Arriving in Basel

Trip Start Jun 13, 2007
Trip End Sep 16, 2007

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Flag of Switzerland  ,
Friday, June 15, 2007

   As I pulled into the train station in Basel, I started to get this unsettled feeling in my stomach as I thought about the expectations I have for this summer and knowing that high expectations can often disappoint. However, that unsettled feeling dissipated quickly as I tried to explain to a cabbie who spoke neither English nor French (aren't we in Switzerland?) that I needed to go first to Hoffmann-La Roche to pick up my apartment keys and then to my apartment. Roche is where I am working for the summer and they left my apartment keys with the 24-hour security. After some gesturing, the driver understood and he zipped off through the city center, over the Rhine River, to Roche Headquarters. I picked up a large unmarked envelope containing my keys and "briefing documents"and  the taxi driver double-parked and quietly smoked a cigarette while I was inside.  I had no idea where I was, except that I was given these instructions to pick up the keys and was given the address of my apartment.  It felt very James Bond-esque.

As the taxi pulled up to my building, there was a clap of thunder and the skies unleashed a torrent of rain like I haven't seen since living in DC. The second I stepped out on the curb, I was soaked.

As for my apartment it is a small one bedroom, but is nicely laid out with a little kitchen and bathroom, each separated with doors from the main living area which has a dining table, chairs, TV, full-size bed and arm chair. I knew I was in Switzerland when there was a big bar of Toblerone chocolate accompanying a welcome note.  Fortunately, I am on the top floor (and there is an elevator) facing west toward the sunset, and have a view of a garden and several chestnut trees in full leaf.  I watched the sky grow dark as I unpacked, though it grows darker here than even Seattle!  I go jogging at night and sometimes it is 9:30 at night and some cars are still driving without headlights on!

My neighbors knocked on my door shortly after I arrived.  Michaela, Veronika, Susanne  are 3 young German women who work in the chemistry labs at Roche (in fact most of my building consists of short term housing for Roche). People have been generally quite friendly since my arrival 2 weeks ago.

I went for a little walk after unpacking. The sky was largely dark by that point, but the trams rolled along, the sleek newer ones being barely audible, gliding along like magic carpets. They contrast starkly with the cobblestone sidewalks and centuries-old building in the city center.  As I was walking, I discovered some side streets with those old water fountains that have brass spigots that empty water into a small clear pool below, set against old walls carpeted in ivy, many with potted flowers adorning them. Despite the late hour, some restaurants were completely packed with adults and most streets had many people, young and old, milling about. (Funny how in the States we don't see grandparents or even parents out at that late hour, as though enjoying a night out is an exception rather than the norm.)

I walked to the Rhein River and paused for a few minutes, looking out over the edge into the fast moving river. The wind picked up and I got the chills and started to feel really tired (I was surprised that by that point jet-lag had not yet sent me into a coma), so I wandered back to my place, through some side streets, hearing bells of gliding streetcars every so often and the laughter of people inside the pubs and restaurants that I passed.
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calivoodoo on

Great Adventure!
Jamie--what a great blog! I'm glad everybody is jumping on the Travelpd wagon. I would be so jealous you are in CH, my favorite country... except I'm in Bangkok! Have fun!

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