MY FIRST SWISS TOWN (AUGUST 1969) - MAY 2005
On August 26, 1969 I started hitch-hiking Europe: Lisbon - Stockholm! The first day I made Lisbon-Guarda, close to the Portuguese/Spanish border; the second day drove me, after a night ride, to Irun at the Spanish/French border; and then I caught a lift that would land me in Basel on Friday, August 30, 1969. This was the first Swiss town (though quite international) I've ever visited. It's located in the Dreiländereck (Three Countries' Corner - Switzerland, France, and Germany)...
"SPALENTOR, built in the 14th century, is the only remaining of the seven entrances through the medieval walls Basel once had (the others were destroyed in the nineteenth century with the expansion of the city)"
"RHINE KNEE - In Basel the Rhine, flowing west from Lake Constance (Hochrhein), turns north"
"MIDDLE BRIDGE - The first version was built in 1226; the current, in 1905"
"HELVETIA is the Latin word for Switzerland; it comes from the Helvetians, the first tribe settling in this central European region. «Helvetia auf Reisen» (Helvetia on her travels) was created by Bettina Eichinger in 1979/1980 and sits at the end of the Middle Bridge on the Little Basel side. «One day Helvetia leaves a 2 Swiss franc coin, mingles with the crowd and makes a long journey; on her way she also comes to Basel; after a fatiguing walk across the city she lays off mantle, shield, spear and suitcase, rests on a bridge pier of Middle Bridge and looks thoughtfully down the Rhine». It constitutes a major contrast to the traditional figure of Helvetia shown on the Swiss stamps and coins"
"CITY HALL in Market place started to be built in 1501, when Basel joined the Swiss Confederation, and somehow rebuilt in 1899-1901"
"CITY HALL COURTYARD - The sculpture of Munatius Plancus, the founder of the roman city of Augusta Raurica (some 10 km from Basel) is the most prominent one in the building. The paintings bear two basic themes: Law and Legislation and Basel’s membership of the Swiss Confederation"
"BASEL HILTON - This photo was taken many years after the event I wanted to remember. The Basel Hilton is quite close to the Bank for International Settlements, where the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision meets and where the meetings of the Committee of Governors of the Central Banks of the European Economic Community used to take place. The negotiations of the European Central Bank section of the Maastricht Treaty (and of its predecessor, the European Monetary Institute) started at the Committee of Governors, but it was on a room of the Basel Hilton that a major feature of the European System of Central Banks - the attribution of legal personality to the ECB - was developed. It happened to be my room for that night, and the proposal (made by the legal experts of the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish Central Banks -myself, Smits and Bieger) made its long way through to article 9.1 of the Protocol on the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank..."
I've some more pictures of Basel in 1990 (date of some of the meetings I mentioned) on the post Euroairport, Euroland!. Basel is also a very important industrial town - the Swiss chemical industry operates largely from Basel, with Novartis, Syngenta, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Clariant, and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered there - and a quite interesting cultural centre with important museums...