Thursday, September 2, 2010

Swiss Traveling - Basel

Over the past month or so, I have taken the chance to travel around Switzerland a little bit, both to discover new places and to spend time with family and dear friends.

Two weekends ago I went to Basel to visit two special girlfriends of mine whom I have known for quite a few years. We met in Italy several years ago, as they were classmates of my ex boyfriend and pursuing their masters degree in the university where I studied in Milan. As it often happens, the boyfriend was gone, but the friends stayed! We kept in touch over the years and saw each other in different corners of the world, and now that we all live in Switzerland, I thought it would be nice to catch up, all the while visiting Basel where I had never been.

I took off on Saturday late morning, and after a very short 40-minute train ride, I got to Basel. The weather was wonderful, so I joyfully walked out of the train station and made my way towards the center of the city. I had my Lonely Planet Switzerland guide with me, to be sure not to miss any important spots. I am fascinated with traveling solo and discovering new places, and I am insanely fascinated by travel guides, because I always find out about so many interesting and random facts!

I walked around the older part of the city, which has a very distinct medieval flavor, visited several churches, walked along the Rhine river, and explored some interesting corners. 
A fun fact that happened to me while I was walking around, and which is not captured by the photos. After stopping for a coffee at Fumare Non Fumare (literally "To Smoke or Not To Smoke", my eternal life dilemma) and getting a wonderful planner as a gift at Bookbinders Design - which, by the way, will easily become one of my favorite stores because they have a few in Zurich as well - I was thinking that I probably should buy something for my friend, who was hosting a great party that evening and was nice enough to invite me to stay at her place. As I was walking, I saw a bright yellow stand on the street selling cheeses, salamis, sausages, olives, etc. and I thought I'd seen that before, so it dawned on me that they were the same people that I find every Tuesday and Friday morning at the open market in Helvetiaplatz in Zurich, two blocks from where I live. Sure enough, I asked them and it was them!!! They are from Calabria, in Southern Italy, and their stuff is sinfully tasty, so I bought two types of sausages, testun al barolo*, and giant olives. Never mind finding out later that my host doesn't eat pork, but that's another story...she was happy with the cheese and olives though, and I think the rest of the guests, sauf the vegetarians, enjoyed. They even gave me a good deal, and I told them I'll sure be back to their stand once in Zurich. Delicious.

Anyway, after the shopping, I met with my friend, and we had a wonderful time catching up with each other's lives, then headed home in anticipation of a great party. I met lots of interesting people that night, and I am so happy I got to also catch up with my other girlfriend! The following day, we slept in, had a very fun and weird breakfast with coffee, coke, hummus, crackers, and biscotti, lots of talking, and then in the afternoon we met with the people from the party the night before for a swim in the Rhine. I should say it wasn't technically a swim, because the current was so strong that all you had to do was float, and make sure to swim your way far from the bridges and towards the shore whenever you wanted to get out. Following was a very relaxing time eating, drinking, getting in the water again, and, in my case, napping and meeting new people by the shore in a beautiful, sunny weather.

I finally made my way back to Zurich later that night. I had a lovely, lovely time, and I was completely relaxed. I can't wait to see my girlfriends again here in Zurich - they owe me a visit now, and we tentatively made plans for October!

*Testun al Barolo is a semi-firm mixed milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy. It ages for a minimum period of four months in small oak barrel under the residues of the Nebbiolo grapes, the grape to make Barolo wine.

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