At the end of September, I hopped across the pond to visit Basel, Switzerland, and the nearby Laufen bathrooms factory and showroom. Basel is bisected by the Rhine and sits just south of the intersection of Switzerland, France, and Germany. In the ancient city, first settled during the days of the Roman Empire, you find a mix of soaring neo-Gothic cathedrals, Serra sculptures, knit graffiti, and more.
A climb up one of the Münster cathedral spires offers this view of the Rhine and the Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge) that spans it.
Upon arrival, I checked into my hotel and the headed toward the Marketplatz public square. I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of the Single Speed Bicycles storefront, which would fit right in in San Francisco. Unlike in the U.S., however, Switzerland still observes Sundays in their traditional form: nearly all the shops were closed.
I'd seen images of urban knitting and knit graffiti all over the web but had never seen it in person before I visited Basel. Each light post along the Mittlere Brücke was decorated with its own knitted sleeve like the one in this image.
City Hall, which dates back to the 16th century, stands on one edge of the Marketplatz, an open square that is filled with farmers' market stands most days.
At a restaurant across from City Hall, I enjoyed my first Swiss meal: fried eggs, bacon, and rosti. I was told by Diccon Bewes, a Brit turned Swiss who has lived in the country for years and recently penned the book Swiss Watching, that the Swiss are huge meat consumers and that rosti, a type of hash browns, is a quite common Swiss dish. Also popular: fondue and raclette, which consists of a slab of cheese that is heated and that is then scraped so that the melted portions pile onto diners' plates, often over potatoes and meat.
One of the best parts about Basel is enjoying its beautiful old streets, many of which are as picturesque as this one.
The best way to enjoy these old streets is by following one of the five city walks. Each walk takes visitors on a different tour of the city and each is demarcated with wayfinding signs in one of five distinct colors. It was a pure pleasure to walk around without a map, playing a game of finding the next sign that would point me on my way.
The city is filled with old beauty and in many places, it's juxtaposed with modern installations, such as Richard Serra's Intersection sculpture at the Theaterplatz with the 1865 Elisabethenkirche church in the background.
These pyramids on the other side of the Elisabethenkirche also offset the church's neo-Gothic architecture and reminded me of the pyramid at the Louvre.
If there's one thing that Basel is not short on, it's museums. There are simply too many to visit in one trip. The list includes the Foundation Beyeler (designed by Renzo Piano), Tinguely Museum (designed by Mario Botta), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kunsthalle, the Vitra Design Museum in nearby Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, and Kunstmuseum Basel (shown here), among others.
One of my favorite finds was that nearly all the houses, multiresidential buildings, and offices had operable window shades. The house on the right displays shades in a variety of opened and closed positions and at multiple angles to the sun.
Though the architecture in Basel is largely historic, there are splashes of modern construction throughout the city. The design of this theater is contemporary, but it also exhibits the most common insertion of newness along the streetscapes: modern materials such as metal and glass.