Rain settled over Basel, rattling on the rooftops and running down the buildings. The morning had been full of little pragmatisms (a trip to the drug store to preempt the flight the next day, a quick breakfast, some packing) and midday found us slipping up Steinenvorstadt in search of what else but food. Melissa and I planted ourselves at a place called Kuuhl behind some smoky glass streaked with rain. Kuuhl makes pasta dishes assembly line style. Scoop of this, pinch of that, hands working knives behind the counter, reloading containers as they emptied. I found myself at the register with a bowl full of elbow macaroni coated in a rich cheese sauce, run through with seared pork and chunks of hearty potato. Just the kind of thing you want to shovel into your steam engine on a cold and rainy day such as that. We shoveled and shoveled and the fires got hot and the pistons got moving and Melissa and I went thundering out of that place with exploration in mind and everything was perfect and everyone was happy.
We walked to the Munsterplatz on its perch above the Rhine as the rain drummed on our borrowed umbrella. The Munsterplatz, or Basel Minster, was built and rebuilt between 1000 and 1500, first in a roman style and when that was destroyed in an earthquake, a Gothic style cathedral. We stood in the courtyard of it watching the river run its muddy way through the city center beneath a chalk and charcoal sky.
Down an alley with a stream running between the stones of it, peeking in windows at shops with exotic goods. We crossed a bridge into the northern part of town and stood at the center of it to watch a boat ferry people across the brackish waters, towed between the two points on an ancient looking cable. The only sounds were of rain in all its voices, pinging off of metal, whispering through leaves, cackling on pavement as we walked the north bank, taking in architecture, inspecting artwork. I took a brief break from my blissful introspection to be ridiculous:
And then we continued on our way. Mom and Dad met us as we closed the loop back at the Munsterplatz, and so we started the loop again, down the alley, over the bridge, to the north bank. The chill stopped us this time, halfway between the two bridges, drove us into a coffee shop. 6 out of 10 doctors prescribe Italian hot chocolate for chronic dampness (the other 4 doctors are paid off by the cider industry), so we filled a prescription and dunked a Belgian waffle in it. The hot chocolate was thick and rich and not overly sweet and it filled the crevices in the waffle which then filled the crevices in us and everything was perfect and everyone was happy.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in our hotel bar, snarfling up caipirihnas and people watching. Middle aged men in Basel were a particular point of discussion. Most of their hair was hip, their clothes well fitted, their styles cultivated. Very few had the stateside look of having been dipped in glue and catapulted through a Walmart. We drank our drinks and pontificated and then night fell on the city and it was time for our final dinner together.
Where do you go on that last night, with the hours ticking down to zero and a thousand mile wedge coming to tear you all apart? Do you find the most authentic place in town and wait in line for the most European experience there is? Do you wallow in decadence at the fanciest restaurant in the area? Do you get so drunk that they have to wheelchair you onto the plane in the morning? The answer, for us, was that it didn’t matter, as long as we did it together. On that final night, we walked into a hole in the wall shawarma place where the seats were aplenty and the cashier looked happy. We filled our bellies with shawarma and we filled the dining room with laughter. The lights were too bright and the food was mediocre, but we were together and everything was perfect, and everyone was happy.