Friday, April 18, 2014

Rhine Getaway: Basel, Switzerland (4/18/2014)

Friday, April 18, 2014
Our Viking River Cruises Rhine Getaway began yesterday with a 15:00 flight from Minneapolis/St Paul through the night to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. There we caught the 9:15 flight to Basel/Bâle/Basilea, Switzerland (Swiss cities often have names in German, French, Italian, and/or Romansh).
Arriving about 10:40 at the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, we had to be sure to exit into Switzerland, not France or Germany!
We were unable to purchase the BaselCard at the airport, and few seemed to know about this city pass. Tourist information sent me to the SBB (Schweizerbundesbahn/Swiss Federal Railway) who said the card was available at the main train station. We asked the Viking River Cruise representative who met us at the airport, and he said we would get a museum pass at the ship (not!). Meanwhile Kent visited an ATM to get Swiss Francs.
We were hurried onto motor coaches (with the Viking logo) and driven into the city where the Viking Gullveig ship was docked near St Johanns Tor/St John's Gate. The normal docking location is at Dreiländereck/Three Countries Corner, so we missed the landmark where the three countries meet, but we were now conveniently close to the old city.
View of Basel from the ship Viking Gullveig
Johanniterbrücke/St John's Bridge and
Mittlere Rhein
brücke/Middle Rhine Bridge
Brynne and Paul were able to check into their cabin, while Kent and I would have to wait until later for a clean room. I asked at reception about this museum pass, which they do not provide. The Program Director, Ryan, did not know about the BaselCard, but he was to ask a local guide.
It was 11:30, and Viking graciously provides a light buffet lunch for both departing and arriving passengers who are around at that time. We enjoyed some salad, pasta, and/or sandwiches, then began our own exploration of Basel. The Program Director's only information was that there is a BaselCard, but that because today was Good Friday and a local holiday, everything would be closed (not!).
The Viking staff offered a Welcome Walk at 13:00 and 15:00, a leisurely walk through the city center, which we did not take because of our own tour. I think the 15:00 was not attended due to pouring rain.
We walked the one block to St Johanns Tor to the tram stop.
St Johanns Tor/St John's Gate (c. 1356)
We had to use a credit card to get tram tickets. Took the tram to Barfüsserplatz where we found the tourist office to purchase the BaselCard. Using the BaselCard as our transport pass, we took the tram to the Basel Zoo.
'Tango' tram built by the Swiss company Stadler
Arrived at the Zoologischer Garten Basel/Basel Zoological Garden (founded 1874, Switzerland's oldest and largest zoo), locally nicknamed the "Zolli," and used the BaselCard to enter for free.
First the Vivarium/Aquarium (1972):
Garden eels including the Heteroconger hassi/Spotted garden eel,
Gorgasia preclara/Splendid garden eel (striped),
and the larger Heteroconger longissimus/Brown garden eel
Outside the Monkey House:
Ape species Homo sapiens
The Bird House (1927):
Bird House door handle
In the Etosha Building (2001) with the theme of a 'Circle of Life:'
Suricata suricatta/Slender-tailed Meerkat
After leaving the zoo, we walked past the Markthalle/Market Hall, built in 1929 as a trading center for wholesale fruits and vegetables.
In 2009 it was renovated as a kind of mini-mall, but now there seems to be hope it will become a food-based market again.
Stopped in the Bahnhof/Railway Station (1854, designed by Emil Faesch and Emmanuel La Roche):
Electric RE 460 039-1 locomotive 'Rochers de Naye'
'Flirt France' trainset RABe 522 204 from Stadler Rail
of the S-Bahn/commuter railway
Across the Centralbahnplatz is a monument from the French city of Strasbourg thanking the city of Basel for taking 1,778 civilians as refugees in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War:
Strassburger Denkmal/Strasbourg Monument (1895)
donated by French Baron Hervé de Gruyer
Schindler Be 4/x tram #222
On one side of the Centralbahnplatz is the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), established in 1930 in Basel for the purpose of overseeing German World War I reparations, which now has a role in monetary policy and banking supervision.
Bank for International Settlements HQ
(1977, designed by Martin Burckhardt)
We took a tram past another BIS building:
Bank for International Settlements
(1994, designed by Mario Botta)
Back at Barfüsserplatz, the Barfüsserkirche/Barefoot Church (1298, the former church of the Franciscan mendicant order, later a salt warehouse, then in 1894, the Historisches Museum/Historical Museum):
Historisches Museum Basel/Basel Historical Museum
Stadt Casino/City Casino (1876)
Used the BaselCard to visit the Spielzeug Welten Museum/Toys of the World Museum for free; an amazing collection of over 6,000 teddy bears and dolls in a variety of settings with toys and miniatures.
At this point, Brynne and Paul headed back to the ship for a jet lag nap.
Gymnasium St Leonhard (1899)
Walked past the Fasnachtbrunnen/Carnival Fountain or Tinguelybrunnen/Tinguely Fountain (1977, by Jean Tinguely):
Kinetic sculptures erected on the site of the stage of the old city theater
In constant motion and in dialog
like the actors and dancers who once performed here (KSS)
Wisteria japonica (KSS)
Walked along St Alban-Graben:
Bibliothek des Kunstmuseums/Art Museum Library
in the former Swiss National Bank building
Kunstmuseum/Art Museum
(1936, designed by architects Rudolf Christ and Paul Bonatz)
Kunstmuseum/Art Museum entrance
Along Rittergasse:
Former chapel, now a residence (KSS)
Hohenfirstenhof (c. 1356)
Bischofshof/Bishop's Court (1451-1458?)
Münster/Cathedral (1019-1500
in Romanesque and Gothic styles) (KSS)
Münster/Cathedral façade with statue of St George and the dragon
Münster/Cathedral west façade
Gymnasium/School (1589, oldest building in Münsterplatz)
Friedrich Nietzsche taught here
Pisonibrunnen/Pisoni Fountain (1874, architect Paolo Antonio Pisoni)
(note the dog trough) (KSS)
View down on the Münsterfähre/Cathedral Ferry
A few of the steps down to the ferry
Kent ringing the bell for the ferry
The ferry 'Leu' arrives
The BaselCard gave us a free ferry ride.
The ferry is tethered to an overhead cable;
the current carries the ferry across the river
Ferry cable over a "pulley"
Ferry cable
Along Obere Rheinweg:
Wisteria-covered house
Basilisken fountain
View across the Rhein/Rhine River;
note the small buildings on the wall
Next along Rheingasse:
Fischerstube, an Ueli Bier micro-brewery;
Basel's smallest brewery
No caption needed (KSS)
We crossed the Mittlere Rheinbrücke/Middle Rhine Bridge (1903-1905):
Mittlere Rheinbrücke/Middle Rhine Bridge
Mittlere Rheinbrücke/Middle Rhine Bridge's
Käppelijoch/Span Chapel 
Love locks on the chapel gate
Back in the Altstadt/old town:
Medieval artisan's houses on Rheinsprung
Staatsarchive/State Archive
(1898-1902 by Eduard Vischer and Eduard Fueter)
with the Sevogel Brunnen/Fountain (1899)
Staatsarchive/State Archive frog water spout (KSS)
St Martinskirche/St Martin's Church (parts date to 1287,
considered to be the oldest parish church in Basel)
 Marktplatz/Market Square:
Rathaus/City Hall (1504-1521, Burgundian Gothic style)
Animal carvings on façade windows (KSS)
Rathaus/City Hall north
Rathaus/City Hall south
Carved faces on courtyard windows (KSS)
Geltenzunft/Guild of the Wine Merchants
(façade dated 1559-1596 by Daniel Heintz)
It had started to rain, so we took the tram back to the Viking Gullveig and checked into our cabin.
Cabin double bed
Cabin bathroom
Cabin desk and big screen TV
The Viking Gullveig ship was built in 2014 and was taking its fourth cruise. It is one of the Viking River Cruise longships, named for the Viking longships; it is indeed a long narrow boat.
Painting of Gullveig, a figure in Norse mythology
Sun deck
One of two hot beverage machines
The evening routine began with a Cocktail Hour, usually about 17:30-19:00, during which the Daily Briefing takes place.
Today the ship set sail at 19:00 to head down the Rhein. The Rhein starts in the Swiss Alps, and tumbles down into the Bodensee/Lake Constance. Leaving Lake Constance, it becomes a serious river and measurement in kilometers starts. Basel is located at Kilometer/KM 165-169. The measured portion of the Rhein is to KM 1,033 at Hoek van Holland, Netherlands. The entire Rhein is 1,232 km.766 miles long.
Dinner began at 19:00.
Brynne and Paul at dinner
Dinner started with an amuse-bouche (cherry tomato and mozzarella skewer in pesto). There was a choice of a first course, either of two appetizers (Parma ham & melons with grapefruit vinaigrette or goat cheese and pine nut brûlée with apricot compote), a salad (grilled bread, cucumber & tomato salad with toasted pine nuts and red wine vinaigrette), or a soup (fish and shrimp sinigang). The main course was a choice of a meat dish (pepper-crusted chicken breast with glazed baby carrots and chickpeas, straw potatoes and chipotle jus), a fish dish (Asian-spiced cod fish on sesame rice with turnips and grapes in cream), and a vegetarian dish (Bali crêpes with coconut chili sauce, pineapple and Thai vegetables). Finally a choice of desserts, the chef's choice (panna cotta with apricot compote), a cake (New York cheesecake), ice cream (walnut) or sorbet (lemon) with chocolate, butterscotch, or forest berries sauces, and a fruit plate (honey melon) as well as a cheese plate (Appenzeller and Gorgonzola served with red onion confit, white baguette and crackers).
Additionally, Caesar salad, pan-fried fillet of salmon, pan-roasted chicken breast, and pan-seared New York steak were always available.
Each night two wines were suggested (Grüner Veltliner and Blauer Zweigelt from Winery Mörwald, Wagram, Austria). It seemed the complimentary wine was unlimited, and soft drinks and beer were also complimentary.
We were not up for after-dinner music and dancing!
Next: Black Forest.

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