26Cantons52Weeks: Basel-Stadt

Jellyfish in the Vivarium

Canton: Basel-Stadt

Destination: Zoo Basel

Interesting thing: Basel Zoo is called “Zolli” by loving locals, according to tourist site MySwitzerland

Special guests: my parents again (this was the last one, sadly!)

I’m not big on zoos, nor animals in general, but when you have young kids to entertain, whatchagonnado? And I’ll tell you a secret:

Basel Zoo is better than Zurich Zoo.

While it feels rather disloyal to say it, Switzerland’s oldest and largest zoo (by number of animals) in Basel seems to show that experience wins hands-down over Zurich’s… um… funding? Location? I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. Zurich Zoo is great and has saved my elephant-hide on many occasions when I desperately needed somewhere easy-ish to take two small kids that provided entertainment, shelter and food for an entire day.

And yet… and yet… Zurich Zoo sprawls rather awkwardly over an uneven, hilly terrain that means you always spend more time hoofing about than actually viewing your favourite four-legged creatures. Because of the layout, you have to make choices, too: Lions or Elephants? Tigers or Lemurs? Distance and gradient mean it’s almost impossible to see both in the same visit, especially with youngsters in tow.

Basel, on the other hand, curves and undulates in a far more pleasant and sensible-seeming way, meaning you naturally come across a lovely variety of its animal inhabitants. This is the second time I’ve been and I started from different ends of the zoo each time but on both occasions managed to see the gorgeous snow leopards, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, orangutans and the fish house/Vivarium. My eldest is also perversely fascinated by the locusts here and we loved seeing the Bison last year (missed them this time around – you can’t see everything!). But the stars of the show were definitely the Hippos. Wow, they put on a fantastic display.

Giraffes at Zoo Basel

Plus the main restaurant is brilliant. Maybe we had great timing (although we were there on a weekend, in school holidays), or perhaps there was a winning ratio of adults to kids (3:2 versus 2:4 usually at Zuri!) but Basel Zoo’s main eatery seemed far better set out and less crowded than its Zurich counterpart/s. Plus, they have the innovation of bagged lunches for kids and, believe me, when you’re juggling two hungry youngsters, a buggy and your own meal, it’s an absolute godsend not to have to balance a precarious lunch-tray as well!

Don’t get me wrong, Zurich Zoo is amazing but I gotta say, Basel’s got the edge. Bravo Basel!

Two months / nine weekends to go and eight cantons left to visit/ write up… hmmm. 

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atmosphere

 

between the top of clouds and

the lid of the sky

sunlight breathes shallow and sits

in thin air

her warm fingers edged with

cold wind

the weight of majestic rays

higher than mountains, above fields

alone, over hidden cities of busy lives,

the mess and rush of love and hate, real life

up here

not really anywhere,

significant

temporary

ripped only by metal wings or feathered flight

mostly, a lonely nowhere

except

hovering in that secret blue place

I ache and stretch tendrils of tenderness,

could I reach?

everywhere

my yearning

feels like atmosphere

 

 

 

The inspiration for this came in part from a poem by Frank Hubeny which conjured the idea of the sun above the clouds having its own little game up there.

I sat on this for a month because I was planning to submit it to a journal callout for ‘immigrant poems’ — it speaks to my experience as an expat/person out of place/away from home. But then I got busy and missed the deadline, oops. 

Photo: Idella Maeland on Unsplash

cars & guitars

try to pin thoughts

like pressing guitar strings into

my heart – tender meat – but

I never learnt that instrument

apart from listening

my fingers, so clumsy

I can’t. No. I can’t

understand anymore

where do I start

already halfway gone, and

there’s no place to

pull in

open up my bonnet

tweak the engine, maybe

put a new one in

 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@felipeluiz27

#26Cantons52Weeks: Schwyz

View from Sattel-Hochstuckli and the cute cable cars

Destination: Sattel-Hochstuckli

Interesting thing: As well as nicking the name, Switzerland also took its flag from the Schwyz coat of arms. As my mate Mad Dog always says: I like Switzerland; the flag is a big plus.

Special guests: my parents – they’re doing me proud on the cantonal visits – that’s three so far!

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Perhaps the canton with the least vowels in its name: Schwyz! The canton is not to be confused with Schweiz – the German word for Switzerland – although it was one of the founding cantons of the country back in 1291 and is actually where the name comes from. From my quick scan of Wikipedia, it seems like Schwyz was calling the shots for a good long while there and hence the name kinda stuck.

Today we visited Sattel-Hochstuckli which, in keeping with the theme, is the beginning of the Alps. Plus it boasts Switzerland’s first revolving cable car that took us up from Sattel at 800m to Mostelberg at 1,191m in about eight minutes. (There are other revolving cable cars in CH now – I think I’ve been on two others – but this was the first one to be constructed and is a cute little thing).

At the top, there was zero sign of snow or the approaching winter, even though the “summer” season officially ends this Sunday. It’s basically a paradise for hikers and families. We didn’t do much walking – only over the 374-metre long suspension bridge and back – however, we did enjoy the kids’ stuff. My six-year-old loved the alpine toboggan (rodelbahn), downhill tube run and the giant jumping castle. OK, so dad and I also had fun on the rides as well!

Lunch was tasty at the Berggasthaus Mostelberg and then it was back for a few more rides before the drive home. Sattel is about an hour by car from Zurich.

We’ve been having absolutely glorious autumn weather during my parents’ visit and today was no exception. It was sun-drenched and 20 degrees up on the mountain. With the green of the grass and fir trees, the gold and russet of the turning leaves, and the shining silver of the rodelbahn, such a lovely day out. 10 points to Schwyz AND Der Schweiz!

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern *

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

 

*I haven’t written this up yet!

dreamwindow

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@joelmwakasege

 

dreamt I fell in love

it was so simple

like a small clear window

didn’t have to search for it

didn’t have to try

 

your clean, sudden lines

eyes smiling in delight

you said

it’s us now, forever

for however long that lasts

I laughed, and said

you know

I used to find you annoying

with your past life, past wives…

 

our movie showed a map

we travelled across Tanzania

on the coca-cola croc train

stopping here and there

to refill our canteen

 

dreamt I fell in love

it was so simple

looked down and it was there

like a small clear window

certainty at last

a strip of perfect light

 

dreamt I fell in love

oh, come back night

 

I played around with trying to turn this into a sonnet but it didn’t work so well. Maybe it’s a ‘deconstructed sonnet’.

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@joelmwakasege

Added to dVerse open link night 

#26Cantons52Weeks: Obwalden

Cogwheel railway

Canton: Obwalden

Destination: Mount Pilatus, Goldene Rundfahrt

Interesting thing: Canton Obwalden is the location for the geographical centre of Switzerland. The cogwheel railway up Pilatus is the steepest in the world and dates from 1889!

Special guests: my parents

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Pilatus is the ‘dragon mountain’ and its dragon symbol is rather a triumph of branding, with everything from the boat quay to the bus stop labelled with that same red swirly beast. To my mind, I can kind of see how the spine of the mountain looks a bit like a sleeping dragon and, where Rigi – “the queen of the mountains” is gently sloping and green, Pilatus seems to loom menacing and dark above Lake Lucerne. Except, as we made our way across the waters of the Vierwaldstättersee (as the lake’s called in German), I realised the mountain I’d been identifying as Pilatus actually wasn’t. So much for my theory anyway! Er… the real Pilatus looks like a dragon too, a bit! (Wikipedia tells me the dragon comes from a medieval legend about winged beasts with healing powers living on the mountain.)

Pilatus’ cogwheel railway is really something. It was constructed in 1889 and electrified in the 1930s. From lake level of 464m at Alpnachstad, the railway rises almost vertical in parts up the side of the mountain to just over 2,000 metres. The elevation gain is 1,635m in total and it has an incline of 48% at its steepest (this is the sharpest incline you can have – otherwise I think you’re actually vertical?). It’s steeper than the triangle of a Toblerone. It’s a longish journey too – about half an hour. Which is great if you’re excited about it, maybe not so great if you’re closing your eyes, blocking your ears and holding on for grim death due to a fear of heights, as my sister-in-law was the last time we went (sorry Laura!).

My parents are thankfully not much affected by vertigo and we had a lovely, clear early-autumn day for our ascent. So nice, in fact, that we even ate our lunch al fresco, with a panoramic view of the mountains from the terrace. Lovely. Afterwards dad and I climbed the “Esel” (donkey) peak to 2,118 metres for a top-of-the-top view. From here we watched a huge cloud roll up one side of the mountain, completely whiting-out the view for about 20 minutes, until it passed. Amazing how fast the weather can change at these altitudes.

To descend, we swooped down in the gondola and cable cars, then caught a bus back to Luzern to complete our “Goldene Rundfahrt” (golden round trip).

Full disclosure: the several peaks of Pilatus are actually on the border between two cantons – Nidwalden and Obwalden. However the cogwheel railway and Pilatus Kulm both fall on the Ob side (and I’ve already written up Nidwalden).

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern *

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

 

*I haven’t written this up yet!

 

#26Cantons52Weeks: Schaffhausen

 

Canton: Schaffhausen

Destination: Rheinfall

Interesting thing: The Rhine Falls are the largest waterfall in Europe by volume: 487,690 litres per second at the time of writing. It’s the Niagra Falls of Europe!

Special guests: my parents

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I’ve been to the Rheinfall once before, with my in-laws almost exactly two years ago. I had hoped not to double-down on stuff but the year is marching on and there’s still many cantons to visit!

Last time we approached the Rheinfall with a long walk down down the river (nice) past a sewerage works (not so nice). This time we thought we’d go more direct and maybe check out the castle that overlooks the falls – Schloss Laufen.

Unfortunately things were not so simple. We were stymied by the fact there’s too many options for how to get to the Rheinefall! I guess because it’s quite a big, impressive attraction, there’s many ‘entry points’ and viewing stations. So we ended up catching a train to Schaffhausen station, then a bus to Neuhausen am Rheinfall and not bothering with the Schloss… Now that I look at it, the river marks the border between canton Zurich and canton Schaffhausen and the Schloss is on the Zuri side so this works out well for my writing project anyway!

We took a boat tour out to the falls, which I hadn’t done before. There’s various options, we took the shortest/easiest – the Klein Rundfart 15-minute trip – and that was really worthwhile. The flat tourist boats go quite close up to the thousands of cubic tonnes of water crashing and boiling down the falls. It seems thrillingly quite dangerous but probably isn’t. We didn’t opt to climb the rock in the middle of the flow as it seemed rather risky with a 2.5 year old.

Next time I’m gonna nail the transport and hopefully make it to the castle as well but for a first-outing with my slightly jet-lagged parents on this trip, it was a good one.

Disobedient

 

Sid Vicious “I did it My Way” RIP Sid & Nancy Spungen, you disobedient delinquents. Photo: https://sonicmoremusic.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/swindle.jpg

 

I wrote every day

every day

then started to disobey

my plans and programmes

I guess

life

got in the way

distracted in the fray

of various this and thats until

well…

sometimes you need to rebel

I make the rules, I break the rules, no one tells me what to do

I always say

and no one fucking publishes rhyming poems either

I may

have discovered too late

but here we are today

you like it, hey?

keep on

disobeying

 

Written obediently in response to the WordPress daily prompt: Disobey