Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a day in the basler munster

(note: this is the first of a series of posts I'm writing about Switzerland and the places I've been. Solely for the purpose of having fun (and to exercise my travel writing skills) I'm going to write about it in second person. Which means you, the reader, are semi-virtually coming with me. bring good shoes.)

So your host family has just told you they're taking you to Basel! You're super excited, because you've seen Basel before but you haven't gotten the chance to really explore. You bring walking shoes and a bag, and of course your giant touristy-looking camera, because Switzerland is beautiful. You don't want to miss a thing.

The day begins with a car ride and a short walk through the streets. (Actually people in Europe are big on walking, so most days begin with a short walk through the streets.) You want very badly to take a picture of everything you see, but you also don't want to look like the Japanese tourists roaming Basel on the weekends or the American tourists taking selfies in front of every Swiss flag on the street.
Finally you pull out your camera and attempt to discreetly take a few shots. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible because of your giant touristy-looking camera (see second paragraph of this post). By this point you've given up on looking local, because a) you're asian and b) you can't speak Swiss German anyway. You take all the pictures you want.
In front of you is a very old building called the Basler Munster, and you walk in.
The sudden darkness startles you, so you blink rapidly before you can see anything -- and when you can see, what a sight meets your eyes! Stained glass windows arch over your head, and the ceilings are several stories high. Your steps are loud in the silence. It's one of those places where everyone talks in whispers, afraid to disturb the echoes of history.
Your host dad asks you if you'd like to go to the top of the Munster, and of course you say yes. You neglect to ask him how high the Munster is, but that's okay because many people have gone up there and you figure that if they made it, you should be fine.
(Note to self: next time, do inquire about the height of the Munster. Never assume things.)
Anyway, the friendly lady at the desk in front directs you to a set of steps and a heavy door. You and your host family walk through and are confronted with a very small, very dark, very steep set of stairs.
For the first time, you realize just how amazing the invention of the elevator truly was. 
These stairs are steeper than they are wide, slippery, and there's practically no light in the stairwell.

Just stairs...
and stairs...
and more stairs...

Seriously, if the bellringer had to climb so many stairs just to ring a bell every hour, no wonder the Hunchback of Notre Dame ended up talking to gargoyles. At least, I think that's how the story goes.

But it's all worth it in the end, because after about 100 steps you reach the first tower landing and see out. Over the sea of churches and rooftops and markets, you can see forever. The mountains reach into the distance (well, this is Switzerland, so pretty much everywhere you go the mountains reach into the distance. But that's not the point here.)
On the other side of the tower, the Rhine flows towards Germany.
You snap a billion pictures... and then realize that there are more steps.

They are even tinier than before, about as high as your shin and half as wide as your foot. They are also made of stone and probably older than the Declaration of Independence.
But you are on an adventure and so you carry on.

After approximately 125 more steps, you are at the top of the tower.

You've made it.

There is nothing compared to the view of Basel from the top of the Basler Munster, and you could probably live here except for the fact that it'd take you an hour to climb those stairs every day. You lean out the arches and take pictures and try to see your village and take more pictures and pose with gargoyles and take more pictures.
And then it's back down the stairs again, with nothing but photos and sore legs and the memory of standing in sunshine above the rooftops.

the end.

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