Autumn walk 2017

Around this time last year, I went for a walk along a stream near where I live. A year before that I had walked along the same stream and taken photos of the gorgeous autumn colours. It was only afterwards that I realised the photos had been taken on the same day. This year I wanted to take photos on the same day again, but unfortunately I misremembered the date and thought the others had been taken on 31st October. Actually, it was the 30th. Oh well…one day out is basically the same, right?

The trees have been weird this year with some of them changing from green to yellow then brown and finally losing most of their leaves all within a single weekend (a few weeks ago) while others are still looking very green even now. Two years ago I’m sure all the trees were red and yellow and orange at this stage? Anyway, here are some photos of this year’s autumn walk.

Leaving the house immediately proved worth it when I saw this guy mere minutes into my walk:

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As you can see, it was an absolutely glorious day for a walk. Hard to believe it had been freezing cold and rainy just two days earlier!

And finally, here’s a comparison of this year with the autumns of the past two years:

From left to right, the end of October 2015, 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately the photos weren’t taken in the exact same place/direction, but they are very close together and you definitely get an idea of how different the colours have been at the exact same time of year! I actually think last year was even greener… this year’s photo looks more yellow, while 2015 had all the orange. Now let’s hope we’re still here at this time next year so I can see what the colours are doing then!

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Kandinsky, Marc & Der Blaue Reiter at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

Hello my lovelies! It’s been a whole week since I last posted (and almost as long since I came to visit anyone else’s blog. Sorry about that… I will be over soon!). Visitors, work and card making have conspired to keep me away from this little space of mine! But now I’m back with a post about a visit to an art gallery, which counted for November in Take 12 Trips. That means I’m actually caught up with Take 12 Trips posts since I haven’t actually taken my December trip yet!

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Outside the Fondation Beyeler building

At the beginning of November, a friend came to visit us because he wanted to go to an art exhibition in Basel… or rather in Riehen, a neighbouring town. The exhibition is actually still on at Fondation Beyerler until 22 January and it’s all about the artists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, and an almanac they wanted to produce called “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider), which would collect together artwork and writings from various artists. It was supposed to be published annually, but only one ever appeared, in 1912. After that war got in the way and Franz Marc was actually killed at Verdun in 1916.

You were allowed to take photos of some of the art in the gallery (some things had a “no photos” symbol beside them), so here are a few of the ones I took:

Most of the work was too abstract for me, but it was interesting to look at – and especially to see Marc’s transition from relatively normal looking animals (in funny colours) to things that could juuust about still be recognised as what he claimed they were. Kandinsky is really not to my taste though!

After looking at the art, we headed out into the gardens, which at the time were filled with lovely autumn colours. A few photos from there:

Touristy bit: To get to Fondation Beyerle, take tram number 6 to Fondation Beyeler. You can also take tram 2 to Riehen Dorf, but from there you will have to walk a little bit.

This art gallery visit was my November trip for Take 12 Trips 2016. One more trip to go!

The basilisks of Basel

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The basilisk is a legendary reptile said to be “king of the serpents or snakes”. Allegedly it was hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or toad (making it kind of the opposite of a cockatrice, which is hatched from a cockerel’s egg that was incubated by a serpent or toad). Part reptile and part bird, the basilisk is usually described as a crested snake, or as a cockerel with a snake’s tail. A basilisk can kill you with a look or a breath, while it in turn can only be killed by a weasel,  a cockerel’s crow or by being made to look at its own reflection.

The basilisk is also the heraldic animal of Basel. Various legends connect the city with the mythical beast – probably thanks to the similarity of the names (Basilea is another name for Basel, which makes the connection even more obvious). One legend has it that a basilisk once lived in a cave below the site of what is now the Gerberbrunnen (tanner’s fountain) another that a merchant once brought a basilisk to Basel. In 1474 a cockerel was sentenced to death in Basel. His crime? He was accused of having laid an egg, which of course went against nature, and the citizens of Basel were afraid that said egg would hatch into a basilisk. The cockerel was beheaded following a proper trial and the offending egg cast into the fire.

Below, you see the Gerber fountain. The writing tells the story of the basilisk that lived below it, but more poetically than I did.

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Given the above, you can naturally find many basilisks in Basel. You can hardly walk down a street without seeing one! Today I want to share some of those basilisks with you.

The most obvious basilisks come in the form of a fountain. If you spend any time in Basel, you will come across a basilisk fountain sooner or later. These fountains go all the way back to 1884, when they were the winner of a competition. Originally there were 50 of them. Now there are apparently 28, although I haven’t seen them all. The water in the basilisk fountains can be drunk, and my favourite feature (other than the obvious fact of the basilisk) is that each one has a little bowl at the bottom so dogs can have a drink too!

All the basilisks along the Rhine face towards the water… apart from one. You can see it in a couple of the photos above. This is the basilisk that stands across the river from the cathedral. The idea is that this one faces away from the Rhine to allow people to take a photo with both the basilisk and the cathedral. Ironically, you can’t actually see the cathedral in either of my photos above!

Next up, the giant basilisk from the Wettstein bridge… another one that’s hard to miss if you find yourself in the right place!

As you can probably tell by the sky, those photos were taken at different times. I have a thing for taking the same photos over and over 😉

Originally this big basilisk was one of four, two of which stood at each end of the bridge. All four basilisks still exist, but only  this one still stands at the original location. One has been exiled and now stands somewhere by Lake Lucerne, another stands in the courtyard of a building called “Zum Basilisk” and I have no idea how to get in to see him. But the fourth and final one stands at the entrance to the “Lange Erlen” animal park… and I took a trip there just so I could get photos of him for you:

Many companies in Basel have appropriated the Basel for their name (well, wouldn’t you?). There’s a Basilisk hotel – with its own basilisk standing outside – a local radio station called Basilisk and a Basilisk electronics company. One of the local breweries even named a beer Basilisk (and a very nice beer it is too – can recommend!).

There are various basilisks (or creatures that I assume are basilisks!) at the town hall, including a golden one sitting a Roman soldier’s helmet, and several on top of the SBB train station.

Various other basilisks are dotted around the place… rendered in metal, carved into walls, sitting on buildings… You’ll find that a lot of them are holding shields with the “Baselstab” or Basel staff, a stylised version of a bishop’s staff that is emblem of Basel, going back to the days when it was Catholic (it isn’t any more). After all, as the heraldic animal it’s the basilisk’s duty to hold the coat of arms!

I haven’t said where most of the basilisks featured here are, partly because I don’t remember where every single photo was taken, but also because I want to encourage people to spot the basilisks themselves as they walk around (hint: look up a lot!). You may have been overwhelmed by the photos in this post, but trust me there are many, many more to be found if you keep your eyes open!

So, what do you think? Fancy coming to Basel for a basilisk hunt?

Delémont, Switzerland

After a very few hot days, July 31st promised to be a lot cooler, so Jan and I decided to go hiking… just in time for me to sneak it in for July’s contribution to take 12 trips ;-). Jan suggested heading bit further afield than we had on previous hikes and mentioned Delémont, so I looked for a hike that started there and found one that took roughly 2 hours and went up the hill beside the town. We were supposed to come past the Chapelle du Vorbourg and the ruins of Vorbourg castle, but the route description wasn’t very good and somehow we missed them. Oh well.

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As you can see from the photo above, it was chucking it down when we arrived in Delémont. It was also thundering, but we decided to continue with our hike anyway and see how things went. After all, skin is waterproof…

It wasn’t long before we saw the Jura coat of arms in the side of the mountain… just in case we hadn’t realised which canton we were in 😉

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The first part of the hike took us around the outskirts of town, past housing estates along paved roads. By the time we reached the part where we were to enter the woods, the thunder had stopped and the rain had died down, so we decided it would be safe enough to enter the trees…

Having difficulty following the instructions I had printed, we decided that the place where we were must have been where it wanted us to start heading up through the trees. In hindsight, we were wrong since we never did come across any chapel! We did, however, eventually find a break in the trees from where we could look down on the town.

Just up the hill from there was a proper viewing platform, so I had shoved my way into the gap between the trees for nothing!

With all the rain, the snails were out in full force. We had to be careful not to tread on the ones that were hanging out in the middle of the path!

How pretty is that shell though?

After admiring the view, we headed back down the mountain and towards the old town. Pretty much as soon as we were away from the woods the sun came out!

The whole old town was full of flag bunting. I’m not sure whether it’s always there or they had hung it up specially because the next day was the national holiday. I only recognised two of the coats of arms – the one for Jura and the one for Delémont town. You can see both of those on the first picture below. The others are presumably from the other towns that belong to Delémont district?

The old town of Delémont is small but very pretty and we had a nice wander round in the sunshine.

Too soon it was time to head back to the train station – we were meeting people to watch the fireworks and wanted to shower first. We grabbed some tasty food from the station café and a beer from the little Coop supermarket at the station and ate and drank those while waiting for the train.

This is a nice little hike for a day that you don’t have time for a longer one (just make sure not to miss the chapel and castle like we did!) and Delémont old town is worth a look at, although it’s so small that I wouldn’t make that the entire itinerary for your day trip!

Monday Escapes has been revived with new hosts, so I’m linking up with Travel Loving Family, Extraordinary Chaos, Tin Box Traveller and Mini Travellers for that. And of course I’ve already mentioned that this was my July trip for #Take12Trips, which was originally the brainchild of Clare at Need Another Holiday.Travel Loving Family

Views from the top of Basel cathedral

Apparently after posting every single day the week before last I was slightly burned out, hence no post at all last week! We also had Jan’s dad staying this weekend so there wasn’t really time for the blogosphere. I promise to come and read everyone’s blogs soon though!

The day after we went to the Rhine Falls with my mum and brother, I took them to Mariastein Abbey and the ruins of the Landskron castle. My photos from that day aren’t much different to the ones here though, so I will move straight on to July when Jan’s mum and her partner were visiting. We decided to climb up the tower of Basel Cathedral, which I hadn’t even known was possible until then! It was a gorgeous sunny day, which made for some great views:

The red tower in the last picture is part of the town hall (Rathaus) and the interesting looking roof at the front is the Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Cultures).

It was nice to see the roof of the cathedral up close – I think it’s really pretty!

Finally, some photos of the gargoyles. They always amuse me 🙂

And once again I was left thinking “Wow, I actually live here!”.

The two towers of Basel Cathedral – Georgsturm and Martinsturm – can be climbed any time that the cathedral is open for a fee of 5 francs (payable at the information desk).

Graubünden – June 2016

I’m slowly catching up on blogging my Take 12 Trips adventures for 2016. With this post, I’m only two months behind!

At the beginning of June, a colleague of Jan’s was playing at an accordion festival in Disentis Abbey. Disentis is in the canton of Graubünden (of Grisons in French), which we had herd was a beautiful area with lots of amazing scenery and many hiking opportunities, so we decided we would go down there for a weekend, watch the colleague perform on the Saturday and then spend the Sunday hiking before returning home, ready for work on Monday. We booked a hotel in Breils or Brigels (Graubünden is trilingual canton!) and set off bright and early on Saturday morning. The plan was to walk from Brigels train station to the hotel, but it turned out to be at least an hour’s walk up the mountain, so instead we took the Postauto (bus run by Swiss Post). Brigels is a cute little town that probably has a beautiful view on clear days… I wouldn’t know, we had clouds 😉 After checking in to our hotel, we bought a sandwich from the supermarket and ate it on a bench overlooking the town. Here are some photos from Brigels:

After we had eaten, we took the bus back down to the train station. After checking what time the last bus back to Brigels would be (pretty early!), we took the train to Disentis and went in search of the accordion festival. The festival was also part festival, so we watched a number of groups play the same pieces before Jan’s colleague’s group took to the stage. This group was more professional than the others and was taking part non-competitively so they could just play without worrying about points. Even non-musical me noticed that they were much better than the others! We decided not to stay for the rest of the competition and went for a quick walk around Disentis. It turned out there wasn’t much to see and I took a grand total of four photos there!

Soon it was time to head back to the train station so we could catch the bus back to Brigels. Once up there, we walked around for a bit (but I took no photos because I had forgotten my memory card and had only the memory on the camera itself, meaning I was limited in how many I could take!) then had a delicious dinner at the hotel before getting an early night. We wanted to be up early the next day to fit in a nice hike before we had to go home!

After breakfast the next day we headed out to catch the bus back down to the train station and from there took a train to a station called Oberalppasshöhe on the Operalp Pass, a pass high up in the mountains. We wanted to hike to the source of the Rhine, which is considered to be at the Tomasee (Lag da Toma, or Toma Lake), but the hiking paths weren’t officially open yet and there was still some snow around so we didn’t quite make it. We could see that some people had already crossed the snow and presumably gone all the way up, but my shoes weren’t quite good enough and I was scared to cross the largest expanses of snow! We had a lovely hike anyway though and ended up walking around for roughly 3.5 hours, which isn’t bad (especially since it rained part of the time)! I’ve promised Jan I will go back with him when the weather is better and actually go all the way to the lake.

The Rhine ends in Rotterdam, where it flows into the North Sea, so near where the train stops at the start of the hiking trail there is a lighthouse, a smaller replica of one in Rotterdam. Apparently the replica at the Oberalp Pass is the highest lighthouse in the world. But enough rambling, I’m sure what you really want is photos!

 

A second gallery… too many photos for one! (As always, click photos to enlarge)

The staff at a restaurant  near the train station had kindly agreed to look after our luggage for us, so when we went to pick it up we decided we deserved a treat after all that hiking in the snow. Beer and Bünder Gerstensuppe (barley soup). We also had cake but I scoffed that too quickly for a photo 😉

Finally it was time to be on our way. The train home took us on a beautiful route, over a gorge and then around the other side of Lake Lucerne, through Schywz (a tiny canton, but the one that gives Switzerland its name). Two train changes later, we were finally home where we went straight to bed ready for a week of work starting the next day!

This first trip to Graubünden was incredibly short, but it’s okay – it definitely won’t be our last!

Linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey for Monday Escapes.

Travel Monkey

Two castles and a cathedral

On Saturday the sun was shining for the first time in what felt like weeks, so we thought we’d better make the most of it and go out for the afternoon (and it’s a good job we did – on Sunday the rain was back!).

I suggested that we could take a trip to Arlesheim in Basel-Landschaft to see the cathedral, which is famous for being the only “Dom” in Switzerland. For those who don’t speak German, I shall explain. Dom means cathedral, and the one in Arlesheim certainly isn’t the only cathedral in Switzerland, but the others are either called Kathedrale – as in the Kathedrale St. Mariä Himmelfahrt in Chur – or Münster (minster), such as the Basler Münster (Basel Minster). Not that I’ve personally ever understood the difference between a minster and a cathedral even in English, but there you have it!

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Arlesheim is a cute little village – well, of course it’s cute, this is Switzerland! I’ve yet to see a village that isn’t cute! The cathedral itself is also kind of cute – it doesn’t look big enough to be a cathedral! But I suppose size isn’t a criterion. I felt kind of bad taking photos inside because everyone else in there seemed to actually be praying. It didn’t stop me though… I just tried to take my photos respectfully.

After visiting the cathedral, which obviously didn’t take long, we decided to try and find a castle that we had spotted from the tram on the way to Arlesheim. It turned out to be very close to the village, at the top of a hill. To get there, we had to walk through the Erimitage (Hermitage), which you would expect to be some kind of religious building where hermits went to be along, but in this case is actually a landscaped garden. Apparently the original garden, which was destroyed, contained things like a suspension bridge, artificial tower ruins and a waterfall. These days, it’s basically a hill with steps that lead through various caves. It still looks pretty cool though!

The castle turned out to be Schloss Birseck. We couldn’t go inside because it’s not open yet (and wouldn’t have been on a Saturday anyway). The opening times are May to October on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

The Birs, by the way, is a small river – a tributary to the Rhine – and Eck (or Ecke) means corner. So presumably the castle is in a corner of the Birs. There’s also an area of Basel called Birsfelden, meaning Birs Fields.

Across the road from Schloss Birseck, we saw a sign pointing to Burg Reichenstein, another castle. After about a 10 minute walk – during which I very much regretted my choice of thick tights and a winter coat (the temperature was more like mid-September than early-February!) – we found this second castle.

A sign on the gate told us that a private function was currently in progress at the castle and only invited guests were allowed in, so after taking some photos of the outside we headed back down the hill via a different route, this time through the woods. My research tells me that, while you can book the castle for events, it’s not generally open to the public. There is a picnic area beside the castle with a public grill for barbecues – you just bring your own meat and (I presume) coal!

On a sunny day, Arlesheim and its surrounding castles are well worth a visit, and there’s even the option of taking a slightly longer walk (about 30-40 minutes) through the woods to visit a third castle – the ruins of Schloss Dorneck in nearby Dornach. In fact, I might even suggest that to Jan as a hike for us at some point…

Okay, that’s enough advertising Basel-Landschaft as a tourist destination for one day 😉 It’s time for lunch!