The 2 weeks prior to our departure were spent in a state of almost perpetual hangover as we went round saying goodbye to our nearest and dearest. It was time, we felt, to give our livers a break.
So off we trundled, backpacks and all, to Kings Cross to catch an unnecessarily early Eurostar to Paris. It was as we struggled breathlessly to navigate the Paris Metro to Gare du Lyon that we realised we may have bought too much gear. Too late now. Now we just had to ensure nobody stole any of it during (and beyond, but one thing at a time) the 2 hour wait we had before our train to Basel left.
I think we expected the 3 hour journey to Basel to be an Alpine spectacular but instead it was mile-after-mile of banal French countryside. Good practice for the Trans-Sib, we thought.
Basel is a city with an identity crisis. It lies at the convergence of the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany, such that the city proper is in Switzerland, the suburbs in Germany, and the airport in France! The net result is that you never know whether you should be paying in Euros or Swiss Francs, or saying danke or merci.
The reason we came, though, was to visit Amy’s sister Koco, who is performing in a German production of We Will Rock You. She has been put up in an enormous apartment-cum-house in the German suburb of Lorrach; complete with ping-pong and pool room and some pretty views of the surrounding hills. She shares with 4 colleagues who, understandably, like to partake in a little drinking after a hard day’s dancing – our booze break was not off to the best of starts.
Basel itself is a nice enough city, and not so large that we couldn’t wander round most of it in one day. A stand-out feature is the town hall (the Rathaus), a striking building with a crenelated red facade covered in beautifully kept frescoes of 16th century kings holding court, and crowned
by a glittering gold spire. Also, we found the time to visit a Christmas market where we supped a dizzying tipple of Gluewein (mulled wine) on a carousel bar (yep, a bar which spins round as you drink) and gobbled a bratwurst sausage in a log cabin whilst toy trains hurtled around above our heads.
The remainder of the day was spent stealing wi-fi from Starbucks so we could find out if there was any way we could get to Zurich on Saturday morning in time for a 9am flight. There wasn’t. So we unfortunately had to cut our time with Koco short by a night and caught a train to Zurich the next day.
Zurich is like an upmarket Basel, we strolled along the river until it opened up into a lake, stole some lunch from the Co-Op (accidentally but woohoo!), then strolled back again. Its a gorgeous city and somewhere we’d like to come back to with some disposable cash.
Anyway, we fly to Russia tomorrow…so Moscow. (sorry, couldn’t resist!)