Basel is Quirky

I don’t think I could have told you a damn thing about Basel before I went there in May. (Remember, I promised more slow blogging? …As opposed to all the fast blogging I’ve been doing.)

I still don’t know much. It’s in Switzerland. It’s on the Rhine river. They speak German. (Or, Swiss-German – I’m told it’s not the same thing, but I don’t know enough German of any kind to tell the difference.) They love their bikes. OPI nail polish costs 20 Swiss francs a bottle (more than 20 USD). And if you want my opinion, it’s surprisingly quirky.

Not wacky, in-your-face quirky like the colorful Hundertwasser house – just… delightfuly, subtly quirky.

For example.

The Blue Sheep

Basel La Vie En C Rose

I wandered up a random narrow staircase and happened upon this courtyard with a flock of blue sheep hiding out in the grass. I googled “blue sheep Basel” and found out that it’s a modern art exhibit in the cloisters courtyard and that it’s the #4 tourist attraction in Basel on Trip Advisor, but I didn’t know that then. I just saw a courtyard full of blue sheep. In the Trip Advisor photos, the blue sheep are standing proudly on mown grass, but when I was there, the grass had grown up around them so they were peeping out, not immediately visible. Maybe they’re just not hungry at the moment.

Basel Switzerland la Vie en C Rose

The Funny Fountains

Basel is a historical and beautiful city, with fountains a-trickling all over the place. Indiviually, they’re detailed and often colorful. Collectively, they could be a cast of characters from a ridiculous comedy. Picture all of these fountains guest-starring on Arrested Development.

Basel, Switzerland, La Vie En C Rose

Basel, Switzerland, La Vie En C Rose


Basel, Switzerland, La Vie En C Rose

Tinguely Fountain

This one is also a fountain but it deserves it’s own category because it takes quirky to the next level. It’s like in Beauty and the Beast when all the objects come to life, in fountain form. It’s also called the Carnival Fountain (or “der Fasnachts-Brunnen”) but it’s usually called after the artist, Jean Tinguely. He was a Swiss artist who, among other things, created quirky, kinetic fountains and sculptures.

Tinguely fountain Basel La Vie En C Rose

You can’t tell, but all those metal sculptures, made out of parts from old theater equipment, are twitching and spinning and spraying. According to this source, they all have names – dr Theaterkopf, d’Spinne, dr Waggler, d’Fontääne, dr Spritzer, dr Suuser, dr Wäädel, dr Schuufler, s’Seechter, dr Querpfyffer. How’s that for funny German words? Google Translate wasn’t terribly englighting, so all I know is one of them is “Splashes” and one of them is “Spider.”

Tinguely Fountain Basel, LA VIE EN C ROSE

Tinguely Fountain Basel, LA VIE EN C ROSE

Don’t tell me that’s not quirky.

Tinguely also created the Stravinsky Fountain outside the Pompidou in Paris and, for Indiana-dwellers, a sculpture called Chaos in Colombus.

This seems like a good time to mention that we had a lovely sunny day in Basel, which means that all my photos have bright sunlight and harsh shadows and I hate them as photos but like them as memories. Except this photo of two ladies at a bakery – they look like old friends gossiping on a weekday morning to me, and I love the pale blue shutters and flowerpots above.

Basel, Switzerland, La Vie En C-Rose

Okay, back to quirkiness.


Gesundheit! No, this is the smallest museum in Basel. It fits in a single window. A small one. It houses rotating collections. In May, it was Lion King themed.

Hooseaggmuseum Basel

It’s hidden away on a small pedestrian street of stairs called Imbergässlein. It’s the old spice sellers neighborhood.

Imbergasslein, Basel

More quirk on Imbergasslein

Basel, Switzerland, La Vie en C Rose

Basel Ferries

The prescence of a ferry in a city straddling a river shouldn’t be too surprising. Except that the ferries resemble gondolas and they’re powered by the river’s current and a man with a paddle. They’re attached to a cable by a string that keeps the current from making off with a boatfull of people.

Basel, Switzerland, la Vie en C Rose

Town Hall

The town hall is called the Rathaus in German, and it means council house, not rat house even though that’s what it sounds like. It’s quirky because it’s a bright rust red, and how oftern do you see that?

Pippi Longstocking

I found this Pippi Longstocking postcard in Basel. I haven’t thought about her much since I had the movie on VHS. Freewheeling Pippi can lift her horse over her head and she has a monkey for a sidekick, so she pretty much has quirkiness coming out of her horizontal pigtails.

Not all the stuff I learned about Basel was quirky. Apart from all this quirk, it’s also home to architects, pharmaceuticals, a major international art fair, and humanists. Erasmus is buried in the cathedral, which showcases Romanesque and gothic styles of architecture. There’s a tax on trash to encourage residents to throw away less rubbish. (Did I mention I’m learning British?)

Barfüsserplatz, vide grenier
These kids were singing to raise money for kids in Nepal after the earthquakes. Cutest fundraisers ever.






Basel is a sizeable city, but with oodles of charm. It seems like a nice place to live (as long as you’re getting paid a nice fat Swiss salary to go along with the big fat Swiss prices). If I lived here, I would picnic along the Rhine in the sunshine and maybe name some of those blue sheep.

Have you been to Switzerland? Did you visit a city as quirky as Basel?