We just returned from a cruise along the Rhine River, from Basel to Amsterdam. It was our “big vacation” for the year and the following posts will be my photographic essay, which I’ll break down by ports of call. First stop: Basel, Switzerland.
Basel’s central square was a colorful place – a hub for the many tram routes throughout the city. The beautiful red building is the Rathaus (Town Hall).
Our trip got off to a rocky start at LAX. We had a Delta flight to Paris, or so we thought. It bore a Delta flight number and our tickets said “Delta,” so where do you think we went to board the flight? Terminal 5, the Delta terminal, of course. But no, the flight wasn’t leaving from the Delta terminal. The attendant said we were flying on their “partner airline,” Air France.
“So where do we go to board the Air France flight?,” we asked anxiously. The attendant didn’t seem to know. Some partnership! However, being a helpful person, she went back to her bank of computers and tapped for awhile. Then she announced that we needed to go to Terminal 2.
“We’re flying to Paris,” I said. “Is it possible that we should go to the International Terminal?”
No. Apparently her computer said Air France was at Terminal 3. So we lugged our heavy bags and accessories and started walking. LAX is a big airport and we could have taken a shuttle, but we were worried about missing the flight by the time we figured out which of the thousands of shuttles we should take, and how long it would take to arrive and then deposit us on the other side of the airport. It was a hot day, so we were dripping with sweat by the time we reached Terminal 2.
Alas, no Air France at Terminal 2. Or at least no Air France going to Paris. “You need to go to the International Terminal,” we were told. Ironically, the International Terminal is close (relatively speaking) to Terminal 5, where we originally had been dropped off. There was nothing we could do, however, except start walking. Or running, as it turned out, because now we were really concerned about slow security lines and missing our flight. Luckily we are in relatively good physical condition and didn’t drop from a heart attack or heat prostration.
We arrived at the International Terminal thoroughly drenched and completely out of breath. Fortunately, the security lines weren’t too long and we were in time for our flight. Indeed, we were in time to stand for a half hour in one of several long lines at the boarding area waiting for the busses to take us from the terminal to the airplane.
Here is Dawn looking surprisingly composed and cheerful in line for our Air France flight out of LAX. All of the people you see in the picture (plus some behind me) are standing in lines to board the same flight, a double-decker Airbus 380.
The flight was uneventful. As always, it was long and cramped for coach passengers like us. We had a four-hour layover before boarding our flight to Basel. During the layover we met up with our friends, Al and Linda Switzler from Highland, Utah, who were to be our traveling companions.
Our purpose in flying to Switzerland was to take the Viking River Cruises “Rhine Getaway,” a cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. In doing this we would be following in the footsteps of Dawn’s immigrant ancestor, Frederick Parrott, who made a similar “cruise” in the 1730s. Of course, his trip was no doubt far less luxurious, but it was interesting for Dawn to see the route he would have taken, particularly because she is writing a book about her Parrott/Parrett family that begins with Frederick’s story.
Here is our travel route from Basel to Amsterdam along the Rhine River.
We had arranged for two-day extensions in the beginning and at the end of the cruise. Although Viking was supposed to meet us at the airport, nobody was there, which only seemed fitting after the start we had at LAX. However we took a taxi to the Basel Hilton and Viking was very accommodating in reimbursing us for the expense.
I took this shot of the Basel Hilton at the end of a day of touring the city. The sun was setting and gave the setting a warm glow. It was a very nice hotel and the included breakfasts were spectacular.
We went out that first evening for a genuine Swiss meal at a restaurant called Elsbethenstubli. I got a veal dish, which was very good. And expensive. But you find that you enjoy meals more if you regard foreign currency as play money.
Al and Linda Switzler and Dawn in front of our restaurant.
The next morning Viking had arranged a walking tour with a guide, who was all decked up in a Swiss-looking outfit. She was a very professional guide, as was the case with most of the guides we had on the tour.
Our Basel guide was dressed to the nines. She told us that the glass skylight pyramids in the background were not copied from the Louvre, but vice versa.
Basel strike me as an exceedingly clean and well-run city — a place you wouldn’t mind living in. Here are some pictures of some of the things we saw.
The folks in Basel have a sense of humor. They have a pond with a variety of fountains, all creatively mixing up the water.
Click on the link below to see the short video I took of the fountain in action. Hit the “back” button when you’re finished.
(As you’ll see, I am not a very accomplished videographer!)
In the afternoon and evening we wandered around town. By then we had a pretty good lay of the land. We had been given tram passes that would take us anywhere in the city, so we just rode one tram to the end of the line and then back into town again.
I was very impressed with the public transport system in Basel. It seemed very ecologically friendly — electric trams and bicycles were the main means of transportation.
I just liked this window, especially with the birds nest in it.
And I liked this clock.
And this whimsical piece of outdoor art in one of the eating squares.
I don’t know the significance of this lion-monkey-tongues-out-bas-relief, but I liked it. If any readers know what it signifies, let me know!
Another colorful building.
Another shot of the colorful city hall. We stopped in a MacDonald’s on the opposite side of the and got some American-style soft drinks with ice!
This is the Basel Munster, the biggest and oldest church in the city. It was begun in 1019 and finished in 1500–a nearly 500-year construction project! Along the way the original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1356. Originally a Catholic cathedral, it is now a reformed Protestant church.
The interior of the Munster.
Later in the afternoon we took a streetcar to the Kunstmuseum and took in the Renoir exhibit. Some beautiful impressionist art.
Quite by accident we missed our streetcar stop at the Kunst Museum and had to walk back across the bridge over the Rhine. How lucky we were! Otherwise, we never would have seen a spectacular example of “yarn bombing.” We had never heard of it at the time, but later learned that it is a form of street art or graffiti using knitted yarn to cover structures like poles, trees and bridge railings.There must have been hundreds of artists who participated in this yarn bombing.
Some of the knitters were especially creative!
After our visit to the museum we walked back into town and had dinner at one of the many open-air restaurants along the main street. It felt good to get off our feet. While we ate, this fellow walked down our street, stopping at most of the restaurants along the way. He had a following of raucous students accompanying him. I’m not sure what the point was–perhaps some sort of college fraternity hazing. He had a pink purse and periodically people would put money into it. He also seemed to be getting a free glass of beer at most every stop.
The next morning we had time to kill while waiting to board our ship. We took a streetcar back to the Munster, where Dawn and I negotiated the winding medieval staircase up to the top of the bell tower. (Al and Linda couldn’t make the climb, but they were good sports and came along.) There was quite a view from the top! Here we are looking one way down the Rhine.
And here we are looking the other way up the river.
Dawn, looking none the worse for wear after our grueling climb. (Well, “grueling” may be too strong a word.)
A colorful tower, as seen from the Munster.
Looking back down from the tower gives you an idea of how high we were.
Back on earth again!
Next post: We board the Viking Embla for its maiden voyage and sail off down the Rhine.