Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – Thursday, June 6th, 2019
It is summer, and we are on the road again. After twenty-four hours of travel, we have hopscotched two continents, and find ourselves starting our summer vacation in Basel, Switzerland, basking in the hot, bright, dry sunshine of western Europe.
We are visiting Sam and Sarah, who are getting married in the presence of all their family and friends from Europe, next weekend, and taking the chance to stay with them in their lovely new home in Basel. This is a lovely a garden we’re in. From where I sit on a small terrace, I can see a riotous herb corner with parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, and a lot that I can’t recognize. Beyond that, we have the neighbors’ flower patches, with lavender, bright orange poppies, and magenta-colored blossoms. To my left is a long, grassy backyard lined with large pink roses in bloom, and a shady backyard with chairs and a table. Now that I’ve freshly showered and had a chance to drink some water and tea, It feels like forever since we were traveling, but it’s the travel that has lasted forever, and we only arrived in Switzerland this morning.
The past few days have been some crazy, busy rush to get ready for the summer. Steve and I made stops at work, the bank, brunching with friends, dropping off keys, and said goodbye to Stella on Monday. Yesterday, we cleaned up our house as best as we could because later this summer, other folks will be staying there, and threw out the last of our trash. We unexpectedly brought an umbrella along so that we could brave the rain during first ten minutes of our trip between our front door and the MRT station, and were finally off. The first leg of our trip was a short 3 hour hop to Hong Kong, where we enjoyed some final Asian noodles, crowd-watched, and finally boarded an Etihad Airlines flight for Abu Dhabi. The next eight-hour flight was a bit more of a pain, but I succeeded in watching Captain Marvel and catching a little bit of sleep before we alighted in the U.A.E.
Even at 1:30 am, the Abu Dhabi airport is a fascinating place, with advertisements of more dates and chocolates and desert-like goods than you can shake a wooden spoon at. Men wearing long robes with slippers and hats or other head coverings walked about everywhere with each other. We saw planes with destinations we’d never heard of before, like Dammam (a city in Saudi Arabia) and Calicut (third-largest city in Kerala, India), and debated with each other how many AEDs or dhirams to the US dollar (about 5).
When it was time to board our final flight to Zurich, I fell asleep before the plane even got off the ground. When I woke up two hours before we landed, it was clear it was morning. Steve pointed out mountains below us and to our left as we made our slow descent, and these long ranges of mountains were lit up with the beautiful colors of dawn, all lemon-yellow and pale pink. When you’re traveling, I think it makes a big difference whether you do so by bright daylight or the dark of night. After we disembarked and left the airport, we took an hour-long train that leisurely wound from Zurich to Basel in the presence of many commuters on their way to work in the city, and the bright sunlight went some distance to making us feel like we’d arrived.
At Basel, we stopped to get a coffee and some breakfast, and as soon as we had taken a sip of our drinks, I noticed Sarah’s parents Norm and Theresa walk in! I knew they were in town, but even this was a little too coincidental. We had coffee together, shared stories about their trip to Taiwan to see us last year, and also enjoyed seeing a few photos from their first wedding in the US last month. That was a funny coincidence.
When we finally ended up at Sarah’s door, it was a glorious reunion. Sam, Sarah, Steve, and I (why don’t I have a name that starts with S?) have enjoyed each other’s company in no less than four countries before, so we were delighted to spend more time together in the country that they now live in. Their house which they moved into this spring is a delightful narrow house with a long lot of a backyard which seems to be par for the course out here. It’s beautiful to be in the land of single-family homes again, and to have this patch of land to call your own.
For the first afternoon, Steve and I walked to the nearby Tiergarten, which is a small petting zoo-garden. We saw domesticated animals like wooly pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, and chickens, as well as some more exotic animals such as storks (which are native to the area), giant owls, and a lynx, which simply resembled a very large cat. It was a lovely time to simply walk around and enjoy how gloriously warm and dry it was in Switzerland. We finished the evening when Sam came back from work at home, grilling sausages and vegetables on the back porch and drinking beers. The sun sets so late here, and even though we only started getting dinner together around 8 pm, it was finally full dark by the time we finished near 11 pm.
All memory of the warm day had fled when we woke up yesterday. It was down to fifty-degrees, drizzling and breezy outside. Steve and I were at odds about what to do and where to go, but we finally figured things out and ended up walking downtown for lunch (at a Chinese restaurant called Happy Wok – of course) and then to the Basler Munster (Basel Minster). It’s a lovely old Romanesque church that is celebrating its 1000-year anniversary, as parts of the foundations date from 1019. Sometimes, it’s such a great reminder that we come from such young parts of the world, that the oldest thing we can claim in the US only boasts about 400 years of history. We wandered about looking at the crypts below the floor where there were fascinating medieval style paintings that date back to the 1400s, as well as the stained glass windows (one had Jesus in the middle of a six-pointed star wearing a red cloak, which is not something I’ve ever seen before). I even loved the wooden chairs that made up the rows – they all had a different design on the back. I counted at least twenty-something different designs which were all simple and lovely. It reminded me of heraldry in their style and shape.
We finished off the afternoon with coffee and törtchen (little cakes or cupcakes) at a café downtown called Fumare Non Fumare, which was originally a bank of sorts. The first floor was just one big room with a very sunny, lovely atrium in the middle, lit by a large skylight, and there were at least 50-60 people in the room all reading, in conversation, enjoying time with their children or friends at different couches or islands of tables and chairs. It felt warm and lively but not overwhelming. Steve worked on his app while I finished reading Bringing Up Bébé, which is a book about French parenting. It was fascinating to read this while eying the toddlers who were walking around or people breastfeeding their children in the middle of the atrium.
This is kind of an abrupt end, but honestly, I have too much to write about Basel to squeeze it all into one essay. So tomorrow, more about Basel the city and our explorations therein!