Our day trip into Switzerland presented a neat surprise. At the end of October, Basel puts on a 2 week Fall market. Its plazas and parks buzzed with small dark, wooden stalls filled with Swiss chocolates, baked goods, handcrafted bowls, and various other festival vendors and foods. We had no idea that this festival was occurring. We threw ourselves headlong into the festivities while touring our quick Swiss stop.
Basel, Switzerland is culturally unique in that it lies at a crossroads of three countries: France, Switzerland, and Germany. A point on the Rhine river signifies this with a large tower. The townspeople speak a mix of French and German, and all the signs posted were the same. The city had train stations serving both France and Germany, and its river provides essential transport and shipping through those countries, too.
The architecture in Basel was not unlike the cities in France. Old timbered facades on white, grey, and brown two to three storied homes and shops instead of the typical multi-colored scheme. The city was very quiet, especially when compared to other cities with similar traffics of pedestrians. The overcast, rainy skyline brought fog that was only punctuated periodically by the spires of churches and flash of bright lights from a random festival ride.
Switzerland, even for a day, was very expensive. The prices matched our experience in Scandinavia. Several restaurants showed entrée prices for 38 Swiss Francs, which roughly translates to $38. Many corners housed banks such as UBS and CreditSuisse. This did not surprise me as Switzerland is known for its favorable banking, tax, and legal systems. We opted instead to eat quick festival food, and enjoyed a truly Swiss experience. We each ordered a Chasbangel, which was a sesame bread cone filled with molten white wine cheese fondue. Two nearby locals had indicated where to find them and told us that eating it took skill and they were deliciously filling. Skill was almost an understatement. I laughed as Hannah tried to lick cheese from the side of hers, to only spill fondue out the top onto a napkin. It was treacherous. The cheese was almost too hot to eat as it bubbled up as we took a bite. The aftertaste of the cheese delivered a crisp taste of white wine. It was very good, but not a treat I could eat often, perhaps once per year. Hannah grabbed a small bag of Swiss treats called mandrobat, which were chocolate covered gingerbreads.
As the sun set on our day, we boarded our train back to France and sleepily tucked into our books.