My husband Dan had been offered a relocation with his company to Basel, Switzerland and this was our “pre-relocation” visit supplied by the company to see if we would be happy to live in Switzerland. I know that sounds like an obvious question, but there really is a lot at stake when considering a move out of your country, away from family, friends and everything that you take for granted on a daily basis. This would be our chance to see if we felt that we could fit in.
We left New Jersey late on a Wednesday, landed in Zurich and before noon (local time!) we were on the train to Basel. Our hotel was conveniently located across the street from the train station (SBB) so we were checked in by 2:30 that Thursday afternoon. Let the exploring begin!
Dan is suffering from jet lag
Since we were more excited than tired, we went out to explore a bit of the city. Dan had been here for another work visit a couple of months prior, so he knew a bit about the place already and started to show me around. Because most of my readers are from North America, I will be pointing out quite a few of the “them vs. us” sights that caught my eye throughout the coming week.
Gas stations were different. Gas was about $1.82CHF/liter, which works out to about $7.70/gallon at the current exchange rate.
Tree-lined path to the Rhine river
The public transit system in Basel (all of Switzerland, really) is amazingly efficient. In-city trams run every 7 minutes throughout the day and they run to all corners of the region. They are on time, clean, quiet and fast. I realize that this is easier to do on a small scale such as Switzerland, but it is obvious that it took great foresight to plan the sheer number of lines and rails.
Tram tracks are often filled in with grass, possibly to keep down noise and dust. They look nice, too
We had a destination that first day: the local BMW motorcycle shop. I was hoping that they would be able to give me some more information on requirements on bringing our two motorcycles into the country. After we took a tram in the general direction, we set about finding the location that Dan had seen only via Google Street view. We had been walking (quite far) and Dan kept on guessing that we were close, but wasn’t sure where we were going. At one point, Dan had wandered off to check something out while I stopped an older woman for information. She spoke very little English and I speak very little German, but we both seemed willing to try. I explained what I was looking for and while she knew of “a” motorcycle shop nearby, she wasn’t sure what brand it was. She was just starting to explain it to me when Dan wandered up to us. The woman looked relieved and started to ramble in German to him, hoping that he could help.
I laughed and said “Nein, dass ist mein Herr” (“No, that’s my husband”)
She laughed as well and then continued trying to give us directions. We thanked her and followed her directions. It turned out that she sent us to an MV Augusta shop (not a bad thing) and we eventually found the BMW shop on our own. Later that evening, I had a chance to review my German; no wonder she laughed! Instead of saying “my husband (mein Mann), I said “my Lord” (Herr). Whoops! I’m glad that I can provide such amusements to the locals.
At the BMW shop we were greeted by a very willing employee named Boris who went so far as to even call BMW Schweiz to verify the information that he had found. Alas! all of the answers pointed in the same direction: importation of our BMWs would be difficult, if not impossible. Boris then continued to help us by giving us a tour of the shop and I can honestly say that I have never seen such a well-stocked shop! Outside were a dozen or so various used bikes for sale, while inside were a couple of dozen new bikes. Also inside were shelves and shelves of new gear. I don’t even think that internet sites offer the selection that I saw there! And then there was the ‘basement’. Boris took us down the central stairs to a lower level where hundreds (yes, hundreds) of motorcycles were packed into every conceivable space. All brands and models were represented and I saw bikes ranging from the early 80’s through last year’s models, and they were all in excellent condition. Boris casually reached over to a 1200GS and turned the key; the bike started without a hesitation. We didn’t doubt that every bike down there would do the same thing. Having to sell our bikes in the States and buy something when we got here would obviously not be a problem.
The local BMW Motorcycle shop with Boris and Dan
Basel street scene
On Friday Dan had to go to “work” for meetings and wouldn’t be done until mid-afternoon. I intended to spend the entire time exploring on my own but my body had other plans. I woke up not feeling well and used that as an excuse to sleep in – until noon. Oops! I didn’t plan on that and once I did wake up I immediately took off into one of the nearby neighborhoods.
Typical bike shelter in front of an apartment
Ancient building foundation converted into a playground
Another motorcycle shop
After Dan came back to the hotel room we went back out to explore together. This time he took us north and into the Alt Stadt (“Old Town”, where the city was born). The day was beautiful and warm – much warmer than we expected and we were poorly packed for such unseasonable weather.
Looking north across the Rhine
One of the three existing gates from the old city wall
One of Basel’s 180 public fountains, all putting forth cold, clean water.
The Basel Muenster – the city’s original church, with festival preparations in the foreground
Going down towards the Rhine and another city gate
Small river feeding the Rhine
It was the end of the day. Tomorrow, Saturday, was a “free day”, with no meetings or time tables. We would explore further afield, after a good night’s rest.