Organized Planner – that’s me!
But less than a week ago I realized that my first Spring Break travel was coming up and I had no clue where I wanted to go. Most groups had already booked flights and hotels. But not me. What was the matter with me? Ever since I arrived in Europe, one of my fellow students and friend, Wes, has been telling me to let things go and just to go with the flow. Every time I laughed at him. That’s not who I am.
With only a few days until break, I decided to head somewhere I never considered exploring – Basel, Switzerland. Basel lies very close to the border of both Germany and France, so I was all in for seeing 3 countries in one trip. I booked a hostel that I had never heard of before and didn’t do much research on. At only CHF 16/night it was a bargain of a lifetime! (or a bad decision of a lifetime). Something about the mystery and adventure was exciting. I at least knew I had a roof over my head at night. Since I’m working my way up on the “let it flow” scale, I couldn’t bear to just find a place when I arrived in Basel. But I had no agenda other than that. I hadn’t researched Basel or what there was to do. I was going to find out when I got there.
7:45 on Thursday morning I found myself on the train to Basel – out for an adventure. After a long morning of travel, I had finally arrived. And so had the cold! Silly me was so into being adventurous that I hadn’t thought to look up the average temperature. So I found myself in snow flurries with no gloves, scarf, or hat. The adventure had begun! From the train station a few of my fellow students and myself found our way to the hostel. Not being able to check in, we wandered around on the local tram system. Which I have to take a second and say…It is amazing! The trams run all over town and stop at almost every block. When in doubt, just jump on a tram and you will eventually get there. Many times I found myself hopping on the tram to escape the cold.
Since being in Basel, I have discovered the adventure of not speaking a bit of the local language – German. Every word seems to be 18 letters long with no vowels. Hardly anything like English! But that was part of the fun.
Most of my adventures with language block has been centered around food. On the first night we went to a local restaurant by the Rhine River, which ended up being a traditional vegitarian restaurant. The place was hopping with a relaxed atmosphere much like Gillies back in Blacksburg. Not knowing what to order and with no pictures, we chose five things to order and decided to split, hoping that we would stumble on something good with five options. I ended up with some type of vegitarian curry with rice and pita. Delicous!
The next morning I found myself at Migros, the local grocery store buying some fresh made donuts and pastries – cheap and filling. For lunch we went to Tadim Kebab Haus. These kebab places are found all over just like McDonalds back in the states. Again I attempted to order some type of wrap but ended up with the notorious finger point. It was called “durum gyro” and was much like a burrito made of durum meat that was shaved off this 3 foot tall spool of meat. I still am not sure what I ate, but it was mouth watering after a long day of climbing up to the top of St. Elizabeth Cathedral. The feasting continued to dinner where we ate at a traditional Swiss fondue restaruant. On top of cheese fondue, we ate two types of rosti (hashbrown-like potatoes with meat) and raclette (melted cheese on a plate with tomatoes and other goodies on top). I was in cheese heaven!
The food coma wasn’t enough because yesterday, I went back to Migros and found myself with a fresh blueberry muffin and warm pigs-in-a-blanket style hotdog (or some other type of meat). It was a great protein-filled lunch to start off my adventures to Colmar.
I want to spend a little time talking about Colmar, France because it took my breathe away. Only an hour away from Basel and less than CHF 30 round trip, I was set on putting my French into use. Yes it was below freezing (and I still didn’t have a scarf, hat, or gloves) but the view was worth it. The Dutch and German style, colorful houses lined the strees in perfect rows. Small, family-owned restaurants and businesses were scattered everywhere. In order to escape the cold, we would run in and out of the stores. I should clarify that we is Christina, Cassidy, and myself – it was a girls day out! We got hungry and stumbled upon a creeperie we had found earlier. Only big enough to fit 15 people, the restaurant owner came up and talked to us in French. Since neither of them knew French, I was carrying the weight of our lunch. We ordered local wines, which were much better than the “vino economico” we had been ordering at the Mini Bar in Riva. A few minutes lader the owner came out with our meal. It was then that I realized she was a one man show, and she worked it well. My crepe consisted of mushrooms, chicken, and a comatizing cream sauce. Then for dessert we shared a cinnamon and sugar crepe. Needles to say, it was an unplanned adveture that I will never forget. The small-town feel and atmosphere was a great relief. Most did not speak English, and I was quite happy to know that people were not trying to speak my language in order to accomodate my needs. The French came right back and I was so pleased with myself, and even more pleased to be able to understand the conversation around me.
After the tiring and beautiful day in Colmar, we headed back to Basel and ended up more exhausted than we originally thought. So Christina and I decided to go back to Migros and pick up some food for dinner, but it was locked tighter than a prison cell. So we wandered around in the cold for a little while till we found one of the only places left open – Coop (another local grocery store). After more wandering around inside we decided to pick up a “light” dinener. We grabbed a fresh baguette, a cucumber, a bag of clementines, a block of cheese, some sliced meat, a carton of ice cream, and drinks. We got back to the hostel and realied our “light” dinner turned out to be quite filling. About an hour later I passed out, exhausted from all my previous adventures.
Today I am hanging out and resting most of the day. I woke up at 9 and decided to go out and find breakfast since the leftover clementines weren’t doing too much. However, I forgot that nothing, and I mean nothing is opened on Sunday morning. After 30 minutes on the tram with Cassidy, we finally ran into a little pastry shop where I once again reverted to the finger point. We ended up with a braided loaf of bread and a pastry each – mine was a lemon cream danish. I am refueled and ready for a day of rest. Heading to mass later tonight with Christina. But for now I am going to relax because in less than 24 hours I will be in Milan for the day until my flight to Greece on Tuesday. Excited to meet back up with the rest of my classmates/friends and see what Greece has to offer. It definitely won’t be money, but I’m sure there will be some breathtaking architecture and a riot or two or ten.
But for now just letting it flow!