Dave and I took our second river cruise with the Viking cruise company this July. We used Vikings air travel business to book our flights and flew economy class. They try to get the best seats available so going to Europe we had seats in the outside double row on a Lufthansa flight from Chicago. On the way back we were the first two in a row of three on United, not as wonderful but the third person, window seat, was quiet and pleasant. Lufthansa runs a bit classier operation with warm damp towels before their in-flight meal and better food in general. After the exhaustingly long flights from Phoenix to Basel, Switzerland with changes in Chicago and Munich, it was a relief to be welcomed at the airport by a Viking rep and escorted to our hotel in a nice car. Viking host, Georg, greeted us at the Swissotel for our pre-cruise extension and gave us information and assistance for sightseeing. We arranged to take a walking tour of the city with him the next morning at ten. We checked out our room and rested a bit then engaged the concierge to help us find a restaurant for our evening meal within walking distance of the hotel.
The Resturant Fischerstube is pictured in this mural that was opposite our table on their terrace where we ate our dinner of Bierbretzel, Jubilaums Wurst and Schweinssteak accompanied by two Magg Ueli beers. Here is a picture.
As you can see, I had a sausage and potato salad and Dave had a pork cutlet with veggies and hash browns.
It was a warm evening so we took a walk along the Rhine River, the river we would be cruising for the next week.
After watching the river for a while we noticed people floating downstream holding on to inflated bags. Later we found out that the inflated bags contained their street clothes and maybe a towel. The Rhine here at Basel is clear and looks clean. We were told that Basel gets all its drinking water from the river. Lots of activity was happening along the Rhine with people swimming, strolling and visiting. Most restaurants had outdoor dining along the street or in terraces or beer gardens. A big event called the Basel Tattoo was happening. It is an event for military bands and is very popular in Europe. We happened upon a drum corps from the USA, part of the military band the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp who wear vintage military uniforms.
This group was practicing their drum routine along the Rhine river one night as we strolled by.
The next morning we awoke to find that we had slept until almost ten. Yikes! We needed to be downstairs for the walking tour so we hurriedly dressed and rushed to meet the group of ten to twelve people who were also on the pre-cruise extension. Off we went following Georg down the street to a tram stop. Viking had arranged for us to have tram/bus passes for our Basel stay. The electric tram runs in the middle of the street either toward or away from downtown and we were a bit confused to begin with about the direction we were going.
Our tour group. I forgot my camera in the rush so I had to rely on Dave to take pictures. We are getting our hearing devices adjusted so the tour leader didn't have to shout. We walked on cobblestone streets by the theater, the Carnival Fountain, the Munster (cathedral), the Basilisk (Basel mascot), the town hall called the Rathaus, shopping areas and restaurants.
The Carnival Fountain also called the Tinguely fountain was fashioned as a kinetic sculpture using machines the artist found in the old Basel theater. The fountain is located on what was the stage area of the old theater which was torn down after a new theater was built. It is a favorite meeting area for Basel residents. Jean Tinguely is a Swiss artist whose works we saw at the Kunstmuseum that we visited in the afternoon after having lunch at a street restaurant. It was fun to sit and people watch as we ate lunch. It was raining that evening but we decided to find a restaurant down by the river. The area we chose was packed because of the Tattoo but we managed to squeeze into a small Italian place that seemed to be a local favorite then walked along the Rhine as the rain had let up.
The next day was free until three in the afternoon when we would be taken by bus to the cruise ship. We were to have our bags packed and ready for pick up in our rooms by 11 AM. The bags would be stored until we got onto the bus. Our hope was to get out into the countryside so Georg made us a map to get away from the city to the small town of Arlesheim. There was a walk from the town to some ruins where there were ponds and grottoes. It sounded interesting so we followed his instructions taking Tram 8, then Tram 10, then changing to Bus 10 toward Donach. I have no idea what direction we went but we landed in the quaint small town of Arlesheim, maybe an hour away from downtown Basel.
One of the many fountains in Basel. This one at a tram stop. Note the raven figure atop the fountain. No one explained the frequent raven figures. Possibly good luck totems.
The Swiss have a very efficient system for mass transit. The trams run frequently and on time and are quiet and clean. There is no underground system as there is a river beneath the city that is now channeled and covered over. We had to change to a bus from tram route 10 because the tram tracks were being updated. The bus dropped us off in the middle of town and by luck we found the right way to go. Georg told us to go left from the bus stop so we did. Soon we were out in the country following a street, then a path into the rolling green hills.
Our destination is up there, the hermitage of Arlesheim. We hear clunking bells and see that the bells belong to cows resting in the shade.
Vineyards on the hillsides, cut hay is in winrows waiting to be baled or whatever they do with it.
Onward we climb along a nice path into shady trees. Others were out walking in this glorious sunshine-y morning, some with dogs, some jogging, some just out for a stroll.
It was a warm day, ducks were basking on the bank of the pond. I could hear a wren chattering in the underbrush. Upward past grottoes and stairways carved into the hillside.
We rest for a while under a thatched shelter then continue on our journey to the ruins on the hill above the town.
Dave took a picture of this inscription carved into the stone near the shrine.
The view is splendid from up here but this old church is not open for exploring so down we go and into the village.
A fountain, one of many in this little town of cobbled streets and small shops. There is a pretty church, the Dom von Arlesheim, so we go inside.
The church is just as pretty inside as it was outside. It was built in the 1300's. Amazing.
Ice cream break before heading back to Basel. This was a busy bakery and breakfast spot in the village. Many patrons were enjoying morning coffee outdoors at cafe tables. We locate the bus stop and soon we were retracing our tram stops back to the hotel to wait for the bus taking us to the ship. Gathering in the lobby, we meet our travel mates and visit. Soon the bus is here and we identify our luggage and get on board.
Cruise director Boyen greets us at the dock as a mist of rain makes the pavement wet. We embark the Viking Tialfi and find our staterooms.
Our room has a French balcony which means the sliding window opens and a plexiglass barrier keeps us from falling into the Rhine.
We get a coffee and a cookie and take them to the sun deck to enjoy the view now that the rain has stopped. Now all we need to do is unpack our bags, stow them under the bed and get ready for the welcome dinner. We are on our way. There are 190 customers and 50 crew members to make sure we are entertained and well fed.