Touring Basel, Switzerland, Part 2

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October 12, 2011

Last month I traveled to Basel, Switzerland, a European city first founded during the Roman Empire and still boasting beautiful buildings constructed more than 1,000 years agos. In Touring Basel, Switzerland, Part 1, I explored the city's historic downtown, which is a mix of neo-Gothic cathedrals, knit graffiti, ancient bridges, and Richard Serra sculptures. In Part 2, we share the fun to be had in and around the Rhine and travel outside the city to the Vitra campus and the Laufen bathrooms factory.

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  One excursion that Dwell friend Luc Meier of Swissnex San Francisco highly recommended was climbing up the Münster cathedral. The climb cost four Swiss francs (a little over $4.30 US with current conversions), which let me make my way up steep, winding stairwells to three observation decks. The views were unbelievable.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    One excursion that Dwell friend Luc Meier of Swissnex San Francisco highly recommended was climbing up the Münster cathedral. The climb cost four Swiss francs (a little over $4.30 US with current conversions), which let me make my way up steep, winding stairwells to three observation decks. The views were unbelievable.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  This view of the Münster is taken from the other side of the Rhine. The Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was built between 1019 and 1500 and dominates Basel's skyline.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    This view of the Münster is taken from the other side of the Rhine. The Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was built between 1019 and 1500 and dominates Basel's skyline.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  You can cross the Rhine in Basel in two ways: via the many bridges or on one of several ferries. The ferries use the current to push them back and forth along the river. Each ferry is attached by a long wire to another wire that spans the river about 30 feet overhead. The captain angles the boat so that the water pushes it the direction he wants it to go. Eco and ingenious.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    You can cross the Rhine in Basel in two ways: via the many bridges or on one of several ferries. The ferries use the current to push them back and forth along the river. Each ferry is attached by a long wire to another wire that spans the river about 30 feet overhead. The captain angles the boat so that the water pushes it the direction he wants it to go. Eco and ingenious.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  It's nearly impossible to walk more than five minutes in Basel without stumbling upon a water fountain. Each is unique and carefully sculpted, and all of the fountains offer clean drinking water, a happy respite for tired tourists. Some are even designed for soaking your feet on hot days.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    It's nearly impossible to walk more than five minutes in Basel without stumbling upon a water fountain. Each is unique and carefully sculpted, and all of the fountains offer clean drinking water, a happy respite for tired tourists. Some are even designed for soaking your feet on hot days.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The most famous fountain in Basel is the Tinguely Fountain next to the Basel Theater. This funny fountain features a large, shallow pool with moving sculptures by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely that spit water in all directions and make sounds as the metal parts clap the water.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The most famous fountain in Basel is the Tinguely Fountain next to the Basel Theater. This funny fountain features a large, shallow pool with moving sculptures by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely that spit water in all directions and make sounds as the metal parts clap the water.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  A sense of play is tangible throughout the city. I spotted several ping pong tables next to one church and then saw this fooseball table in a park.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    A sense of play is tangible throughout the city. I spotted several ping pong tables next to one church and then saw this fooseball table in a park.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Basel's best form of play, in my opinion, is swimming down the Rhine. This is a popular summer activity for strong swimmers and fortunately during my visit it was unseasonably warm so many locals were still frolicking in the water. The Rhine has a good current to it and swimmers can walk upstream, hop in on the Kleinbasel side, and swim until they choose to get out along the stony banks anywhere from the start to three bridges later (before the river turns into an industrial port).  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Basel's best form of play, in my opinion, is swimming down the Rhine. This is a popular summer activity for strong swimmers and fortunately during my visit it was unseasonably warm so many locals were still frolicking in the water. The Rhine has a good current to it and swimmers can walk upstream, hop in on the Kleinbasel side, and swim until they choose to get out along the stony banks anywhere from the start to three bridges later (before the river turns into an industrial port).

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  When hopping in the Rhine, you have two options: Leave your things on shore and walk back to them after your swim or carry them with you in a dry bag. I picked up this dry bag from a tourist counter in a local grocery store. I loved its design because it folded into a messenger bag for the day (top) and then acted as a waterproof dry bag when I was ready to swim.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    When hopping in the Rhine, you have two options: Leave your things on shore and walk back to them after your swim or carry them with you in a dry bag. I picked up this dry bag from a tourist counter in a local grocery store. I loved its design because it folded into a messenger bag for the day (top) and then acted as a waterproof dry bag when I was ready to swim.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The trip from the furthest point upstream where you're allowed to swim down to this spot, where I got out of the water, took about 20 minutes. (You can go one bridge farther but I decided to play it safe). Since the weather was unusually warm for this time of year, plenty of people were out in the afternoons and evenings enjoying the sun, grilling on portable barbecues, and eating picnic dinners.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The trip from the furthest point upstream where you're allowed to swim down to this spot, where I got out of the water, took about 20 minutes. (You can go one bridge farther but I decided to play it safe). Since the weather was unusually warm for this time of year, plenty of people were out in the afternoons and evenings enjoying the sun, grilling on portable barbecues, and eating picnic dinners.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Next to the river was a great cafe housed in a shipping container, a now ubiquitous building material and solution.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Next to the river was a great cafe housed in a shipping container, a now ubiquitous building material and solution.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Though Basel boasts a big list of amazing museums, I was most excited to head to the Vitra Design Museum (shown here) and Vitra campus located in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, a 25-minute bus ride from Basel's city center. When I was there, the museum was showing a fantastic exhibit about modern design photographers Aldo and Marirosa Ballo titled Zoom. Frank Gehry's museum building is one of the earlier buildings on the Vitra campus, completed in 1989.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Though Basel boasts a big list of amazing museums, I was most excited to head to the Vitra Design Museum (shown here) and Vitra campus located in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, a 25-minute bus ride from Basel's city center. When I was there, the museum was showing a fantastic exhibit about modern design photographers Aldo and Marirosa Ballo titled Zoom. Frank Gehry's museum building is one of the earlier buildings on the Vitra campus, completed in 1989.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The most recent structure at the Vitra campus is Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron's VitraHaus. The building, which has the appearance of seven log houses stacked one on top of another, holds the entire Vitra furniture collection. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the pieces, and sales associates who work on the floors are happy to help sell you anything you see.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The most recent structure at the Vitra campus is Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron's VitraHaus. The building, which has the appearance of seven log houses stacked one on top of another, holds the entire Vitra furniture collection. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the pieces, and sales associates who work on the floors are happy to help sell you anything you see.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The campus is scattered with buildings by world-renowned architects commissioned for the site as well as several structures that were moved to Weil-am-Rhein. This small building was designed by Jean Prouvé in 1953 as part of a series of gas stations in France and was transplanted to Vitra several years ago.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The campus is scattered with buildings by world-renowned architects commissioned for the site as well as several structures that were moved to Weil-am-Rhein. This small building was designed by Jean Prouvé in 1953 as part of a series of gas stations in France and was transplanted to Vitra several years ago.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  I finished my trip with a visit to Laufen bathrooms to see its premier showroom and to tour its factory. Laufen has been manufacturing ceramics since 1892 and has collaborated with companies such as Alessi to create distinctive, modern sinks, toilets, and tubs.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    I finished my trip with a visit to Laufen bathrooms to see its premier showroom and to tour its factory. Laufen has been manufacturing ceramics since 1892 and has collaborated with companies such as Alessi to create distinctive, modern sinks, toilets, and tubs.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  All of Laufen's products start as clay and water combined to make slip. After casting, drying, and glazing, the pieces are fired in a tunnel kiln that's center reaches temperatures of more than 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To see finished pieces and learn more about Laufen, visit us.laufen.com. Discover more about Basel at basel.com.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!   Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    All of Laufen's products start as clay and water combined to make slip. After casting, drying, and glazing, the pieces are fired in a tunnel kiln that's center reaches temperatures of more than 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To see finished pieces and learn more about Laufen, visit us.laufen.com. Discover more about Basel at basel.com.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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