Friday, July 10, 2009

Basel and back to Germany and our Steph

The evening provided a somewhat restful sleep which was aided by decent mattresses and pillows. Breakfast at the hotel is wide a selection of cold meats, cheeses, fruit juices, various breads, cereals and good coffee. After breaking our fast [and wind], it's time to hit the road - again! Today, our road will take us out of Switzerland vide Basel and in particular Das Münster (The Cathedral), and then onto Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany, and our darling Stephanie.

Travelling down the motorway and 20 kms east of Basel, we near the town of Augst where a tourist sign indicates 'Augusta Raurica'. I pee and Maria growns! Now, Augusta Raurica or Colonia Augusta Rauracorum is one the oldest Roman colonies on the Rhine and founded in 44BC by the Roman Senator, Lucius Munatius Plancus. Significant remains of the colony have been conserved including the amphitheatre and temple foundations of the Jupiter Basilica.

The amphitheatre had fallen into disuse after the Roman domination diminished. Local artisans then used the amphitheatre as a 'quarry' removing a good deal of the masonry for building works. Since 1899 works have been in place to 'restore' the amphitheatre into a working open-air theatre. Regrettably, these substantial works have given the site a 'modern' appearance which seem to pale against those of Lyon and Arle in France. We explore the site and absorb the information provided by the various information boards, then it's time to hit the road again.

On our way through Augst we pass stores promoting arrays of fireworks, mainly rockets and some the size of distress missles! An unusal sight for us considering the sale of pyrotechnic media has been banned in most states of Australia for many years.

Our trusty Nakajima 'Kate' has navigated our course for Basel and onto the motorway we head. The traffic is flowing fairly smoothly, however, speeding in Switzerland has been targetted by the authorities to almost a zero tolerance. It appears this has no relevance to some drivers who pass us with alarming speed. Throughout our 210 days of travelling we have had the fortune of seeing the aftermath of only two car crashes, and at this point we would hope this experience will remain at just two....

Basel - Switzerland's third largest urban area located on the River Rhine; a German speaking city which borders Germany [Baden-Württemberg] and France [Alsace]. Similar to Bern, Basel boasts an array of varying architectural styles, and impressive bus and tram infrastructure services in the city. Similar to most European towns and cities, cathedrals appear to dominate their central heart and Das Münster is no exception.

The Basel Cathedral was built between 1019 and 1500, virtually three different structures incorporating the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. This cathedral certainly adds definition to Basel's cityscape by its slim towers and coloured tesselated roof tiles. However, its most impressive aspect is the view from the towers which provide an almost 360 degree panorama of the city's scape. Ah, but it is from this height where the cathedral's multi-coloured tiles just gleam and the view of the cloister is quite amazing.

As we wandered through the cathedral and marvelled at its interior, I ventured upward into the tower - 312 steps, and most of these spiralled! The experience was worth the effort mainly due to the belfry being accessible and without the hinderence of 'bird-wire'. The timber shoring and bell supports have remained untouched for over six hundred years, and viewing the bell so close was just awesome. John you will surely appreciate this!

Mindful of the time, we returned to the outside world and proceeded into the cloister which boasted an amazing display of architecture and epitaphs to past notarians, knights and clergy. I suppose one of the most endearing features of any Medieval cathedral are the gargoyles and grotesques. During these times masons were virtually given a 'free reign' over these sculptures, and woe to any member of clergy who crossed a master mason. It wouldn't be the first time a member of the clergy was immortalised, rather unflatteringly, in stone.

Making our way out of Basel is a slight revisit of our Bern experience - road works, although less in quantity; however, these obstacles are circumvented by our most able Nakajima 'Kate'. We merge onto the motorway and all appears to be smooth sailing.....had I mentioned just two car crashes? We venture through the border crossing into Germany and expect to be stopped and passports checked. No, we're just waved through and although bewildered we continue our journey. In retrospect, this had also occurred when we re-entered France and upon entering Switzerland? Maria quite rightly suggested, our ease in crossing the borders is possibly because we are driving a UK built vehicle displaying UK plates....maybe.

Albeit, our motoring is brought to a standstill by a traffic jam, and the stationary traffic continues as far the eye can see. Wait a moment, "there's movement at the station" as the traffic commences to slowly proceed at a slow pace. What's that up ahead - flashing lights - a tow truck squeezes through the traffic with its lights flashing.... Car crash #3, and we hope that no-one has been injured.

The traffic continues to move and we continue our journey. Approximately a half hour later another traffic jam and more delays. However, the traffic proceeds to move and as we continue at a snails' pace, more flashing lights.... Incident #4, the burnt out hulk of station sedan, appears that no other vehicle is involved; the occupants sit at the roadside with a small amount of their luggage.

Once again the traffic moves on and although we have lost time we appear to be recovering this loss. Just a've got to be joking....oh, shit.....another traffic jam. This one takes slightly longer for the traffic to start moving again. More flashing lights.... Car crash #5, once more we hope no injuries had been sustained?

As the traffic thins and we able to make good time, we contact Steph (..who advises, "I am waiting for you") and let her know of the delays we've experienced. We continue and although we experience further delays this is in the wake of peak hour traffic. Finally, the road ahead is relatively clear and we press on with another call to Steph just to allay any concern she may have had. Passing through familiar territory, ie. Schorndorf-Weiller, we eventually arrive at Schwaebisch Gmuend and our patient Stephanie. It's times such as this when we realise just how much we love her and regard her as our own - our reunion is surely our testament.

Later, Steph goes to collect her man, Felix, who had attended function after work. The greeting we receive from Felix is genuine and full of warmth, he is quite a top bloke. We decide to go out for dinner as it is too late to cook, and being Friday night who could give a tinker's curse about cooking - we'll pay some cove to do it! So we head up the hill to their local Swabian restaurant - Der Süd Banhoff (the South Station as it is housed in a former Railway Station and full of old souvenirs). Felix, who has already had a full barbeque dinner (oh, I think I had 3 or 4 steaks and some sausages, and some beers) is the only one whose choice is simple - another beer and some soup. The rest of us labour over the menus, the waitress brings us English versions, and still we labour! But we finally decide:
No entrees.
Filetsteak mit Nudeln, Brokkoli und Gorgonzola sauce (Fillet steak with noodles, broccoli and Gorgonzola Sauce) Michael
Schwäbische Flädlesuppe (Swabian Pancake soup) Felix
Gegrillte Pute mit Nudeln und Gorgonzolasauce (Grilled turkey with Noodles and Gorgonzola Sauce) Steph

Maultaeschle mit Pfifferlingsauce und Filetstreifen (Swabian ravioli with local forest mushrooms (tiny) and fillet steak strips) Maria

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