Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What a long strange weekend it's been

There's no longer any doubt in my mind: the climate of the Rhine river valley is downright surreal. I've lost count of how many sunny, precipitation-free days we've had. But over the past two weeks, we've had 9 days where the thermostat's shot past 75°F. Despite a slide back into the comfortable 60's in the middle of last week, the arrival of the weekend sent the mercury climbing again. Great for Swissy Pie, who loves hot, sunny weather. Not so great for me: I'm an Eisbär. (If you've got any doubts, see my photo.)

Friday, when Global Librarian and her friend Laurie came to Basel, was the transition day. When we set the date last week, the forecast had called for rain. So I was thrilled to wake up to see the sun glittering in a clear, haze-free sky. Nor was it too warm: it was actually chilly enough that I debated putting on a sweater that morning.

Good thing I didn't. By the time we finished our little walking tour of the Altstadt and enjoyed a leisurely al fresco lunch on the charming terrace of Au Violon, the weather was starting to warm up. Things were just about perfect when we made our way over to the Tinguely Museum. But after we'd clambered and clanked and whirred our way through the exhibit, which Global Librarian recounts perfectly here, it was downright hot. (The lead photo of the fantastic chairs, by the way, is courtesy of her.)

Our journey back along the banks of the Rhine was like a walk through the Garden District of New Orleans, only without the mosquitoes, crime, or vampires. Heavy boughs of wisteria draped themselves across beautifully maintained old houses. Just past a screen of exquisitely tortured sycamores, a languid river rolled toward the sea. At times, the air was so thick it didn't feel like we were walking: we were wading through hot, liquid sunshine.

Saturday and Sunday, it only got worse, but each day Swissy Pie managed to draw me out of our nice cool apartment: first, with the prospect of frog-viewing in the Petite Camargue d'Alsace, and then with a Geissenfest in the Black Forest. I'm not sure why a goat festival sounded so interesting to me, but it did. So I slapped on some sunscreen (Swissy Pie managed to evade my minstrations), we got out our bikes, and off we went to Germany.

But the goats were not to be easily reached.

First, Swissy Pie had equipment problems halfway there, so he sent me racing back to Basel to get his other bike and drive it out. (Now that's dedication.) Then, we found that you had to be able to climb like a goat to see them: the road up to the Geissenfest, which was probably an unpaved goat path in the not-so-distant past, was so steep that at one point I swear my front wheel lifted off from the ground. Eek! Thank goodness Swissy Pie allowed that not everyone has Geissen genes, like he seems to. So, we headed back to get the car, and even with its 170 hp engine, it needed to be in second gear the whole time!

At last we made it to a make-shift parking lot, judging by the number of Mercedes SLKs adorning the meadow. (Apparently there are a lot of rich goat-lovers out there!) We pulled into an empty expanse of grass. I pulled on my shoes, which I had conveniently needed to drive over, but Swissy Pie was forced to go barefoot to the upper meadow, where the goats were. There was also another parking lot up there: that was probably meant to distinguish the regulars, who knew about it, from tourists like us, who parked a long way off. But at least the walk was scenic!

The festival itself was very small. Like any self-respecting festival, anywhere in the world, there were booths selling food (in this case, bread, bratwurst, and fries), drink (beer), and random souvenirs (bottles of sour cherry schnapps, jars of local honey, leather collars with goat bells attached, free trade coffee beans, and hand-woven baskets). And while there were a lot of people milling about, there was one thing the goat festival was noticeably short on: goats. Perhaps we arrived too late in the afternoon, and missed the fun, but there were less than 20 goats at the entire show!

Still, the kid goats were adorable, and the scenery was fantastic. And it was worth going, just to see the other attendees gawking at our funny cyclist outfits and Swissy Pie's bare feet!

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Blogger Alexandra said...

i'm scared of bikes... you make it sound so easy... maybe i need to get the OUTFIT then it'll go smoother... hmmmm

April 26, 2007 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Beejum said...

Wow, he really is a dedicated biker! That sounds like a fun outing, and the scenery is indeed very beautiful. Thanks for sharing! How is it biking along the roads there, is it as scary as in the US or are people more accomodating of bikes there?

April 27, 2007 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Ale - Why are you scared of bikes? Fortunately if you're interested in getting over that, you've moved to a much more bike-friendly place than NY. (Apparently it's the most popular means of transport in the country!) As for outfits - one cute website is terrybicycles.com - they have clothes for all sorts of riders!

Beejum - There are tons of bikers of all sorts on the roads here. It's a very popular means of commuting, and major (high-speed and/or high-traffic) routes have separate bike lanes which are taken VERY seriously, unlike in the US. (Or at least, in NY.) Even when there isn't a bike lane, the drivers are very careful and considerate. They'll creep along behind you without complaint until it's safe to pass.

April 27, 2007 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger naechstehaltestelle said...

Those goats are adorable. Makes it all worth the effort, huh?

May 2, 2007 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Naechstehaltestelle - I'd love to take the credit, but the car did all the work getting us up there!

May 2, 2007 at 4:57 PM  

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