22 March 2020

Winter Weekend in Basel and Strasbourg

I created this post a couple of months ago, but never got round to posting it - life got in the way. I hope you're still going to enjoy it :) 

Last December, I travelled in winter (for pleasure) for the first time in my life. Of course, I hopped on and off planes in the cold season when I was at university and returned home, but I'm used to travelling when it gets warmer. On the one hand, I was slightly worried about leaving my cosy winter routine back home, on the other hand I was excited to be visiting a bunch of friends that I hadn't seen in ages, as we live in different countries. I only packed a smart piece of hand luggage and my work backpack (this definitely made me feel like a grown-up). I brought my old but still (partly) functioning camera, which I use whenever I feel like blogging again. So off I went, bundled up as if I was going on a mission to Alaska, only to discover that weather in Strasbourg was basically the same as in Florence - though Basel was much colder and humid. 

The sights from the train were stunning - from green Tuscany, to the industrial north (Piedmont, Lombardy), to the picturesque green hills and wooden huts in Switzerland and even some snow just before I reached Basel. 
The book I brought for the trip - The Power of Awareness by Neville Goddard 

As I got to Basel, I went around a few shopping centres, high streets and bridges to get a sense of what the city was like. It all seemed very neat and reminded me of Germany (indeed, Basel is in the German-speaking area of the country). I immediately fell in love with the houses (although that tends to happen pretty much anywhere I go) and their outdoors accessories. 

After meeting my friend's lovely housemate Samuel, I finally met my friend from school, Nico, who I hadn't seen in ages. It was great to reconnect, even for such a short time. He made me a typical Swiss meal, Rösti, a yummy potato fritter that you usually have with Spinach, eggs or cheese (we had it with eggs and Brussels sprouts!). After dinner, we headed to the Weihnachtsmarket, the Christmas market, in the city centre and had some Gluhwein, mulled wine, and met some friends of Nico's. We enjoyed the Christmassy atmosphere, both at the market and and in the city's high streets, then went back home.

The next day, Nico and I went to explore hidden parts of the city, the university and the centre. Of course, I had to take pictures of the houses in the daylight...

In order to enter the city centre, we crossed the beautiful Gate of Spalen (there are several gates in the city), which was completed in the 14th century. My favourite street was Spalenvorstadt, as it was full of bookshops, local cafes and restaurants. 


We reached the Marktplatz, the market square, and entered the Rathaus, the Town Hall. Basel's Rathaus is a beautiful Gothic building from the 16th century, with two towers that were added in the 19th century. I loved its red-painted façade and wall paintings and the typical clock. The statue on the outer staircase represents the legendary founder of the town, Munatius Plancus, and coats-of-arms represent the Swiss cantons.

More cute houses :)

A Christmas Tree stand

Then, it was time to go for a walk along the Rhine river. We grabbed a sandwich and some water from the supermarket and had a lovely lunch with a view. Talking of supermarkets, a fun fact I discovered about them in Switzerland is that there are two main chains - Coop and Migros - and that your family tends to only go to one or the other and see the other one with suspicion. I also have to say we were in the Migros team haha! 
Nico also told me about the character of Helvetia, the symbol of the Celtic population Helvetii and now one of Switzerland's symbols. 


It was then time to leave for my next stop - Strasbourg! I said goodbye to Nico and hopped on a train to Strasbourg (not the train I'd booked as lots of French trains were striking at the time and I risked remaining in Switzerland!). In the evening, I got to Strasbourg and met my friends from university that I also hadn't seen in a long time - Hannah, Lizzie and Naomi. We lived together in Bristol in our final year and regularly visit each other or travel together, which is always fun! As I got to the Airbnb flat we were staying at I was pleasantly surprised - not only did it look like the online pictures, but it was even better! It was spacious, with a lovely contemporary design that looked like an unrealistic interior design tab on Pinterest. The views, as we could tell in the morning, were stunning and so characteristic. I love typical French dormers (the little windows coming out of the roof) so I could't stop taking pictures from our balcony!

On our first evening, we had some wine and nibbles in our flat, then went to a typical French restaurant called Gurtelhoft and tried out typical Alsatian dishes with chicken, potatoes, cheese and some crudités. After a walk in the city centre, we went back to our flat and chatted.

Views from our balcony

The view from the living room 

On our second day, we headed to the Christmas market, which was full of knick-knacks, Christmas decorations and accessories. I got my mum and grandparents some tea towels with typical Alsatian recipes and drawings, and tried a local dish with cheese, speck and potatoes (unfortunately I can't remember the name, but it tasted so good!). 

It started drizzling, so we decided to leave the busy market and go and explore La Petite France. The houses and their reflection on the river looked so dreamy!

Lizzie <3
Hannah and Naomi <3

Of course, we had to stop and take some group pictures (we actually asked a British woman in French then realised she was British and all had a laugh about it). 

I love how our scarves, hats coats are matching! 

On our last evening before going back home, we tried various kinds of Flammkuchen or tarte flambée (a sort of cheesy and meaty Pizza without tomato sauce) with some wine at La Binchstub, another typical bar-restaurant our landlord suggested, then went for an evening walk. Next morning, I left to go back home, happy to have made lots of new memories with good old friends!

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