Sunday, January 18, 2015

Basel NYE

Minutes before midnight on 31 Dec 2014, we found ourselves rushing down the street to make it in time to celebrate New Year's on the Rhine.  We were told to expect a massive firework display visible from the banks starting at 12:230 AM.  

Sure, it was cold. Yes, we were still jet lagged.  Yet, unabated, being on SFO time worked to our advantage. We fulfilled the quest to stay up and experience the full, explosive start to 2015.  

As we reached the north bank of the Rhine, we cheered as the bells rang in the new year. Carillon all about Basel peeled for many minutes once the clocks struck midnight. 

Because of the temperature inversion between the air and the river, there was an eery mist soaking the air.  Oddly reminiscent of almost every firework display we've tried to see in San Francisco, our breath mixed in the mist; a Dickensian atmosphere minus the soot.  

Luckily, there were large numbers of privateers willing to shell out the francs to shoot fireworks along our path. Being careful to not cross the errant trajectory of some wayward firework and steering clear of kids risking losing a finger tossing M80s into the river, firecrackers popped all around. We saw many fine displays as we angled past the bridges to view the city sponsored works. Flocks of people moved closer to the Cathedral to see what they could see.  

Turns out, what certainly would have been a spectacular display became brightly colored fog shifting to whatever hue happened to be shot up at the moment. It would have been better if the air were clear, for sure. 

Perhaps this was another way Basel wished to welcome us; by making us feel at home with a typical SFO-style, fog-laden firework display. The view across the Rhine was positively medieval. It's not difficult to imagine what visitors a thousand years ago would have seen on a similar evening.  The skyline glowed.   

Tucked in behind a pillar of one of the many bridges that cross the Rhine, we were protected from the small breeze.  It's always warm when you stick together. 

Round about 1 AM, we decided to abandon our attempt to "see" any of the big fireworks. Boarding the 6 Tram for the short ride home, the tram refused to move.  Perhaps it was waiting the end of the fireworks. It didn't take us long to decide to just hoof it home.

Along the way, we saw many merry makers spilling out of various bars and establishments, enjoying the evening.  We even heard the grand finale (which is about all anyone could do), and witnessed the even brighter clouds amidst the cacophony.

Of course, the boys were tired & so were we; weariness is evidence we made the best of our first full day in Basel-Stadt.    We were happy to arrive at our very modern, warm apartment complex, greeted by another private display.

Wishing you all a Happy 2015!

 Merry New Year,

-  The Trailing Spouse.


Touching down in Zurich in the last days of 2014, it was fitting to discover that our first steps on Swiss soil as a family were ushered to the terminal by a 33-year veteran Swiss Air pilot making his last landing before retiring.  It may be that he was trying to impress us (and everyone on the plane), or that there was a massive coating of snow on the tarmac, but it had to be the smoothest landing I've ever experienced as a flyer.  We didn't know the fact that this was his last flight as a pilot until the lead flight attendant made the announcement, after which there was a great round of applause from the whole cabin.  

The ride from the airport to our new flat (Erlenmattstrassa #12) was pretty uneventful as we were lucky to have a professional driver and a very large van to shuttle the 9 bags we had traveling with us.  Although we thought we were bringing everything and the kitchen sink, it turns out that there are certain items left behind that might have been useful to ship over. Moreover, some items shipped over are utterly useless with out the right connectivity - e.g. the Wii.  Clayton and I found out the hard way that you can't simply slap on an adapter and plug any old device in and expect it to a) work, and b) not pop the fuse.  So, inadvertently, we learned where the fuse box is, thanks to John Burke (our new Sea Lion Trainer Friend - see forthcoming German Circus post) who pointed us to the right location.

That first night, we were pretty wiped out from the flight; jet lagged for sure. Even though the relo folks had stocked the flat with a bare minimum of food - pasta, sauce, etc... - none of us felt like cooking.  Luckily, kitty-corner from our complex, just across the street from the Swiss International School (yes, we can throw a snowball from our sidewalk and hit the side of their building, but we are NOT attending that school for a number of reasons explained in the prior post) was a restaurant/bar/pizza joint that was open. 

The proprietor was surprised to see us, as was everyone else mainly congregated in the smoking area sipping a variety of beverages. Kind of like you walking into Cheers having never been there, every one turns around thinking "who are these blokes who just stumbled into our joint."  His German greeting got nothing but blank stares from us. I'm sure, doe-eyed, hungry, and tired; we must have been quite the site.  Luckily, there was a non-smoking section, which we had to ourselves. 

In broken English, and with assistance from his server, we were able to communicate and landed a delicious "family" pizza and some libations, enough to satiate the boys making our first night in Basel complete.  Given that we were the only "foreigners" in the joint, the owner (as we came to learn from Turkey) quizzed us on where were from and the like. It felt like we instantly became part of the family.  While we haven't been back, we fully intend to go there periodically to patronize the joint and give our business to people that made our first evening in Basel feel a lot like we had just come home.

At the end of the evening, the owner offered us something to finish off the meal "on the house." I thought we had ordered a coffee for me, and some ice-cream for the boys.  We ended up with two more beers of the local beir-normal   

Full and tired. We made the short amble home to brush our teeth, floss - well, some of us flossed - and fall directly into bed, anticipating the last day of the year.

Yours from Basel

- The Trailing Spouse