A May 2011 trip
to Basel by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My final day in Europe in 2011 found me taking a little day trip to the city of Basel, Switzerland, a city not lacking in culture or chocolate!
The first time I had the Columbi, it was at Ristorante Ioris on Easter Sunday. After a gazillion courses of great food, I was ready to surrender to the food gods but I remembered my late beloved Nana always saying, "I always leave room for dessert!" Knowing I would need to be taken out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow I anyway put any ideas of diet to death and indulged. The Columbi is an Easter one-layer angel food cake that is flavored with lemon and almond extract. It is topped with sliced almonds and confectioners sugar. You see it in restaurants and in grocery stores throughout Italy at Easter time. I enjoyed the Columbi and didn't have to be carted out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow.
Easter Monday is also a big holiday in Europe, and Monica, her husband Luca, son Alberto, and I were invited to Luca's family for dinner. Luca is from another small village near Biella in Piedmonte, and he grew up near an old church that I took pictures of before going inside his mother's house for dinner. Luca was honored an outsider took pictures of his church, but I love old churches and architecture and take pictures of them all of the time. After feasting on antipasti and ravioli and other goodies, it was time for dessert. Wondering if I was going to need a second seat for my flight to Amsterdam later that week, I once again succumbed to the Columbi that Luca's mother put before us. Oh boy! Once again I enjoyed the Columbi very much, and picked at some almonds that were left on the serving plate. Both Monica, Luca and his family noticed my enjoying the Columbi and commented on it.
The night before I left Italy for The Netherlands, Monica and Luca said they had a little present for me for my birthday that was three days away. It was a big bag and inside was, you guessed it, a Columbi from the local market in a box. I laughed about it and Monica and Luca said it would be something for me to enjoy when I got to the Netherlands for my birthday. Now the fun part was lugging that on the plane without damage or confiscation from security like they do here in the airports.
After a train ride from Biella to Novarra and a bus to the airport in Milano in my suitcase, I get to the check-in desk at Milano Malpensa and the girls at the desk opened my bag to make sure I had nothing illegal in there. They got a good giggle after seeing my Columbi, and I told them my birthday was in two days and it was for me to celebrate the day Italian style.
The Columbi made it to the Netherlands in one piece but it was flattened. I offered some of it to my friends for my contribution for dessert, but my friend Monique, who is diabetic, told me to save it. I shared half of it in Germany before sealing it up in a bag for the trip home to America where the remaining pancake of Columbi was consumed by Mom and me and probably the six dogs.
So that is the tale of the Traveling Columbi for you.
Breisach is a small town of about 16,500 people in the Baden-Wurtemburg region of Germany. In the old days it was known as Altbreisach, but now it is formally known as Breisach-an-der-Rhine since it is located on the Rhine River. Breisach dates from Celtic times when it was run by Celtic princes and the name Breisach is Celtic for "breakwater." This little city on the Rhine has been through centuries of war, occupation and changes in owner ship starting from Celtic times. The Romans occupied Breisach and called it Brisacus.
During the 13th Century, the Munster of Breisach, St. Stephenmunster was constructed in the Romanesque style of architecture and remains the main attraction of Breisach today. During the 16th Century, Breisach was a stronghold of the Holy Roman Empire and remained the city's main owner for the next three centuries. That was when Breisach wasn't under French attack. The first French attack on Breisach occured in 1638 and after 10 years of war and French occupation, Breisach was given to France in 1648 and was under French control for the next 49 years. In 1697, Breisach was returned to the Holy Roman Empire as terms with the Treaty of Riswick (Riswjk). The War of Spanish Succession began shortly after this and once again in 1703, the French occupied Breisach for another 11 years. Then the Treaty of Rastatt returned Breisach to Holy Roman Empire control until the Austrians annexed the city in 1790. During the French Revolution and wars between France and German states, Breisach suffered damage from the battles that occured there. Breisach was finally returned to German hands for good in 1805 when it was annexed to the state of Baden.
Now to answer your question about how history affected how one can travel from Freiburg, Germany to Alsace, France. In March 1945, the Allies began their final push into Germany by crossing the Rhine River at the French border. Breisach suffered about 85% destruction during this time and that included the rail lines. The French side of the Rhine River and its rails suffered serious damage and never was able to rebuild its rail lines into Germany. So that is why I had to travel from Freiburg to Breisach and then take a crowded sweaty bus into France and Colmar from there.
But I made the best of my little layover in Breisach by walking the streets and checking out the little shops and taking pictures of St. Stephenmunster. There was a little fair going on in Breisach that day for the local wineries but I was too early to sample any wines, but I did discover a knitting store on Breisach's main street and went inside to browse around. I found a beautiful turquoise cotton yarn that changed into several shades of light and dark turquoise and grabbed four skeins of it. The shop's owner showed me some ideas for knitting with this yarn, but to this day I haven't been able to figure out what to do with this yarn. While it was outside on the back porch in a container, my puppies Remy, Dustin and Dewey thought it would make a great toy to play with and one skein is scattered through the back yard. Oh well. Some day I will make something with my Breisach German yarn!
Except for the St. Stephensmunster and some fairs, there is not a lot to see in Breisach, but it is worth a short trip whenever you are heading into France via Freiburg.
Basel is a city that dates from Ancient Roman times, but archeologists have discovered evidence that the Celtics had lived there at one time before the Romans arrived in the area. When the Romans came to the Basel area around 374 AD, they named their newest settlement Augusta Raurica and they had built a castle where the Basel Munster now stands. Basel's strategic location along the Rhine River made the city an important shipping mecca along with a place where merchants could gather and several guilds were established.
In the 12th Century, many Jewish people settled in Basel and funded the money for the only bridge over the Rhine River. The Jewish people of Basel had a good life until the 14th Century plague that swept most of Europe for the previous two years hit Basel in June 1349. As it happened in other European cities, the Jews of Basel were blamed for bringing on the plague and several of them were arrested, tortured, and eventually executed by the guilds of Basel.
Basel has always been a city of neutrality but in 1499, it had been plundered during the Swabian War. The Treaty of Basel ended this war and gave the city of Basel exemption from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian's taxes and splitting them from the Holy Roman Emperor. Basel became part of the Swiss Confederation as its 11th canton in 1501 and was the only canton asked to join instead of being forced into the confederation. Reformation hit Basel in 1529, and Basel then became a Protestant state and the Munster went from becoming a Catholic church to a Protestant one.
I enjoyed my short visit to Basel and enjoyed the scenery and walking the narrow cobblestone roads that go through the city. It has not lost a lot of its old-world charm. But it was an expensive city to visit to me as is most of Switzerland. I was searching for a place for lunch where I could experience some Swiss cuisine but many of the restaurants who had menus outside their establishments cost a mini fortune. So I was content to get a open-faced mozzarella cheese, basil and tomato sandwich at one of the little bakeries in downtown Basel and enjoyed a little picnic on the stairs leading up to the Basel Munster. It was a great way to people watch and enjoy the sunny warm Swiss day.
Trains are the best way to get to Basel and there are several of them that leave Freiburg and other cities nearby. Remember that Basel, Switzerland is not part of the European Union, so it's advisable to exchange your Euros or Dollars for Swiss Francs and then if you have money leftover when you leave Switzerland, you can switch back to the currency of your choice. If you are looking for a little taste of Switzerland in a short period of time like I did, Basel, Switzerland is the place to go.
Attraction | "Another Cathedral Visited. Why Not!?"
Churches and cathedrals in Europe are a major part of the history of the Continent and shouldn't be missed when you visit the cities of Europe. You might think "same old, same old" with the churches of Europe, but there are Catholic churches and Protestant Churches and they all have different stories and histories to tell you and the Basel Munster is one of them.
The Basel Munster was built in the Gothic and Roman styles of architecture from 1019-1500, 481 years to build this cathedral. In 1356, and earthquake hit Basel and the Roman parts of the Basel Munster were destroyed. Reconstruction of the Basel Munster began under the guidance of Johannes Gmund-Freiburg in 1421 and took 79 years to complete under the guise of Hans von Nussdorf in 1500. The hill that the Basel Munster stands on dates from Celtic times.
At first, the Basel Munster was a Catholic church and was home to Papal Elections from 1424-1460. When the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther hit Germany, Switzerland and other European countries in the 16th Century, many of the paintings located inside the Munster were destroyed by Protestant supporters from 1528-1529 and shortly afterward, the Basel Munster became a Protestant church and still remains so today.
A century of renovations of the Basel Munster occurred from 1880-1980 and while I was there in 2011, construction was being done in the Munsterplatz. Due to several paintings and Catholic relics being destroyed during the Reformation, I notice that the Basel Munster's interiors are not as elaborate and ostentatious as its sister cathedrals of Freiburg and Strasbourg and other cities, but to me it was still a beautiful place to visit.
The Basel Munster is open daily except for when services are being held on Sundays. It is free to go inside but donations are accepted and there are postcards and other souvenirs for sale at a little shop inside. It is well-worth your time to see the Basel Munster for its fascinating history as a Catholic and Protestant Church during its almost thousand-year history.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 8, 2011
Attraction | "A Sight with Colors that Inspire"
As I mentioned above, the Rathaus of Basel was originally constructed in the 14th Century away from where the Prince Bishop of Basel ruled from on Cathedral Hill. Basel Rathaus was built in the Marktplatz or Market Square. The Prince Bishop still tried to rule Basel and the Guilds Craftsmen who did business in the Rathaus for about 100 more years until 1501 when the Guilds Craftsmen joined the Swiss Federation of 12 Cantons and were successfully able to separate themselves from the rule of the Prince Bishop.
Thoughout the centuries, the Basel Rathaus has undergone several face lifts and renovations. The first renovation was in the 16th Century when a new front was built on it along with twelve arms representing the twelve Cantons of the Swiss Federation. In the 17th Century, the Basel Rathaus was enlarged with a bigger facade and mock arc features designed by architect Hans Bock. In 1900, the old 14th century parts of the Rathaus were torn down and another extension was added to the building along with a new tower on the right side of the building.
What you see of the Basel Rathaus today is a beautiful building painted in a bright brick red color with spires that look like molten gold has been poured over them. In the bright May sun, I was almost blinded by the brightness of the golden spires and the colors of the facade inspired the artist in me to want to paint a room in our house that color of red. But convincing Mom will be another story in itself.
However, if you are ever in Basel, please make a short trip to the Marktplatz to see the Rathaus and afterwards, walk around the little farmers market in the square to check out the wares of the farmers who are selling produce or cheese. Then go an have a cup of coffee or tea in one of the local restaurants located nearby and relax. It is well worth a little of your time you have in Basel.
Basel Rathaus-Town Hall