Lucerne, Switzerland & Rhine River Cruise travel blog

Old Town entrance - remains of original gate - walls are gone

The Rathaus - original town hall

Farmers Market - Lots of things to look at

All sorts of olives, cheeses, cured meats & fruits. We sampled quite...

Front of Cathedral - there were crypts underneath the church with dates...

Back of Cathedral from across the Rhine - the tiles on the...

We arrived in Basel around 10:30 and left our luggage at our hotel while we explored the old part of the city which starts just across the street from our hotel. We each received a Basel Card which lets us use any public transportation (trams, bus) free. So with map of old city and transportation map, off we went!

Back before our calendar began, Basel had already been occupied by the Celts. In 30 B.C. the city's strategically favorable position led the Romans to station its military forces on the hill now occupied by the cathedral. One key event in the development of the city was the founding of the University in the year 1460. Many of the buildings are still being used and this is Switzerland's oldest University. Many of Europe's greatest minds came to Basel, which became a veritable center of humanism and book printing.

The bishops of Basel won favor with the Emperor, as can be seen by the erection of the Munster (cathedral) which was consecrated in 1019 by Heinrich II. The city government – judicial rights, taxation authority, control over markets, coinage, weights and measures etc. – was ruled by the Prince-Bishop of Basel through officials drawn from the nobility. In the 13th century, he had a bridge built over the Rhine, and then expanded his authority over Kleinbasel, which was combined with Grossbasel in 1392. At the same time, the local communities secured a considerable amount of autonomy through clashes, sometimes violent, with the Prince-Bishop. The Mayor, the senior Guild Masters and the Council formed the city government which ruled the whole of public life. By largely removing the rule of the bishop, the City also succeeded in repelling the political claims of the Hapsburgs. The visible expression of this political and economic advancement could be seen in the representative buildings that were built: the new Town Hall (in 1340), the Arsenal, the Lohnhof, the Hospital and the guild halls. Although destroyed by fire (1185) and the “Black Death” plague which killed many people in 1349, the town has prospered and grown into Switzerland's third largest city with a population of 175,000.

We walked down to the original town hall (Rathaus) in the Market Platz where the Saturday farmer's market was in full swing. Although not a large one, it was quite busy. We bought some fresh cherries and each had a wurst (sausage) with a hunk of homemade bread and mustard and had our lunch sitting in the middle of the market watching all the different people. After that, we wandered on down to the Cathedral where they were filming a group of kids doing dance routines.

Using our Basel Card, we took a small ferry across the Rhine, walked past centuries old houses, over a bridge and caught a tram back to our hotel. A short rest, dinner at a regional restaurant and we are calling it a day.

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