To further my goal of getting to know every corner of Switzerland, I recently rounded up a few friends and took a day trip to Basel, which is about an hour away from Zurich by train (as I’ve said before – one of the big benefits of living in Zurich is all of the cool day trips that are around).
From the train station in Basel, we walked towards the old town. We immediately noticed that, like Bern, Basel was less meticulously clean and orderly than Zurich. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Our first stop was to admire the Tinguely Fountain, a busy arrangement of water-spewing figures that entertained us for at least a good 10 minutes. It also solidified our decision to make the Tinguely Museum part of our day.
Next we stopped for a quick coffee at the trendy café fumare non fumare (Gerbergasse 30). My double espresso was horrible, but the spinach-filled Italian rice ball was delicious.
We ploughed onward through the old town and searched the river bank for the king who was sticking out his tongue at the peasants on the other shore. All our guidebooks mentioned him, but we weren’t having any luck, so we decided to get a little tongue-sticking-out in ourselves. Damn peasants! We really showed them.
Anyway, we finally found the king, and stood mesmerized by his mechanical tongue motions and eye rolls for a couple seconds before crossing to the other side of the river in search of the Tinguely Museum. The walk along the river to get there was longer than we expected, but enjoyable given the beautiful views and charming neighborhoods (not so bad given it was the peasant side of the river).
The Tinguely Museum was tons of fun. I usually enjoy museums, but the squiggly, squeaky, twirly, interactive sculptures that filled this one made it good for visitors with even the shortest attention spans. To set each motorized sculpture in motion, the viewer has to step on a big red button on the floor. The buttons didn’t always work, however, so we always felt special when our step was the one that made things go.
The exhibit left us famished, so we had a quick lunch in the museum’s restaurant and headed out again. We took a tram back towards the center and wandered up to the Münster, which was back on the tongue king’s side of the river. This big Gothic cathedral has a beautiful countyard and a back terrace that offers more gorgeous views across the river.
We then headed down some steep stairs to the river bank for a quick ride across on this little boat attached to a wire which we had seen crisscrossing the swiftly-moving river all day. That brought us conveniently back to a group of riverside restaurants we had passed earlier in the day, so we decided to stop for a beer and to enjoy the view.
Then it was back to the old town again, to explore more little streets and to see the Spalentor, a Gothic gate that dates to 1370. It used to be part of the defensive wall that encircled the city. We were also delighted to come across this guy, who appears to be the beer super hero of Basel.
One of our guidebooks recommended a bar that was sort of nearby, so we headed there for an aperitif. Cargo Bar (St. Johanns Rheinweg 46) was a small, hip, student-hang-out-y kind of place, with a friendly bartender who apologized profusely for his inability to make a proper dry martini (my fault for expecting a dry martini to be, well, not sweet).
Finally it was time for a late dinner at a delicious tapas bar, Spalenburg (Schnabelgasse 2), that we found in the old town. Somehow we managed to eat everything we ordered (which had to have been close to one of each thing on the menu). A mad dash to the train station, and we were on our way home to Zurich. I can’t believe we managed to do all of that in one day. And, we still have to go back to see the many other interesting museums, and to sample some of the yummy-looking (but closed for the holiday) restaurants we saw.