Basel, city on the Rhine // © FestiveSearch // Flickr.com
Basel, city on the Rhine // © FestiveSearch // Flickr.com

What: Official Basler Rheinschwimmen 2012
When: August
Where: Starts at Schaffhauserrrheinweg 93 and ends at Höhe Leuengasse/Johanniterbrücke.

Thousands of swimmers gather from around the city to join in an annual fun-filled float along the Rhein River. A much loved tradition, you can expect to find the Rhein teeming with buoys, swimmers, and balloons as everyone celebrates another summer cruising past river banks and under bridges, seeing Basel in a completely new way.

A few things you may need: a “Schwimmsack” or swim bag, where you can keep dry clothes to change into after your swim (it also doubles as a float—available at MMM Claramarkt and MParc Dreispitz) and some good swim shoes. As always, be cautious—watch out for bridge piles and strong currents. And bring your friends! You know what they say…never go swimming alone.

Photo credit: RTEMagic

Location! Location! Location!

That may well be the first thing that jumps to mind when you look at how strategically Basel is situated. How much better can it get?

Actually…a lot better.

From Basel, thanks to an incredible transportation system (think car, train, plane, and boat) you can get anywhere in Europe…and the world. Not only does it have the Basel Bahnhof (Swiss Railway Station), but it also has the Basel Badischer Bahnhof (German Railway Station). If you’re really adventurous, you can bike or even walk to neighbouring countries!

Through years of tradition, the city of Basel finds itself divided by the river Rhine in two parts—Grossbasel (Great Basel) on the left bank, and Kleinbasel (Little Basel) on the right. Bridges and ferries link the two parts together. Years ago, as lore has it, the Lällekönig (literally “Tongue King”) on the Grossbasel side would stick his tongue out at the “lower” people of Kleinbasel. In return, the “lower” people would…well, turn their backs to him! Check on the Grossbasel side of the Mittlere Rheinbrücke and you’ll see a bust of the Lällekönig with his tongue sticking out.

Rich in history, in AD 374 Basel grew from a Roman military camp, Basilia, associated with the Roman colony of Augusta Raurica (now Augst). However, recent finds of Celtic settlements predate the Roman castle.

Later, Basel became the seat of a bishop and was ruled by prince-bishops. In 1019, the German Emperor Heinrich II began building the famous Basel cathedral known as the Münster.

An earthquake in 1356 brought a massive amount of destruction to the city. In 1500, the construction of the Basel Münster was finished and Basel became the eleventh canton to join the Swiss Confederation in 1501. At the start of the Reformation in 1529, Basel became a refuge for victims of religious persecution and contributed to Basel’s golden age in the 18th century.

Basel is home to many international fairs (Messen) and fun activities. It also is home to leading pharmaceutical companies as well as banks and bankers’ banks! The University of Basel is the oldest university in Switzerland founded in AD 1460. Erasmus taught at the university and is buried at the Münster.

Baseldytsch, Basel German, is the way native locals communicate. They also speak German, French, and English. In fact, it’s becoming very common to find English spoken in many places around the city. Many locals will prefer to communicate with you in English than in “high German,” proper German, or French.

Photo credit: By Taxiarchos228