July 13, 2014
With my last remaining hours before my flight back to the UK, I wandered around the beautiful city of Basel. Upon my arrival to Switzerland, I had been so worked up about getting to Nottwil, I had barely noticed the city. During my meanderings, I crossed a large, decorated bridge over a pretty little river – and for a brief moment, the sunlight broke through the clouds for several glorious minutes.
Curious, I found a public map to see what the river was called. It’s the Rhine. THE fucking Rhine (or, as spelled on the map, Rhein). And, as the map also unenthusiastically displayed, I was just a handful of blocks from both Germany and France.
Suddenly, I wanted to stay there for weeks. I had never heard of this city, it was just where the cheapest possible Ryanair flight to Switzerland had brought me! How had I never looked at a map? Why didn’t I have a basic understanding of Geography?
So I walked a lot. Down meandering roads to the Munster cathedral. Into grocery stores to find Swiss chocolate. Along steep sidewalks where towering apartments and hotel rooms sat amicably close to one another. I stopped to watch other people having a calm afternoon, which made me feel calm by association. Men in the park played bocciball with the concentration of professional athletes. Children blew bubbles that floated up over the Rhine. A handful of bicyclists made their way around pedestrians.
Interestingly, most of the public art I found were bulky yet elegant mechanical contraptions. Normally, public parks have sculptures or memorials, train stations have elaborate murals, and fountains have Roman gods, baby angels, fish spitting at you, or all of the above. But the train station had a metal bicyclist pedal every 15 minutes whenever the analog clock above it chimed. The cafeteria of Eric’s facility proudly displayed a person in a wheelchair with Wright-brother’s-esque wings coming out of each wheel. I watched the fountain in the picture above for a solid 15 minutes, as mesmerized as the children. This is old technology of gears and pumps – and yet still fascinating to watch in action – as if the art had transported me back to the dawn of the industrial revolution, making what is now considered ugly, magical again.