, you see very, very few cars. It’s all these green trains and bikes. Because #switzerland
Last stop, Tinguely Brunnen (Tinguely Fountain). C’mon now, Basel?? Seriously?? You can not get any more whimsical (ok dammit, I’m stopping to look this up in the thesaurus- nope, not a better word to be had) than this fountain! It was built in 1977 right outside of the theater, and is just so much fun to watch! Because #disney Definitely watch the video to see it in action, because a picture can’t capture it!
Came home and was EXHAUSTED- both from not sleeping and from the heat. I thought maybe I’d feel better if I took a one hour nap. I woke up 3 hours later… Ate the rest of my chicken and bread and then just worked and relaxed the rest of the day.