Saturday, September 05, 2009


Okay, I'm back safe and sound.

I hate Switzerland -- in an envious way. It's green, pretty, clean, nice scenery, excellent Metro and train systems. Shame I don't live there but I'd need to be a millionaire to afford it. Switzerland is probably one of the most expensive countries on earth. Yep, more expensive than Paris I found. Just to give you an idea a super-sized Big Mac combo would cost you about US$13, and a 75 sq metre apartment is around $450,000. Lunch in a regular restaurant would be $30 at a minimum.

I spent my time in Basel for the seminar. I had heard that Basel was more of an industrial city so was not as impressive as other parts of Switzerland. Well if it is I wonder what the other parts of Switzerland are like because the city was pretty impressive to me. The old city, with its 14th and 15th century homes overlooking the Rhine River, was great to wander around. It reminded me somewhat of Bratislava.

I landed at the airport in Zurich and the train station was on the bottom floor of the airport so it was easy to catch a train to Basel, which was a little more than an hour away. My hotel was across the street from the train station and only about 150m from where the seminar was being held so it was really convenient. Even more surprising when I checked in they gave me a ticket which allowed me free use of all buses and trams in the city for the length of my stay! Does anywhere else in the world do something like this?

Whether was generally cool, in the mid-20s, and it rained a number of times which was great. I hadn't seen a decent rain for at least six months. The seminar organiser was a little amused that I wanted it to rain while I was in Basel. Even better, when it rained I was always in a cafe, bar, or in my hotel, so I was able to enjoy rain without being caught in it and getting soaked. English was widely spoken and in the occasional place where it wasn't my limited French was fine. I hope they pay waitresses and store clerks well because as far as I can tell you need to know at least three to five languages to communicate with most people who come into your store/restaurant: German, Swiss German, French, English, and Italian. I popped into a bookstore and was looking at their directory trying to decipher the German when a clerk walked up to help me and immediately shifted to English to point out what I was looking for (their English-language science fiction books).

I also found it amusing that local beer was around the same price as bottled water. Hmmmmm, should I have water or a Swiss beer? It was a tough call.

So I had a chance to wander around, took some pictures, and had a nice dinner in a Swiss restaurant in the old city courtesy of the seminar organisers. I bought some chocolate and cheese for home (no alcohol of course) and had an uneventful flight back. I miss Switzerland already.

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