Thursday, July 4, 2019

Delightful Old Town - Basel

The Rathaus
As you step out of the tram at the Marketplatz, a huge red coloured building which is imposing and even at this early hour you can see a flock of tourists craning their necks to admire the structure. It is the Market Square of Basel, an old town in Switzerland, which is a lesser explored place compared to Jungfrau, Interlaken and other touted destinations. The Red Coloured building is the Town Hall that has stood since the 14th century and once a corn market used to flourish here. It is also known as the 'Rathaus' or the Council Hall, though it sounds like the Red House. It has such vivid colours and gold cast engravings that one gets transported to an era when a queen may peer out from one of the huge windows. It has a Golden Tower with a clock. There are three patron figures on the clock. As you step into the big courtyard after crossing the huge gate, Gothic style archways and windows and a  statue of Lucius Munatius Plancus, the founder of the Roman City of Augusta Raurica( 10 km from Basel) welcomes the visitors. The Town Hall was built in Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance style 500 years ago.
Mittlere Brucke
A short walk from the Rathaus brings you to Eisengasse and Lallekonig, where till the 19th century one could hear the noise of the blows of iron smith's hammers. The place overlooks the Rhine river, where a bridge now stands. Lalle means 'the Tongue '. A mask once stood here that showed its tongue and rolled his eyes to the onlookers. It is now kept in the History Museum. The Middle Bridge or Mittlere Brucke,  across the Rhine River facing Eisengasse, was built in 1226. It was an important link that helped in flourishing the trade.
St Martin's Church
A tour of the Old Town can commence from this point and in the direction of St Martin's Church. It is said that 11000 holy virgins accompanied St Ursula in the march to this church and were killed at Cologne in Germany on 21 Oct 383 AD.  The St Martin's Church dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest church in the region. It was damaged in an earthquake in the 13th century and was built to its present form today. The place is now used as the University church and is the venue of music concerts due to its beautiful acoustics. A further short walk leads to the yellow building of the Old University of Basel. It was established in  April 1460 and is the oldest in Switzerland. It is ranked among the top 100 in the world. From Rhinesprung the narrow alleyways lead to Minster Square. The old houses of the craftsman can be seen even today. Some of these houses have Gothic windows and belong to the 15th-century vintage. A lovely view of the River Rhine can be had from behind these old houses. Coming back to the alleyway, you can see the Blue and White Houses. These iconic figures were built between 1763 and 1775 for businessmen Lukas and Jakob Sarasin engaged in the manufacture of silk ribbon. Today the offices of the Department of Economy, Social Welfare and Environment exist here.
The Augustine Fountain
Nearby is the Augustine Fountain which is very pretty and has interesting stories woven around it. Adjacent to the fountain is the Museum where one can explore the collections of the period.
The Grand Cathedral at Minster Square
Minster Square has rows of very old houses that belonged to people with a rich lineage dating back at least to eight generations. The Minster is one of the major landmarks of the Old Town and has two slim Gothic towers. The towers are 67m high and are named after Georg and Martin, the saints of the Knights.
The Galluspforte
The Galluspforte is the oldest entry to the Minster. A huge portal displays the highlights of 'The Last Judgement' giving an insight into what is the road to heaven. Above the portal is the Wheel of Fortune highlighting what goes up must come down. Right behind the Minster is the Rhineplatz that offers the splendid views of the River Rhine, the several bridges across it, and views of Germany in distance.
The Cloister
A retreat to The Cloister brings a sudden air of quiet. The Gothic columns and beautiful designs can be seen here. The scholars and businessmen of repute were buried here. After leaving the Cloister one can see The Key Guild, where a restaurant now stands today. It is one of the guild houses of Basel owned by its Guild to this day. Likewise, TheWine People Guild also exists here and is among the fourteen guilds that were formed four centuries ago.  The last stop in the walk of Old Town was Kunstmuseum which is a must visit if you have the time.
Later in the afternoon, a walk along the Rhinegasse along the banks of River Rhine was a lovely experience of seeing the locals making merry and basking in the sun.
The Tinguely Fountain
Our final destination was a visit to the Tinguely Fountain, made from mechanical scraps into working/dancing artistic forms that throw spray of water giving an impression of the dancing mermaids.  The backdrop of Theatreplatz and the 19th-century church with a 72 m tall bell tower make this place absolutely adorable. It was time to retreat after an action-packed day of absorbing, history and culture of the German bordering Swiss town, Basel

PS: All pictures were taken by me
2. Another post on a new destination and experience will follow


  1. The buildings of Basel are so charming. :)

    Interesting how The Tongue got its name. :) It is fun to learn of the origin of names of places.

    1. Thanks a lot, Divya for reading! Basel has a very rich history and very interesting narratives that would take a number of blog posts :)