“What about going to Basel tomorrow?” Jamie, another Australian exchange student and a friend from home, asked yesterday evening.

“Well, why not?”

“How far is it?”

“An hour, maybe.”

“Let’s do it.”

It was no big deal. That’s how you do things here. You just get on with it. Oh, you’re minors and you’ll be unsupervised in a foreign country: no big deal. Just take your passports and train tickets. And remember that the Swiss, although they’re talking German, don’t talk it in a way you’ve heard before.

The plan was to meet at nine. When I woke up I looked at my glorified alarm clock – my single purpose smartphone – and said a few unpublishable words. It was 9.09 already. Luckily there was also a notification for an email. Jamie was going to bit late too.

I scrambled out of bed, scoffed breakfast and the doorbell rang. Jamie was here.

We made the wise decision of getting the next train. They leave every hour and that meant breakfast could be elongated.

Armed with passports, tickets and no idea about what we’ do, we headed off. We caught a train to the German train station at Basel. (There are two stations: a German and a Swiss one.)

The first order of business was money. We needed some Swiss Francs. Then, after a brief transaction at a conveniently located Travelex, we needed a map. Then, after a conveniently located newsagent and bookshop was visited we were ready for the big smoke.

(A note on currency: I suppose going to Switzerland is more like pre-European Union Europe when everywhere had its own currency and travelling was a total pain in the bum.)

We were heading towards the old part of the city when we saw the trams. “Should we get tickets?” was the immediate question, because we’re both 15 and lazy. We decided against it and kept walking. We soon made it to a bridge over the Rhine and we were in the Altstadt (old city).

Lunch – wurst, naturally – was ordered in German from a French speaking woman at the Saturday market in front of the town hall. The sign said that no expense was spared when it was built in the 1500s, and they’re right. The front of the building was red and gold paint was used without compromise. Paintings within the front courtyard were old, lavish and bright. A few government functions remain, but most have moved.

Chocolate was another order of business, which was purchased from a shop that was selling pens with a Swiss Army knife on the end. And then we walked around and took it all in. This photo essay from Jamie demonstrates (with his captions):

DSCN03391. Look at this bastard I ran into in Basel, Switzerland. Who would have thought this would happen.

DSCN03442. Look at this bastard who got us lost. And then he couldn’t read the map in German.

DSCN03483. Look at this bastard. He was rolling his eyes about not being able to read the pamphlet about an historic building in German.

DSCN03544. Look at this bastard who got in the way of my picture of the street.

DSCN03555. This bastard wasn’t even looking at the view across the Rhine.

DSCN03606. This bastard didn’t even want to do selfies.

Personally, I don’t think I’m that much of a bastard.

The weather wasn’t that great, but we didn’t get any rain and it was mainly just wind. In the narrow streets with high buildings it was nice and sheltered.

And no wonder the Swiss have good banks, because they have to have somewhere to put all the money they need. Everything’s expensive.

Our feet tired out very quickly, though, and we headed back to Freiburg earlier than I thought we would. On the train back we sat near some very loud Americans. It was very stimulating for our own conversation. We would talk about the subjects they were talking about. They were too caught up in their own little world to nice; we had a great time.

We got back at dusk and I bought the Guardian Weekly. A fairly perfect day.


  1. Hope you got plenty of that Swiss chocolate...you know how much your Dad likes chocolate! Great photos. xxx

  2. Loving the updates. Favourite photo is #5. I can almost hear your frustration in #3.

    Doesn't Switzerland use the Euro?

    The Wigneys

    1. Switzerland isn't part of the European Union and sticks with its Swiss Franc. I think it's because the Swiss like to be separate - part of their air of impartiality.

      A lot of places will accept Euro, though, but a lot of people won't.

  3. Sounds great! I think you're at a perfect age to explore a foreign country, any older and you'd have to worry about earning money! It's so cool to see you and Jamie over the other side of the world on your adventures. Keep exploring, it will be over too soon.

    1. Thanks!

      The days have been rocketing past. Over too soon alright. It feels like I just got here.