Basel and family

Okay, last episode of the winter vacation saga: I took an afternoon train from Oberstdorf through a lot of Bavaria (some trains were late, which meant I had to re-route through even more towns than expected and things took about an hour longer) to Basel, Switzerland, where my dad’s brother Bill and his family (Aunt Cathy and cousins Luke and Nolan; my oldest cousin in that group, Cristen, started school at UCLA this fall, so she wasn’t there) live. We basically spent all of the first day I was there either alpine skiing or in transit to/from skiing at a town in the Alps about an hour away, Engelberg. It was a gorgeous day and the snow was pretty good (I mean, not “Utah powder” good, but nice and smooth and reasonably fresh if you went off-piste), so we stayed on the mountain until the very last lift up, and didn’t get back to Basel until quite late.

View from the top of Engelberg ski area, looking out toward the Jungfrau and the Eiger.
View from the top of Titlis, the high point of the  Engelberg ski area. We’re looking out toward the Jungfrau and the Eiger (the two peaks on the right side of the ridge that falls off into the valley).
Aunt Cathy, cousin Luke, and me on a break from enjoying the view and nice snow.
Aunt Cathy, cousin Luke, and me (the short one) on a break from enjoying the view and nice snow. (Photo credit: Bill)
There was a bridge near the top providing a nice view of the Alps.
There was a bridge near the top providing a nice view of the Alps. (Photo credit: Bill)
Me and Luke at the top of the last run of the day (all the way down the mountain...it took more than 45 minutes!).
Me and Luke at the top of the last run of the day (all the way down the mountain…it took more than 45 minutes!). (Photo credit: Bill)
Luke and I are the tiny little dots in the snow.
Luke and I are the tiny little dots in the snow on the left side. (Photo credit: Bill)

I started the next day off with a nice run along the Rhine, which is quite beautiful in the indirect sunlight of the morning.

Setting moon over the Rhine on my morning run the day after skiing.
Setting moon over the Rhine on my morning run the day after skiing.
Panorama of the Rhine.
Panorama of the Rhine. The giant building is the campus of Roche, where my uncle Bill works.

My aunt and uncle had errands to run and work to go to for part of the morning, so I went off on my own toward the old part of town.

St Albaans Tower, a part of the old city walls.
St Albaans Tower, a part of the old city walls near the Anderson house.
The Munster (cathedral) has a really cool roof.
The Munster (cathedral) has a really cool roof.

My goal was to see das Münster, the city’s cathedral, because I’d seen it from my run, and my parents (who visited Basel last year) told me it had a great view of the city. They were right!

View of the Rhine from the top of the Munster.
View of the Rhine from the top of the Munster.
Looking toward the old part of Basel from the top of the Munster.
Looking toward the old part of Basel from the top of the Munster.

After Cathy was done with her errands, we took the train to see more of the old town, starting with the Marktplatz and town hall. We wandered through the streets toward a restaurant called Tibits, where we met my uncle for lunch.

The town hall on the Marktplatz. It's covered in interesting paintings.
The town hall on the Marktplatz. It’s covered in interesting paintings.
The Hoosesaggmuseum is the smallest museum in the world - it's just this little box in the window of this door!
The Hoosesaggmuseeum is the smallest museum in the world – it’s just the little box in the window of this door!
The tower down their marks the opposite end of the old city walls from St. Albaans Tower; Basel is quite small.
The tower down their marks the opposite end of the old city walls from St. Albaans Tower; Basel is quite small.
Walking to lunch near the Barfusserplatz, where all the cool kids hang out (apparently).
Walking to lunch near the Barfusserplatz, where all the cool kids hang out (apparently).

After lunch, Cathy and I went to the museum dedicated to Jean Tinguely, a 20th-century artist (and Basel resident) best known for his kinetic sculptures.

After lunch, Cathy and I went to the museum dedicated to Jean Tinguely, a 20th-century artists best known for his kinetic sculptures. This is one of the largest works in the museum.
This is one of his larger works, Grosse Méta Maxi-Maxi Utopia.
Visitors are allowed to walk around on this particular sculpture. Pretty cool!
Visitors are allowed to walk around on this particular sculpture. Pretty cool! (Photo credit: Cathy)
This Tinguely sculpture makes interesting, dissonant music.
This Tinguely sculpture makes interesting, dissonant music when it’s running.
One of my favorite pieces in the museum, Mengele - danse macabre. The shadows on the wall are brilliantly done.
One of my favorite pieces in the museum, Mengele – danse macabre. The shadows on the wall are brilliantly done.
We did another typically "Basel" thing by taking a current-driven ferry back across the Rhine.
We did another typically “Basel” thing by taking a current-driven ferry back across the Rhine.

My last cultural stop was the old paper mill, which had been turned into a museum. Apparently, making paper was a huge industry in Basel back in the early days of printing. As a lover of books, printing, and paper, I found the museum really fun and fascinating (I had to really limit the number of photos I posted from there; otherwise this post would have had a lot more dark museum interiors in it).

A machine in the Base Paper Mill Museum, used for grinding pulp for paper.
A machine in the Base Paper Mill Museum, used for grinding pulp for paper.
Huh. The things you learn when you're traveling...
Huh. The things you learn when you’re traveling…
One of the interesting pieces in the museum: a Japanese typewriter.
One of the interesting pieces in the museum: a Japanese typewriter.
Historical book-binding apparatus: pretty cool!
Historical book-binding apparatus: pretty cool!
Typesetting on a different floor of the museum.
Typesetting on a different floor of the museum.
I got to make a piece of marbled paper!
I got to make a piece of marbled paper!
View of the Rhine at sunset, with the two towers of the Munster visible at left.
View of the Rhine at sunset, with the two towers of the Munster visible at left.

I wandered around the old town for a bit afterwards, stopping at a grocery store to look at what’s different in Switzerland vs. the UK (more American brands and Mexican food in Basel, surprisingly) and at the Laderach chocolate store to get a few pieces of freshly-made Swiss chocolate. After an absolutely delicious home-cooked meal, a game of Ten Up, Ten Down (also called Oh Hell, Devil’s Bridge, and many other things), and a bit of watching basketball, I called it a night. The next morning, I had a fun run with Bill and Sasha (the family dog) before heading to the airport and back to Cambridge!

Next week I’m going to Prague, so the next blog post will (hopefully) have even more pictures of European travel. Then it’s back to a more normal routine in the lab… 🙂

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