Stroll down Café Kafka (refer to my earlier post on Basel) and you will see Munster Cathedral spittled with the shadows of bare winter trees keeping the medieval spirit intact. With a mixture of Roman and Gothic architecture, this 12th century cathedral was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1356. Forever under restoration, Munster proves how the Swiss let the relics of the past survive, even as they build the new brick by brick.
Basel, the erstwhile royal residence of the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, is a small town that can be covered on foot. Forty museums and galleries cover 37 kms of area although it has less than 1,70,000 population.
But once you learn that the Switzerland government spends 30 francs each for its citizens to promote art, this panoply of museums and galleries ceases to be a surprise. Of all, Foundation Beyeler and Tinguely Museum are a must-see.
Around Munster, you are led by narrow alleys dotted with ancient fountains and gargoyles in many shapes and sizes: bats, elephants, monkeys, bulls, etc. Adjacent to these fountains are beautiful houses with wine creepers hanging on the walls like tresses. Timeworn tombs, churches whose spires and courtyards echo the sounds of long ago, keep you occupied throughout. A compelling pull of the past is hard to ignore.
(Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Art Council sponsored this trip a few years ago).
Related story: ‘Basel’s Literaturhaus, book-lovers’ favourite hangout’