27.11.2014 - 01.12.2014 0 °C
Swiss beer is not good.
Swiss chocolate is excellent.
Swiss airports are confusing.
Our plane touches down with a jerk in Switzerland...hang on in France...oh no wait Switzerland. Actually I've no idea where we are and neither does Fern. Our ticket says that we have flown to Basel Mulhouse airport which I reasonably assumed was in Switzerland because that's the country I wanted to fly to. Walking into the arrivals lounge a sign hangs from the ceiling, one pointing left towards France and the other right towards Switzerland. I get my phone out to check a regional map and see the airport is actually in Mulhouse which appears to be actually across the border.
We follow the sign pointing right and exit the airport, I glance back at the sign on the front of the building which states ‘Euroairport’ so I’m non the wiser as to our current location. A bus arrives and we pay in Swiss Francs to take us to our hotel. On the way I mull over the fact we wanted to simply fly from London to Basel. Instead however we have flown from London Stanstead which is actually not in London at all but an hour drive north in the county of Essex, to Basel Mulhouse which is actually not in Switzerland but in a different country called France.
The hotel in Basel is small but comfortable with no tea making facilities and as advertised on the website we have a flat screen TV. Yes it’s flat screen but its about 4 inches wide not to mention CNN news is the only English channel they have. I learn Barack Obama wants to pass a new law and there are terrorists out there, the giant flat screen doesn’t get turned on again and I’m gasping for a brew.
Our first few days are spent exploring Basel by walking and by trams which are absolutely everywhere. The hotel provides free tram tickets for the duration of our stay which is fantastic and getting around is spectacularly easy. It’s a small city on the banks of the Rhine river with a nice relaxed feel about it. We learn that the city actually borders not only France but Germany as well. In fact we visit a bridge called ‘3 Country Bridge’ just a 40 minute walk from our hotel where you can stand at a designated monument and see each country. You are standing in Switzerland with France on the other side of the bridge and slightly further down the banks of the river on the Swiss side you can see the German flags for the border of their territory.
Keen to get deeper into Switzerland we wake early the next morning and head to the station getting a commuter train packed with serious looking suits ninety minutes across the northern part of the country to Zurich. Having worked in finance for a number of years I was aware of the huge banking industry in the country and imagined an enormous business district of high rise corporate banking HQ’s. Yet no! Zurich again has a relaxed feel about it. The skyline is low, the buildings are generally old and beautiful, it’s absolutely nothing like I imagined. Zurich is also situated on the banks of stunning Lake Zurich and we take the opportunity to enjoy a cup of terrible weak tea by the water while enjoying a spot of people watching. Away to our right is the city, an autumn haze hangs over the buildings making it look like an old watercolour painting but more stunning still is the view away to our left with the alps peaking up into the clouds taking your breath with it.
We spend the rest of the day walking the city walks, drinking in the city bars, eating cheese, eating chocolate until both tired we finally return to our hotel after a warm train ride through the icy Swiss countryside. The following day in Basel is our last and it’s time to go back to the airport in France. Borders and boundaries in mainland Europe I’m realising can be blurred, you never quite know where one place ends and another begins.
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