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? 

6 Places I Never Expected To Go In Germany

The last time I was in Germany was in 2006. Berlin’s bushes were sculpted into soccer balls, the World Cup was playing on big screens outdoors, and Italy’s win didn’t go over well. (It didn’t go over well at all.)

I thought it might be nice to return to Berlin now that I’m not 19 anymore, or to visit Munich because people are always raving about it. But I don’t speak German, I can’t drink beer, and I run to Mediterranean every chance I get, so no plans to return to Germany were in the works.

But in May I found myself cruising down the Rhine and Duolingoing in German (“Die Frau isst ein apfel. Der Hund trinkt Wasser”) and it was pretty great! Here’s a look at six German towns we visited along the way.


We started and ended in Cologne, and I was pleasantly surprised. This city has its own personality – cool, down to earth, a little grungy, with a good measure of hipster thrown in. The highlights were dinner at Ludwig im Museum, visiting the artsy hipster neighborhood around Brüssler Platz, and the gargantuan gothic cathedral.

La Vie En C Rose Cologne

Schee Cologne La Vie En C Rose
Schee, the best hipster boutique ever

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At first I thought it was weird that we only had a few hours to explore Boppard, but then I saw it and I understood. It’s adorable and tiny. The path along the Rhine is lovely!

La Vie En C Rose Boppard

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Boppard La Vie En C Rose


Kehl (sounds like the trendy leafy green) is probably not somewhere you’d go on purpose. But it’s right across the Rhine from Strasbourg, so it’s a prime docking point. I walked across the bridge just to go to a French pharmacy (because I need Actifed!) and I was so excited to be able to communicate again.

Kehl edited 1
This is the most interesting photo I took in Kehl.


Breisach seems like an ordinary charming little fairytale German town. I might have found it boring, but I got to stroll around and peek into little gardens with my mom. Then we bought a red cow and sorbet, which I successfully ordered in German (that kind of makes it sound like I have German skills, which is mostly a lie, but hey, we got the sorbet didn’t we?)



Breisach La Vie En C Rose2



My favorite thing in Mainz was hands down the market that spilled out of the main square. Produce, gorgeous fresh flowers, wine, liquor, jam, coffee, gifts, cheese, fish, fresh prepared foods, and it wasn’t even Sunday. I also took a stroll through the cathedral, and my mom adored the Gutenburg museum. (Gutenberg Bibles omg.)


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La Vie En C Rose Mainz Market

Who would win in a fight, Paris Plages or Mainz Plages?
Who would win in a fight, Paris Plages or Mainz Plages?


By the time we got to Koblenz, I was tired, it was chilly, and all these little towns were starting to blend together. But Koblenz still stands out in my mind (even though I sometimes forget its name) because of the Deutsches Eck, the corner (Eck) where the Rhine and the Moselle meet. It has a big statue with a horse and oh so many flags. We also visited Schlossgarten and Schlossvorplatz, which Wikipedia tells me are the grounds of the electoral palace. All I noticed at the time was pretty flowers and crunchy gravel. No, but seriously, Koblenz was nice. If I ever go back, which I probably won’t, I would take the gondola up the hill and watch the sunset.

Koblenz La Vie En C Rose


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Koblenz Deutsches Eck La Vie En C Rose   Deutsches Eck La Vie En C Rose

Vielen Dank to my parents for some classy bonding time on the Rhine!

What’s your favorite city in Germany?