Feels like home …

December 13, 2010

I’m just back from a conference in Basel, Switzerland. The conference itself was brilliant on so many levels that it can only be described by quoting two of Barney Stinson‘s favourite exclamations: AWESOME and LEGEN– …wait for it…

The 14th century Spalentor (Gate of Spalen), the most elaborate of Basel's three remaining medieval city gates, seen from the east

… –DARY! The best part, however, was simply being back in Basel – many many moons ago I spent half a year there as an exchange student and for me it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This may have to do with the fact that I’m a medievalist and Basel is pretty much stacked with medieval buildings. And I’m not just talking about the large number of Romanesque and Gothic churches that one finds, more or less, on every street corner. There’s also entire streets and alleys comprised mainly of houses dating to the period from the 13th to the 15th century. Many of them even proudly state the house’s name and foundation date on their whitewashed facades:

So when I left for the conference I took along my camera, figuring I’d be taking lots and lots of nice pictures of those whitewashed houses, often overgrown with ivy, lining idyllic medieval alleys and, of course, the banks of the Rhine:

Once I was in Basel, though, it became almost instantly apparent that said plan would be impossible to realize. Firstly, there was the problem of time. The conference schedule was rather tight, and the little spare time I had I spent mostly in the city’s many museums and churches. I had to check out some of the medieval artworks housed there because they might be important for my research, so basically I used up my free time for work. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed looking at that stuff, but still, I did it for research purposes so it counts as work…

A glimpse of Basel's Leonhardskirche (St. Leonard's Church), showing some fine bits of late Gothic architecture and decoration

Secondly, there also was a meteorological problem – the blue sky you saw in the first photo of this post didn’t last very long and soon gave way to this:

Basel Minster, seen from the Leonhardskirche (St. Leonard's Church) at noon

With a grey, overcast sky and the corresponding flat, undifferentiated light the city didn’t look photogenic at all. Even the red sandstone and the colourful roof tiles of the 14th century Spalentor [Gate of Spalen] appeared dull and dreary…

The 14th century Spalentor (Gate of Spalen), seen from the west

So, unfortunately, I can’t present you with visual evidence of Basel’s great beauty. You just have to take my word for it.

One Response to “Feels like home …”

  1. nadia said

    i can only agree : basel is a very charming city… not so far from my home (about 1 hour) i love going there for a day off !

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