Xmas on the Rhine: Basel & Lucerne
Last night we followed the Belgian tradition of leaving our shoes outside our door to see what ‘Santa’ would bring us on the morning of December 6th. This morning we woke up to find a special gift of a very large chocolate Santa for each of us!
We arrived in Basel, Switzerland’s third largest city, early in the morning after traveling through eight locks during the night. Guides we had today all talked about Art Basel and Art Basel in Miami (going on right now); we also saw ample evidence of the big pharma companies based here, most prominently Novartis. After an orientation tour of the city, we visited the beautiful Rathaus (Town Hall) built over a 400-year period beginning in 1501. Basel is also home to the largest Swiss Xmas Market nestled into the plaza on Barfusserplatz. Today was very cold and threatening to rain and we didn’t get much time in the market; but since it is much smaller and more compact than many we’ve seen, we managed to cover all the bases.
This afternoon we drove towards the Alps and the beautiful city of Luzern. It was nostalgic to see the Old Swiss House (a copy used to be at Tampa’s Busch Gardens) and interesting to visit the lion monument and another beautiful Town Hall. The lake, of course, is so picturesque and even the dark clouds didn’t diminish the beauty of the surrounding scenery with its snow-capped mountains. It was a perfect jigsaw puzzle picture. We walked across the (rebuilt) historic wooden covered bridge that stretches across the lake, watched graceful swans, and paid a visit to the very small, but pretty, Xmas Market located between Franziskanerplatz & Hirschengraben.
The Swiss have a less-is-more philosophy when it comes to Christmas decorations and often the trees were unadorned or very sparsely decorated. Although there are many beautiful shops and department stores, the holiday markets here were the most disappointing of the trip (but we’ve seen so much it is not important). One of my favorite sites in Lucerne was a building that had been turned into a giant, colorful Advent Calendar. Hanging street lights didn’t have the variety we’d seen in other cities, but were still elegant and featured large crowns or lit stars; and since we were in town until dark we did get to see all the city lights! We concluded our Swiss odyssey with a wonderful hot chocolate in a local café.
For our last evening on the cozy River Princess, we said goodbye to new friends, wishing everyone a Wonderful Christmas Season, Happy, Healthy New Year & to All a Good Night!