Basel Rhine Swimming

It actually gets hot in Basel in the summer. This summer some of the high temps were around 100F! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t having to endure 100 degree heat with no air conditioning.

The people of Basel have obviously had to endure this kind of hot weather before and they have a unique way of coping.

Rhine Swimming!

People around here literally go jump in the river when it’s hot. They go up river a ways, jump in, and float down to cool down. By the hundreds!


The lunch hour seems to be a favorite time to Rhine swim.  People put on a swimsuit at work and either walk to the Rhine in the swimsuit or put on a t-shirt and shorts over the top.  When you get to the entry point just by the Tinguely Museum you strip down by the water, throw your clothes in a special water-proof floaty bag that is shaped like a fish, and jump on in!  I’ve even heard that people who work by the Tinguely Museum commute home this way.

Just put your stuff in, roll down the tail, and get chill.

People use the bag as a pillow or a kick board as the river whisks them away.

IMG_1676Even Mark tried it!  He went down at lunch time, bought his float bag, and plunged into the water.  He said it was really refreshing – not chilly at all and perfect for a really hot day.  He must have done it at least a dozen times.

And the Rhine isn’t the only place people get relief from the heat!  They also jump right into all the fountains around town!

IMG_1723Right after we saw these kids, we passed a group of 50-something year old men in Speedos. I can only assume they were heading up river to jump into the Rhine and float down, but before I knew it the kids and I heard this loud SPLASH!  One of them couldn’t wait and plunged into a small water trough fountain we had just passed. Half the street was covered in water.  They were all laughing like teenagers and we giggled to ourselves as we walked along.

We also found two families with babies lounging in the fountain right outside the Münster like it was a hotel hot tub.  It was almost resort like with the ice cream stand next to it and a small band across the plaza.

Everyone also uses the fountains to refill their water bottles. Or, if you are E, you just take a sip right from the source.


It was fun to see such a buttoned up city like Basel let its hair down.  You get to see it for a short time during Fasnacht, but it was so nice to have day after day of a casual attitude around town.  It was like the whole town was having a vacation.

Now that the kids are starting school again you can see things are slowly buttoning up again and Basel is getting back to business as usual.  But it’s fun to know that the guy walking down the street in his Armani suit probably stuffed it in a fish bag and floated in the river last week.

Richard Scarry’s Switzerland

Or, Hey! This Looks Kind of Familiar!

As I have been walking the streets of Basel I can’t help but feel I’ve seen this all before. A long time ago. In a galaxy relatively close by.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was just so …. familiar.

One of the Tower Gates to the city
One of the Tower Gates to the city
And I think I've seen it before.
And I think I’ve seen it before.
The cute street the Tower Gates is protecting.
The cute street the Tower Gates is protecting.

I just love this peek-a-boo view of the street beyond the gates. It’s a busy, busy town here.

Ooops! Did I give it away?

There's just something so familiar here.
There’s just something so familiar here.
A closer view of the buildings behind the bridge.
And here with the line of the buildings. Especially the shape of the roof on that front building.

And then it hit me.  Of course I’d seen this before! I’d seen it for years and years.

Right around bedtime.

The Historic Town Hall in the center of the Marktplatz.
The Historic Town Hall in the center of the Marktplatz. Looks familiar doesn’t it.

richard scarry 1

richard scarry 2

I’ve always had this perception of Busy Town as Switzerland. I never knew why.  And it went beyond the lederhosen that Huckle wears, because they wear them in Austria, too.  Maybe my Mom mentioned it as I was drifting off to sleep when I was 4 and I’ve preserved it in my subconscious for the past 30+ years.

I’d never done any research on Richard Scarry, although I’d been a fan for decades. My Aunt Noma bought me the Best Story Book Ever when I was born and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Busy, Busy Town and What Do People Do All Day to my kids.

Richard Scarry was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1919. He went to the Museum School of Fine Arts and then signed up to fight during WWII. He was stationed in North Africa and I imagine that at some point during the war he was introduced to Switzerland.

I presume that, unlike me, he visited Switzerland a few times before he moved there.  He ended up moving to Switzerland for good in 1968, and in 1972 was able to buy a chalet in Gstaad (the skiing capital of Switzerland located outside of Bern – and it was featured in “The Return of the Pink Panther”). He lived in Switzerland for 26 years before his death in 1994 at the age of 75.

If you review his work you can see how his style changes during the late 1950s and through the 1960s. What Do People Do All Day was published in 1968 and Is This The House of Mistress Mouse?, featuring quintessential Swiss half-timber houses, was published in 1964.

A typical house in the Swiss countryside.
A typical house in the Swiss countryside.


This is totally Huckle's House. Or sort of like it.
This is totally Huckle’s House. Or sort of like it. But it’s so cute!


In a way, exploring Switzerland is like getting to meet a family member you’ve only heard about in fun stories. You see them and you recognize your grandfather’s nose and your great-aunt’s eyes. You can tell where they came from genetically, but they are their own person and you can’t wait to get to know them.