07 May 2020 - Day 26 – Basel
Rising a little late at the Hotel Kléber in Strasbourg, I redid my suitcase to juggle the week of soiled clothing, putting the parka and heavier sports jacket at the top of the roller, and headed downstairs to check out. My fifteen-minute walk took me up to the canal and along the quai to cross on the Rue du Maire Kuss.
At the café Rive Gauche, I bought a pain au chocolat and a decaf Americano to go before continuing straight up to the Gare Centrale. Finding my SBB Swiss train was a little confusing, hence my early arrival for the 9:51 departure. After 10 minutes, the track was posted and announced, and I headed to the train. Second class cars are nicely spiffy, and the luggage areas more than sufficient. My eighty-minute ride rolled by super smoothly.
Exactly on time, we rolled into the #Basel bahnhof. My hotel Ressliryti was a kilometer and a half away across the Rhine River. After a few minutes of orientation, I headed out of the building heading north, and within a half hour I was entering a pink/gray and white four-story pair of buildings on a corner. As it was approaching on noon, the room was ready, and I took the lift up two levels to a nice room facing on Theodorsgraben. The guy at the reception said he’d have a packet of tourist information when I came down, so after pulling my jacket out to hang and plugging in the electric toothbrush to charge, I returned to the lobby. Efficiently, I was handed a map, a list of bars and restaurants nearby, several coupons discounting attractions.
My need, however, was to find the bus depot. When planning the trip, I’d found that the Münster here in Basel was an ex-cathedral, having converted to Protestant in the Calvinist era. It was located directly across the river, and I’d seen the steeples as I walked to the hotel. However, there is a pro-cathedral outside of Basel in Arlesheim that I wanted to visit first. Karl told me the bus depot was just on the far side of the train station, so I’d just need to repeat my initial walk in reverse.
The bus departure with destination of Dornach was at 1:15, so I had an hour plus. Crossing the Wettsteinbrücke again, I turned right on Rittergasse to view the Münster and check its hours. As expected, it would be open until 4pm. Retracing my steps, I walked past the Kunstmuseum, which has a copy of the Rodin Burghers of Calais in front of the entrance. This is one of my favorite sculptures – I sort of collect them. After this fine arts museum, on the opposite side is the Kunsthalle, the modern art museum. Further down a tall neogothic Offene Kirche Elisabethen rose high over the street, and I poked my head in and saw a brilliantly high vaulted space with an organ loft over the entry door. I was able to enjoy (and see) all the blooming flowers as I traversed through De-Wette Park. Crossing the boulevard, I arrived at the tram stops in front of the main Basel train station.
Passing through the building, I came out on the far side to a big loop with bus stalls. Determining where the #10 would leave, I used a credit card to get a ticket from a vending machine, as I hadn’t visited an ATM for Swiss francs yet. I found out later that Euros work as well. I also bought a return ticket at the machine. Boarding the bus for Dornach, it was an 8-minute ride to #Arlesheim.
A 15-minute walk took me to the Arlesheimer Dom, also known as l’Èglise Sainte-Marie. When the diocese in Basel was displaced by the Protestant Revolution, the cathedral chapter located here from 1679 to 1792, when it moved to Frieburg. The pipe organ sits in a loft above the entry door, with the nave vault filled with a pastel mural of the Assumption. The choir stalls are outside the sanctuary, bracketing the new main wooden altar. The high altar, up 4 steps is marble and the mural behind it is framed by gilded marble columns and two statues.
Having accomplished this mission, I walked back to the bus stop in Dornach, and caught a #10 bus in the direction of Ettingen. After the 8-minute ride to Basel, I got off at the Bankverienstop, which I’d passed on my walks earlier. This put me within a half kilometer of the Münster which I reached just before 3pm.
A red sandstone building on the exterior, the stone work in the interior is beige. There are twin spires (named Georg and Martin after the knight-saints) at the western façade, and the roof is tiled in a decorative diamond design. There is a cloister on the south side attached to the building. The former cathedral was built in a traditional cruciform floorplan, with equal transepts and a rounded apse with an ambulatory.
As four o’clock arrived, the church was cleared and closed. Next on my agenda was a performance in the evening. I thought that the Musical Theater Basel is in downtown, close to the Kunsthalle. However, that address is its office. Using Google Maps, I located it across the river and a half hour walk from the Münster. With a 6:30 pre-concert talk, I had enough time to stroll along the riverbank to another bridge downriver before crossing.
At the Mittlere Brücke, I went into the Clara District where I zigged and zagged my way along through a shopping district along the Sperrstrasse. I hit an ATM so I had a few hundred Swiss francs, and stopped at Café Bistro Clara, a tapas bar. Well before dinner, I was able to find a small table inside. I ordered a tapas sampler plate and a glass of sangria, then spending a half hour writing in my journal.
The pre-concert start was approaching, so I hoofed it out onto the sidewalk and moved faster than my usual stroll to the theater. Spotting a flow of people into the building, I joined them and found a seat in the auditorium. This evening’s concert was called Golden Hollywood, so I expected a talk about which films the music would be extracted from. But I didn’t know if it would be French or German. I probably could have guessed, as the ticket addressed me a Herr – the talk was in German. With an understanding of German, it proved to not be too difficult, as I got the gist of the talk and was ready to return to enjoy the music.
Clearing the hall after the talk, the pre-concert attendees joined a growing crowd of concertgoers. Once the doors opened, I waited for the initial surge to enter and get to the bar (concert crowds are all quite similar) before I passed my ticket through the scanner. Sent upstairs to what I would call the balcony, I was directed to the front row of the “Loge”, off to the left. Perfect. Whenever I hear an orchestra, I will try to situate myself so the bass viols are pointed in my direction, and here I had great sightlines and was sitting in the perfect spot.
Suffice to say, the orchestra played extremely well, the music was eclectic and varied, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. At the interval, the crowd was abuzz with conversation, and I must have heard a dozen languages. The second half seemed over much too soon, and we were out on the plaza by 9:15, with time for a late dinner. I hadn’t been “picked up” by a curious couple, so I started my solo walk back towards the hotel down Riehenring, which seemed a major boulevard through the district.
Google Maps didn’t fail – I found a small restaurant still open just off this main drag, The Pub. A quasi-British establishment, I ordered a mug of beer and a chicken burger with fries. A quick, satisfying meal with no frills.
Back on the Riehenring, it veered towards the Rhine and became the Riehenstrasse. At Hammerstrasse, I followed it to the Wettsteinplatz, a rotary just a block west of my hotel. I headed upstairs, shed the jacket and shoes, and started my nighttime routine. The toothbrush still needed more charging, but I had enough plugs and adapters for the phone and the camera batteries.