I am, finally in Switzerland. In the centre of Basle in the square outside the train station.
The general consensus of opinion at the campsite last night was to watch the fireworks in Basel to celebrate the Swiss national day from the bridge in the picture. The campsite was in France, the right hand side of the bridge is in France, the left hand bit being in Germany and what you can see through the arch of the bridge is in Switzerland so the vantage point seemed a good one.
The French side was very residential with little going on. Indeed when I cycled around the streets looking for a shop to buy some food I found nothing. No shop, no bar. Nothing. Asking a local where I could get something to eat she said “il faut aller en Allemagne” which was not really the answer I expected; it’s not often that someone directs you to another country to buy a bit of bread and cheese! But she was of course correct; the shops that I needed were on the other side of the footbridge. I cycled across and was suddenly plunged into a German frenzy of people and shopping. There was a gigantic supermarket on two levels contained within an even larger shopping centre. Very, very disconcerting moving from a very familiar culture into a very unfamiliar one within seconds.
Back at the campsite I had earlier been chatting to a Dutch cyclist called “Bob” (not his real name but an adopted name as he assured me his real name was unpronounceable if you didn’t speak Dutch. I tried and failed so stuck with Bob). Bob and I went to the bridge at around 10.30pm to watch the fireworks but we couldn’t see that much. The crowd around us didn’t seem to be dwindling however; perhaps they were easily pleased. A few coloured explosions in the far distance, nothing to get too excited about. I suggested we return back to the campsite and I headed off to bed.
Nodding off, I suddenly heard a series of very loud bangs and shrieks. It was of course the start of the real fireworks, the ones everybody had been patiently waiting for. I stayed in bed and missed out on the display! the part continued with very loud music emanating from Switzerland until 3am.
I was up early this morning and by 7.30am had crossed the border into Switzerland. No border control although clearly an actively policed border as the authorities had a brand spanking new office; certainly no run down disused former guard post here! But just as I had felt crossing to the supermarket last night, I found myself, within seconds, in unfamiliar territory trying to fathom signs in a language I don’t speak. The streets of Basel were deserted apart from a few drunken or hungover stragglers from last night’s festivities. Nothing was open but I did find a cashpoint and immediately took out 200 Swiss Franc. Again, more unfamiliarity as I handled a couple of very colourful notes. Not that I could find anywhere to spend my new notes. I tried to find the centre but it didn’t really seem to exist in one place so I finally settled on following directions for the “Bahn” or railway station. Even in the most quiet of cities on a Sunday morning, train stations are full of life. And so it was. I bought a coffee in very pigeon German (pointing and saying “eine”) and a delicious pastry that contained an unknown (to me) fruit.
So… where is Swiss national cycleroute number 3? That is what I must now find. More later.
Interesting to hear how unfamiliar just crossing a bridge can make you feel with a new language/roadsigns and general feel to a place. Of course you’re not the only person to cross a border to buy basic provisions – I seem to remember a couple of excursions from Italy into Switzerland for petrol with a certain person!
It’s clearly in the Robertshaw genes. Hope you are enjoying the blog… PowerPoint in mental preparation 🙂
Perhaps it’s in the genes…