Basel and the Black Forest

We’ve been to Switzerland before but only really for an afternoon so for us it was an easy decision to stop here on the way south.

After a hot ride down from Metz we were welcomed by Erol , our host, with a glass of wine a beer and a delicious BBQ out on the veranda. Perfect. we couldn’t have asked for more after such a day.

Crossing a border and coming into another country is always strange for me; how an unseen mark on the ground determines language, culture, friendship is beyond me. We’re all people at the end of the day. Nevertheless how quickly it is possible to see a contrast and change always surprises me. Here was no different: as soon we crossed over the border from France the houses changed, the street signs changed (they’re in German for example) and an indescribable atmosphere too: it is obvious the economy is better here, the shops and houses look more expensive, it’s cleaner… Or perhaps it is just the glorious weather we’ve got making it all look this way!?

Anyway, Erol was free the next morning so after a slow get up, we made or way into the city together. Jake and I took the tram and Erol cycled as he was going to continue to work.

We jumped off in the center – at Barfüsserplatz – and took a walk through the old city and up towards the Basler Münster, the cathedral. From this spot we had a fantastic view over the Rhine and opposite bank of the river.

Apart from the bridges it is also possible to cross the Rhine by ferry. Although this one has no motor but simply uses the energy of the river. Attached to a wire spanning the river a tiller is turned to face one way or another depending on which way you want to travel; and so you move across. Simple.

Erol had told us that it was common for people to swim in the Rhine and from this bank we could see dozens of people doing this. Swim isn’t the right word I don’t think, people jump in upriver and simply float along with the current then jump out a kilometer or so down stream. Walk back and repeat. Not a bad idea on a day as hot as this! From this side of the river swimming isn’t possible so we hopped on the little ferry and crossed to the other side.

We didn’t float down the river but joined the dozens of people just sat in it, on the bank by of the bridges. As we weren’t planning to be near to the coast on this trip I didn’t bring any swimming things but as you can imagine that didn’t stop me. I put on Jake’s spare boxer shorts and went swimming in them and my bra. Problem solved!

After an hour or so of bobbing around here I left Jake to sunbathe and chat while I went to have another look around the city. The old center is really beautiful, a mismatch of colorful, timber framed buildings (some going back to the 12th Century), strong white stone, 19th century buildings and of course more additions between this. The result is quite impressive – it just works.

After a few hours in the sun we were both feeling pretty hot and thought it best to have a bit of time home and in the shade.

Just outside of the city center is the three countries point, the place where Switzerland, Germany and France meet. Once the day had cooled down we thought we’d go take a look. It is a rather strange place, not initially looking like a tourist destination. Although there is a bar here, it is also the port of Basel; to get here you have to cross he industrial looking area and for a minute or 2 we thought we’d taken a wrong turn.

On the way back we stopped again, this time at the Schloss Bottmingen or Bottmingen castle. Dating from the 15th Century this fortified house , surrounded by a moat it has been turned into a silver service restaurant. We did take a walk inside, perhaps to look at the menu, but seeing waiters in bow ties and diners dressed particularly smart we quickly turned around. Anyway, at night the outside is all lit up and I think was the best way to see this place. The effect of the light and the reflection in the moat was just fantastic. Jake managed to get some good shots.

Erol our host had suggested we visit the black forest as it is so close to Basel. As we wanted to visit when we were last in this area, and seeing as we have transport, we decided it would have been silly to miss the opportunity! (Also, this is a great area for riding bikes so Jake was doubly keen!)

Our day started with a ride up to Freiburg. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Black Forest’ the city is a Medieval town similar to Colmar in France. It was well over 30 degrees so as soon as we arrived we stripped off our bike clothes to be able to walk around the city without melting. I was quite impressed how small they managed to fold up – we got both of our jackets and trousers into two shopping bags. It’s still a lot to lug around but if we want to travel by bike this is what we’ve got to do.

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We parked close to the Martinstor, or old city gate, which is quite impressive although unfortunately spoiled by the huge McDonald’s sign above the archway. In the countries we visited so far, they all seem to be bike friendly, meaning you can park almost anyway without needing a ticket. I guess this goes along with the fact there are more bikes this side of the channel.

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We took a stop for lunch in the center then I took a walk to the cathedral and around the Münsterplatz.

From Freiburg we took a winding road west into the Black Forest. Within a few kilometers the land changed entirely; we left behind the town, passed through a narrow gorge and emerged high up in the hills. As far as the eye could see were hills and thick forest. It was pretty spectacular. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to take a picture in this spot.

Within the forest there are several lakes and as it was such a hot day it sounded like a good plan to make our way towards one of them. Erol had recommended Lake Titisee – both for the beautiful scenery and great roads getting to it.

The roads lived up to Jake’s expectations but the lake not so much. Well, no that’s not fair. The lake is beautiful: clear blue water, surrounded by stunning countryside. Only the town in Titisee itself was awful. Overflowing with people the central streets were full of ludicrously priced traditional shops selling every sort of German foods, drinks souvenirs as well as everything you could imagine needing to swim . it was just too much. Instead of sticking around here we made our way up to a viewpoint opposite the town. From here it looks like a lovely place!!

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Further along this road was Lake Schluchsee. Here it was much calmer and quieter. We stopped at the side of the lake and sat for an hour, admiring the view and cooling down.

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The ride home took us through more of the forest, which looked different again as the sun was setting. I managed to get a couple of photos from the back of the bike.

That evening Jake went into Basel to meet our host for a drink. Tired out from the day,  I decided to sleep!

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