We have left France and Germany behind (sort of) and are now in Basel, Switzerland, for the last day aboard ship, before departing for our post-extension in Bern and Lucerne. I say “sort of”, because Basel is in the northwest corner of the country, just across the river from France and next door to Germany. Each day, 30,000 commuters come from France and Germany to work in Switzerland, then return to their countries in the evening.
Although Basel, the third largest city in Switzerland has a population of only 90,000, it is quite a cultural mecca, with 30 museums, a symphony, and a large theater. It is also home to Switzerland’s oldest university.
In addition to being an important banking center, Basel is also known for its chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as publishing.
I found it interesting that Basel has three railway stations; one French, one German, and one Swiss!
What I wasn’t surprised about and definitely expected was the high cost of EVERYTHING. The Swiss Frey chocolate bars I bought at Migos, yesterday, in Germany, were actually cheaper than at the Migos, in Basel! And, a Toblerone bar that was on sale for 5.49 Euros (regularly 10 Euros) at the German Migos was priced at anywhere from 16-19 Swiss Francs (CHF), in Basel. Keep in mind that the exchange rate was 1 Euro = 1.20 Swiss Francs.
The small chocolatiers were outrageous, so I passed on making any purchases. One chocolatier was charging 26 CHF for 250 grams of chocolates; about one half pound. The exchange rate for U.S. $1 = .75 CHF, so do the math and those are some expensive chocolate!
How about paying 5.90 CHF for 100g of salmon? 100 grams is only 3oz.!
Rather than return to the boat for lunch, following our walking tour, Mom and I stayed in town to do more exploring, then took the shuttle back later in the afternoon. But, we passed on dining at one of the cafes. Instead, we split a bratwurst at the Market Square; a 6 CHF purchase.
After lunch, we continued our exploring of the downtown streets. The following are pictures taken during our morning walking tour, as well as during our free time.
Although we enjoyed our day (and it was a beautiful one at that), Basel doesn’t rate at the top of my list for favorites on this cruise. The highlight, by far, was our day spent exploring the Alsace wine region’s quaint villages. My next favorite would be Bernkastel-Kuse, in Germany.
Overall, this was a fabulous cruise and we were lucky to have mostly terrific weather. The food was excellent on board and the service and friendliness of the staff was fabulous. Where else would the Executive Chef pick up special chocolates for a passenger, just because we had a conversation about it and he knew I was crazy about chocolate? I returned the favor by sharing my Bernkastel truffles with Chef and my mom, two nights ago, in a makeshift tasting session in the lounge, after he was finished with his dinner duties. And, during our tasting, he couldn’t say enough good things about Vantage Travel, their management, and the staff; his “family”. I agree! I will always choose Vantage Travel for my river cruises. There were several people on board who have traveled with Grand Circle, Uniworld, and Viking, however, they all preferred Vantage Travel by a long shot. And, in the end, it is less expensive. Everything is included with Vantage, however, the others nickel and dime you to death, so we were told. In the end, although the cruise was less expensive at booking time, by the time they were done, it had cost them more per day.
So, tonight, we spend our last night docked in Basel, and then depart for Bern in the morning. We will spend one night in Bern, followed by two nights in Lucerne. Originally, we were supposed to spend all three nights in Lucerne, however, there is a huge music festival, so none of the hotels were available for the 40 of us doing the post-extension.
I sure hope this gorgeous weather holds out!