Basel. Border crossing.

    Basel? Who the hell is Basel?

    I left Minty in Basel for a week.

    Not because she’d been bad.

    And because she hadn’t been bad she got to stay at the lovely Camping Le Petit Port at Huningue, just the French side of Basel. Surrounded by trees, Polly and Minty had a near constant chorus of bird song.

    From there a walk over the mighty Rhine on the Three Frontiers Bridge gets you to Germany, and another smaller bridge over a canal drops you into Switzerland.

    Border crossings are notorious haunts of criminals smuggling illegal people and goods.

    They wouldn’t be doing their job if we could see them.

    Loo roll.

    What we could see crossing the border was loo roll. Hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.

    Whole shopping trolleys full.

    Hey and that’s a thing too.

    The folk on the French side seem to treat the €1 deposit on a shopping trolley as an acceptable tax for an easy walk home.

    They load up at the utterly huge and fantastically stocked German supermarket. Then each couple pushes two trolleys (one with assorted shopping, one reserved for loo roll) over the bridge to home.

    Once unloaded they simply leave the trolley in the hedge somewhere.

    Every day some poor fellow from the supermarket spends his day pushing a train of trolleys back over to Germany.

    Vitra – design heaven.

    Eames outside.

    Basel is best known for its pharmaceuticals, but just outside the city at Weil am Rhein is a temple to modern furniture design. The Vitra Campus.

    After the factory was destroyed by fire in 1981 the company invested heavily in the architects it relied upon to promote its beautiful wares.

    Jean Prouvé at Vitra.

    Zaha Hadid was commissioned to design its fire station, an angular concrete and glass sculpture that now hosts events.

    Tadao Ando created another largely concrete pavilion.

    Frank Gehry designed an exhibition space.

    Many people will recognise the VitraHaus, home of the furniture exhibitions and designed by Herzog & de Meuron. If this is as far as most visitors get they will still have a treat.

    Vitra Haus.

    IKEA brought the roomset concept to the general public in the 1980s.

    Vitra elevate it to a thing of beauty and aspiration.

    Simply wandering through this space inspires a whole new approach to home living as you move from classic to classic, each one costing as much as we’d spend on a car.

    The room. The Desk. The view. Let me work here.

    Just as exciting was to see furniture groups outdoors in the over grown garden, inviting people to sit among the tall grasses and admire the buildings in a natural setting.

    Classics in the garden, with it’s perfectly imperfect long grasses.

    Contrast. Bring me contrast.

    After all the high end furniture stroking we retired to the van. A short drive through the rain took us to Bad Sackingen where we found our parking spot beside the Bergsee lake.

    Wildlife Watch

    The new leaves of the forest are freshly washed and green shines through again.

    Road trip.

    Enclosures of boar and deer help ensure that we see some of the relatives of the creatures that dwell deeper in the trees. Huge snails take it easy crossing the path, but best of all was this beautiful slow worm.

    Legless, but smiling.

    Another border. Switzerland.

    The barns are bigger. The houses are enormous. And somehow it seems even more orderly than Germany.

    Wild flowers abound, and they’re beautiful, but even they behave with a sense of discipline.

    No litter. No dog poo. No graffiti.

    Robot lawn mowers lie in wait, observing the grass, ready to scythe through any blade of green that dares break rank.

    It’s beautiful to drive through, but I couldn’t live here. I’d be forever in fear of doing something wrong.

    Wild flower heaven. Dachsen. Rhine Falls.

    The Rhine Falls.

    We’re en route to friends on Bodensee/Lake Konstance, but thankfully our blog friend MB had suggested swinging by Schaffhausen, better known for the Rhine Falls.

    I’ve never been to a major waterfall before, but I have now.

    600 cubic metres of water a second go over the fall in summer.

    That’s a huge amount of water.

    The noise is deafening.

    Even standing on the side is frightening.

    The drama builds from first glimpse high up, to lower and louder, until you’re right beside the water and your ears are pounding. The final and best stage takes you onto a concrete platform cantilevered out over the water.

    It seems inconceivable that such a volume of water can keep going.

    Day and night.

    I might go and check later – I suspect someone turns it off at midnight.

    Pleasure (I use the word lightly) boats take tours up to the base of the falls and you can pay for 15 minutes of fear, or go for a full 30 minutes in torture class.

    The utterly insane take the yellow boat. It docks at one of the fragile looking rock teeth in the middle and its passengers are left there as their boat careers off to collect more fools parting with money in exchange for certain death.

    The Yellow Boat of Death attempts another dock.

    During the day it’s a reasonable €5 to join the throngs of Indian and Chinese tourists snapping a thousand photos a minute, and that was good.

    What was even better was to return at 9.00pm when all but the dedicated low light photographers had gone back to their hotels.

    Alone the intensity is there to be absorbed only by you.

    And at night it’s free. Just push through the turnstiles.

    Stein am Rhein.

    Such beauty often lies just off the road.

    The lucky, and those in the know, come across special places while most of the world thunders on by.

    Our blog friend MB also suggested a stop at Stein am Rhein.

    It was a Swiss holiday on Thursday and rather a lot of people had the same idea, but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment of this pretty medieval town.

    Its large painted houses take the style to a new level, it’s overlooked by the Hohenklingen Castle, and has the Rhine gushing by.

    HausProud. Stein am Rhein.

    As you leave the town the river widens into Lake Konstance. There are lush green fields to the right, the lake bobbing with sailing boats to the left, ahead snow capped mountains, and all taken at a leisurely 50kph, the limit through built up areas.

    Fondue party.

    We met our friends Michael and Gabriella when they stayed at Archavon Studio a few summers ago. Last night we called on them and were treated to a fabulous fondue, great wines and then a whiskey tasting.

    It transpires that the Swiss are almost as mad for Scotch as the Japanese.

    There was also Santis, an excellent Swiss single malt that tasted sufficiently different to deserve a name of its own.

    Michael and Gabriella certainly don’t conform to the super strict behaviour of their neighbours. They’re great fun – but they do still have a robot lawnmower!

    Michael sent us to Appenzell.

    Yet another achingly beautiful and utterly ridiculous Swiss town.

    Other than their V8s and Hogs they don’t even make any noise.

    Yours is bigger than mine! Appenzell.

    In Appenzell they make whiskey. They make Appenzeller, a herby digestive. And they make beer. They clearly make a lot of money too – the houses here were even bigger, and it’s only when someone steps out and gives you a sense of scale that you understand how vast they are.

    Just in case Switzerland wasn’t rich enough and manicured enough, we took a narrow mountain pass through yet more incredible scenery to drop into Liechtenstein.

    En route to Appenzell. Ridiculous. Apparently this is all real.


    There are 37,000 people in this small country. And 37,000 jobs. Half of the workers commute in daily from Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

    It must too have the highest proportion of insanely expensive and powerful cars of any country in Europe.

    According to it has the highest GDP per capita anywhere in the world, exceeding even Qatar and Monaco, and it seems that the young are spending it all at the temples of Mercedes, BMW and Audi.

    Whatever the wealth, our car park at the sports ground of Triesenberg has views of the snowy Swiss mountains to one side, and the green southern slopes to the other, dotted with pretty chalets. It’ll do nicely for today, but it feels a long way from real.

    View from a van. Triesenberg. Liechtenstein.

    Julie Andrews is calling. I suspect that by the end of the day the hills will be alive with the sound of (Austrian) music.

    We visited Peyre near Avignon in France to buy a case of this wonder wine for a good friend. We saved this one for ourselves. Wow! Now I’m planning my return there.
    The Rhine Falls – evening drama.
    Phengnomenal. The Swiss release.
    Swiss biker dog Elox howls at the moon.
    Quackers! Anyone seen Drake?

    16 Replies to “Basel. Border crossing.”

    1. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Hi Guys
      Another wonderful tale
      You are in the best part of Europe all absolutely stunning food wine everything is gorgeous
      Lichtenstein is a very beautiful place if I remember then all the places around these area’s are beautiful
      Stay safe
      Hugs to Polly
      Luv D&G💕😎

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Gill.
        So long as your pockets are deep enough there’s something for everyone here, and it’s incredibly beautiful (and steep).
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

    2. Lovely part of Europe, so enjoyed my trips to Switzerland, just finishing a great week in the sun with Rab, Penny and the gang.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Rick.
        I feel that I make Switzerland a little more untidy just by being here!
        They do have some magnificent cars though.
        I’ve seen several TRs and MKII Jags too.

    3. Hello….that sounds and looks wonderful. It would seem that you are back into the swing of your travels,..the wine and Rhine falls were my favourites of the week. Xx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hey Emster.
        Great to have you along with us.
        I’m glad I wrote that this morning. This afternoon’s drive through the mountains scared the pants off me!
        Good wine is again having its effect now and it all feels like a bad dream that’s fading into the distance of memory.
        Love to you both. KC

    4. Hello, you two traveling. It was a great pleasure for us to have you as our guests. We had a lot of fun and could improve our knowledge of English, whereby the alcohol supported us energetically. We hope that our paths will cross again soon and wish you thousands of great encounters and experiences on your fascinating adventure journey. Take care, you are a ‘bloody good couple’.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thank you both!
        It’s great to get your comments on the blog, and better still to meet up with you.
        I’ll get started on your Scottish notes this afternoon.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

        1. We actually enjoyed your notes about our little country. Sometimes you just have to have a mirror held up to you to see where you live. Even if many of our communities are recognized as strangers and considered desirable, sometimes I still wish for a little less coercion, laws and rules and more freedom for it… and this in a country where we can actually feel totally free.

          I’m really looking forward to your notes on Scotland… and even more on being able to actively implement them in a few weeks.

          Best regards, have fun driving your VAN and the actor (next week).

          All the best!

    5. Joan Woolcock says: Reply

      Lovely read. Enjoyed reading of your travels. Glad to see Polly looking good. Love to you all. Xx

    6. Heya,
      So nice to read your blog today 🙂 Spent quite some time in Basel last year and used to cycle to the Vitra Campus crossing the borders a couple of time a weird really…but such a beautiful area!!! My absolute favourite place is the Fondation Beyeler though with excellent exibitions, but you may have been there before ;)? Anyway, have a great trip 🙂 and please say Hi whenever you pass through South Wales..not so soon I assume 😉 Angela x

    7. Great, you passed through both my hometowns of the last decade, Freiburg and Bad Säckingen 😀 I wish you another great trip and safe travels! We are now on our way back home to Bad Säckingen in Turkey a few hundred kilometers from Istanbul after a couple of months in the Caucasus and Iran.
      Greetings from the South,
      Manuel (we met at Kathisma Beach last year)

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hey Manuel

        Thank you for writing. I was delighted to read your note this morning.

        Ah! Kathisma Beach. I loved that place. I don’t think I’d like it in summer, but in the winter it was perfect.

        You made it to Iran? Wow! That’s exciting. I’d love to go there. It’s more difficult for the British to get a visa but it is possible. I bet that was a great adventure.

        We hope to get to Turkey, perhaps this year. We are deliberately travelling more slowly. Last year was good, but too tiring.

        I have to work in Portugal next week, and then we start heading east again.

        Freiburg was great, we were against a deadline or we would have stayed longer.

        At Bad Sackingen the lake and the forest walks were good. We didn’t see the town that much.

        Enjoy your journey home and maybe we will pass again sometime. If you drive through Slovakia I recommend the Tatras Mountains. We’re going there again next weekend.

        Best wishes. Kelvin.

    8. Oh yes, we loved Kathisma as well but neither would I want to be there now or in the next few months. Iran was beautiful but also a bit exhausting now and then.
      You didn’t really miss a lot in Bad Säckingen, the Bergsee in the morning is one of the highlights, the town itself is nice but no match for the beauties you saw in Alsace.
      Your decision to travel more slowly sounds really good, I am looking forward to reading about if/how it changes your perception of time again.
      Thanks for the Tatra idea, we’re not sure about our route home yet so that might actually happen 😁
      Have a great trip again (and a nice few days in Portugal even if it’s work),
      Best wishes,

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hurrah! Thank you.
        Yes, the Tatras is great. It’s a small, but high, range and very good for walking.
        We camped on the car park of Tatranska Lomnichy in October.
        Let us know if you’re passing, we might be there too.

    9. […] soaring glass and grey. I love modern architecture, but this place has more styles that the Vitra Factory and the result left us feeling cool towards […]

    Leave a Reply