This week, I kind of got fed up with all the ridiculousness of my class situation (I think I FINALLY have it figured out… after 3 weeks…) and being alone in my dorm worrying about it, so I decided that this weekend I would go to Switzerland. You know. Because I can.
So I asked my friend Elysia if she wanted to come along, and she invited a friend as well, and this morning we set out for Basel, which is only about an hour from here right on the Swiss-German border. Our original plan was go go to Bern, which is a little further from here, but because of budgetary restraints we decided Basel would be a better and more economical option. That ended up being good for two reasons: first, because there was a derailment on the Deutsche Bahn line today which caused all sorts of confusion and delays and resulted in both of our trips taking twice as long as usual, and second, because all three of us loved Basel way more than we had expected to. It is a fantastic city and I had a great time.
My friend Christie needed to check out one of the museums in Basel for a class presentation, but first we took a quick walking tour around the city. Basel is half in Germany and half in Switzerland, and the two halves are separated by the Rhine. We spent the day in the Swiss half of the city, but walking down the Rhine looking at Germany was pretty cool. We also saw the Münster (far less impressive than Freiburg’s… nice try, Basel), the old city gates, lots of cute little alleys leading in between cute little German buildings, and a city-wide flea market.
We made our way back around to the Museum der Kulturen, or Museum of Cultures, that Christie needs to write a 6 page paper about for one of her classes. I really do not envy this assignment because I can honestly say that this is the strangest museum I have ever encountered. The first two rooms, completely white, had a bunch of random artifacts organized in no particular pattern… an Egyptian statue here, a Dutch tricycle there, old Native American tools hanging from the ceiling… and pictures everywhere of buildings under construction, more specifically of the museum itself being built. We later, after about 3 times walking through these 2 rooms (which comprise about half of the museum) realized that the geniuses who put together the exhibit intended to juxtapose ancient tools, buildings, and construction techniques with modern ones… hence the model of an ancient pagoda right next to a picture of a Basler building. Clever idea, but not quite enough to merit the creation of an entire museum. And it still does not explain the tricycle.
The one continuous theme of this museum was the lack of a theme, because the second half was a monument to Carnival in Basel. It was full of creepy clowns and creepy masks and kind of cool but mostly creepy music.
We decided that this museum was the result of someone owning too many creepy masks, deciding to open a museum containing their unsettling collection, realizing that they did not in fact possess enough Carnival paraphernalia to fill an entire museum, going to the city-wide flea market and buying a bunch of random crap, and then juxtaposing said random crap with pictures taken during the construction of the museum. Sounds great, right? It definitely resulted in lots of laughs and a general appreciation for the fact that entry was free. Because I would have seriously regretted paying to see this museum.
Speaking of money, Switzerland is inhumanely expensive. Prices are so incredibly high! 23 francs for a meal I could get in Freiburg for 7 Euro? 2 francs for an ice cream cone I could get in Freiburg for 80 cents? What gives, Switzerland?? Granted, Swiss francs are a little cheaper than Euros, which is nice, but I would like to ask the Swiss why they have to be such nonconformists all the time. Because even though the Euro is expensive, if nothing else it is convenient. Not so with this whole “unique currency” business. By the time our day of sightseeing/money-spending was over, I had about 9 francs left to spend. Which is too much to waste without guilt, but too little to buy very much of consequence due to the aforementioned extremely high prices. Luckily, I was able to get a shirt from H&M and a bottle of water to exhaust the rest of my funds for the day.
On our way out of the city, we came across probably the best (or at least the least expected) sight of the day. The square where the huge fruit and vegetable market had stood earlier in the day, there was a large group of people assembling something made out of sheet metal, which Elysia jokingly guessed was a rocket ship. After our last-minute spending spree, we came back out to the square to find that she had been right… that the Basel Symphonic Orchestra had, in fact, constructed a huge model rocket in the middle of the Marktplatz. And it appeared that they were planning on launching it into the air by filling it with a large number of helium balloons. So of course we decided to stick around another half hour to witness this spectacle. Some symphony members dressed as astronauts campily waved farewell to the admiring crowd, and the emcee led us in a countdown accompanied by (what else) classical music. At last, behold: lift-off.
It was anticlimactic, to say the least. But it was some pretty inventive publicity for the symphony. One of the coolest parts of the event was the balloon release… symphony members walked around handing out little cards on which you could write your name and address, which could then attach to a helium balloon in hopes that, after the balloon pops, whoever finds it could return the card to the symphony and both parties would receive a symphony-related prize of their choice. Because I’m not sure how long in the future this would hypothetically happen, I chose to receive a CD as opposed to free tickets to the symphony… I’d hate to win something that awesome after returning to the US and not be able to use them! After tying our info (with fake e-mail addresses, don’t worry!) to the balloons, we set them free.
An awesome way to end a fantastic adventure.