Friday, February 13, 2009

Leaving Deutsch, Entering Français

So, back to Basel...

Just a few minutes before 10 a.m., there was an assertive knock on the door. Apparently the Easyhotel management is quite serious about checkout time. Luckily, we were eager to get on with the day’s adventures, so our bags were already packed and ready to be stored at the front desk. First on our agenda was the Fondation Beyler ( This beautiful museum filled up quickly, owning to not only the lovely location and permanent collection but also the special exhibit on Venice (Impressionists=large crowd). Martello and I were happy that we had visited Venice prior to seeing this exhibit, a fact that endowed us with some contextual knowledge (and at least in Trofie Wife's case, an ability to skim). 

After we finished touring the grounds, we took a tram back to the town center and went our separate ways—Martello to the Swiss Architecture Museum ( and Trofie Wife to the Puppenhausmuseum (featuring dolls and teddy bears;  Aside from having an awesome name, the Puppenhaus houses a wonderful collection. It contains four floors of historic bears, dolls, and related paraphernalia, including charming period postcards and birthday cards in each stairwell. Each floor is equipped with a digital library; just enter the teddy’s or doll’s item number into the computer and you get its back story (the computer determined that I was particularly drawn to 1930s Steiff bears). Also of note were some great Americana scenes (including a whole section on Teddy Roosevelt) and some amazing Tinguely-worthy mechanical toys, including an entire carnival scene with moving rides!

I still had some time before Martello and I were set to rendezvous, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I scouted out the bakery and cookie shops. Unfortunately, Basel’s treats are no match for Zurich’s. I had some lackluster Läckerli cookies (Basel originals; I’m not sure if the ones I purchased were slightly stale, or if that’s just how they taste) and sub-par macaroon cookies that it would be an insult to compare to the vaunted Luxemburgerli. Upon finding Martello, he led me to the Tinguely sculpture garden. Here’s what we saw:

Pretty cool, huh? Sadly, adjacent to the garden was a Richard Serra sculpture that had been covered almost entirely with graffiti. The graffiti in Switzerland is another unexpected shocker. We saw it on the Grossmünster (A CHURCH) in Zurich and would continue to encounter it throughout the rest of our time in Svizzera. Zurich Brother-in-Law told us that it appeared to be the one “vice” in which otherwise straight-and-narrow Swiss kids could partake, since many other activities, verboten in the States, are openly accepted/decriminalized there. (I’m just still smarting from the open acceptance of tagging on a church. The paint didn’t even seem fresh… .)

As the sun went down, Martello led us to some other architectural monuments, including a train switch tower, biological sciences building, and apartment complex all by Herzog & de Meuron; we also passed the synagogue, which was staffed with two security guards (we weren’t sure if people were actually inside or not; the community just might have been taking extra precautions with the Gaza ground incursion underway). Trofie Wife’s patience was wearing a bit thin due to the cold and her anxiousness to get to the French-speaking part of the country (enough with the German already!). We finally got our luggage from the Easyhotel front desk and boarded a train. Thankfully, Trofie Wife was able to piece together a sentence in French in order to figure out our transfer at Biel to a train to Lausanne (you’d think after all those years of French I’d be a little bit better in the speaking department, but alas…).

Arriving in Lausanne, we found ourselves hiking up a steep, cobblestone hill in order to reach our hotel, which was adjacent to the famed cathedral. (Of course, the next day we discovered that our hotel abutted a Métro stop…).

Lausanne is definitely picturesque, but due to our late arrival, we ended up in a less-than-lovely portion of the city. We had decent pizza at a food court and watched imitation MTV featuring bad American music. We returned to the hotel to watch CNN International (given the ground incursion) and ponder the room’s décor; the pink leopard carpet definitely raised our suspicions that the hotel might have had a colorful past… Nevertheless, Trofie Wife was pleased to finally visit a French-speaking place and eager to be able to (at least slightly) understand street signs and the world around her.

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife 

No comments: