Thursday, August 30, 2012

BASEL, SWITZERLAND, Part I

Chris, Stan, Bob, and I took the night train from Budapest to Basel by way of Zurich and were met at the station at 8:30 a.m. by Dave and Pete.  As I've mentioned before, it was a pretty incredible thing to meet up with all of my siblings and their spouses in an Ibis Hotel in Switzerland. After our reunion, a good breakfast, and a shower for the overnight travelers, we headed into town.  

The first site we hit was the Basel Town Hall, or Rathaus:
This is the City Hall in the town where I live. Yeah, not quite the same.

Parts of Basel's Town Hall are over 500 years old.  It overlooks Market Square in the center of the city, and it's not hard to imagine a 16th century farmers' market in front of these beautiful buildings.


   

















The tile roof, seen below and in the pictue on the right, was quite spectacular:
Our next stop was the Basel Cathedral, or Muenster (the German word for Cathedral).  This place is OLD. Like other old cathedrals, some parts have been rebuilt and others have been added to the original structure.  However, the NEWEST section of this cathedral was built in 1500. Here is a bishop's tomb dated 917:

It just looks medieval, doesn't it?


I kept trying to resist yet more pictures of beautiful stained glass windows and interesting organs, but I just couldn't help myself!


Beautiful geometric patterns were everywhere--on the ends of the choir seats:
. . . and even on the floor grates:

Some of us couldn't resist the challenge of climbing the 242 steps to the top of the steeple.  Who are those little ants down there?
Hey! It's Pete and Angie and Doris!
They just kept getting farther and farther away:


As we climbed, we had a wonderful view of the rooftops:

. . . and of the picturesque Rhine River, on which we would be spending the next week:

There were all kinds of nice things to look at:
. . . including some really fun gargoyles:
OOPS!  Of course, I meant to put in this picture:

Can I just point out that these two people are 55 and 54?  (Well, Chris was still two months away from 54 when this picture was taken.)
Brothers-in-law:

This is what it looked like for 242 steps on the way down.  Unlike many of the spires we climbed, these stairs look like they have been recently remade.

The next building we visited was St. Elizabeth's Church, the first Protestant church in Basel after the Reformation.  A plaque on the side of the building said it is one of the most famous Neo-Gothic buildings in Switzerland.  It also noted, "As the church was not used as a parish church anymore there was a debate about replacing the whole building in 1968."  Isn't that sad?  Luckily, it was saved by becoming part of the Swiss Heritage Society and was refurbished in 1990.  From this angle, it looks a bit like the Salt Lake LDS Temple:


Yeah, I know.  I'm including way too many stained glass window pictures.  Let me assure you that there are several hundred that I am not includiing.  I love the one on the right because that is St. Elizabeth's Church in the stained glass behind the crucifixion scene.  It's almost as if the church is sheltering Him.

Gotta love the details.  (I was going to say "The Devil is in the details," but somehow that didn't seem right.)

The last church we visited in Basel was Peterskirche, a Lutheran church.  It was built between 1200 and 1600 and was much plainer than others we had seen, more Romanesque than Gothic or Baroque.  The walls were mostly painted a simple white, and there were fresh flowers used as ornamentation:

 However, even here wonderful, intricate details could be discovered:

. . . and the windows and organ were just as spectacular as anywhere else:

However, I think our favorite thing in this church was the unique depiction of the Holy Trinity:

Pardon the comparison, but this makes Voldemort look like an amateur:

Of course, one of Basel's most important structures was the gelato stand.  It was here that we began our Nine Days of Family Gluttony that resulted in somewhere around 142 scoops of gelato being consumed by the Kenison Ten.


Next: Basel, City of Art

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BUDAPEST PART 6: Hungarian Smiles

Budapest is a city with a very quirky personality. It's not exactly where I would expect to see a Hawaiian Santa in late May:

Or a steel building encased in a glass shell in a courtyard otherwise ringed by two-hundred-year-old structures.
However, Chris and I weren't too surprised to see Wolfgang sharing his chocolates:
. . . and somehow these door ornamentations seemed to fit the personality of the city.

On the other hand, it seems that the Hungarian sculptors are a bit clueless as to exact body proportions, although I can certainly relate to that hippy woman on the right:

This is Jozsef Attila.  Never heard of him?  Me neither, but he is one of the best and most famous Hungarian poets of the 20th century.  He was schizophrenic and committed suicide at age 32.
I was touched by the little memorial of red flowers, a red candle, and a red band strapped to Attila's wrist:

I'm always on the look-out for wedding parties when we travel in Europe.  They find the most romantic places for pictures.  Alongside the Danube in the waning light of day is a beautiful setting, don't you agree?

Aslan again!  Europeans sure do love their lions:

Two of these fellas guard the entrance to Budapest's famous Chain Bridge
Photo borrowed from here
In general, Hungarians also seem to like their dogs.  I'm not sure what this statue in the train station is supposed to signify, but I like it almost as much as . . .

. . . this impressive LIVE Hungarian sheepdog (he was huge) waiting outside a grocery store for his owner.

Then there were these ferocious beasts constructed of iron bars:

Bob and I were dwarfed by them.  I like how they are tethered to the building:

On a more pastoral and much gentler note, this shepherd plays his pipe for his sheep:

This portly policeman looked friendly enough, so Bob and Stan posed with him, and Bob even shared his hat:

The only thing better than eating gelato is BEING gelato:


Just in case you are wondering what time it is at the local McDonald's, this clock will let you know:


At first, this statue had me scratching my head:
Luckily, there was a plaque in English at the base that read: "Gabor Sztehlo (1909-1974), Lutheran Pastor saved with God's help around 2000 children and adults during the rule of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party, and later gave the orphans home, faith and dignity."

He did about the same thing that Raoul Wallenberg did, the Swiss man I talked about in a previous post.  He fabricated "Gentile" documents for 1600 Jewish children and 400 Jewish adults, thereby saving them from execution or deportation. After the war, he established an orphanage and continued to provide for Jewish orphans.

On the left is a close-up of Sztehlo's hand pulling up a baby, and on the right you can see Sztehlo's profile facing the right and the general sense of motion conveyed by the lines of the stone:

Again, I was touched by the simple memorial of fresh flowers lying undisturbed at the base of the sculpture:


On QUITE another note, did you know that Anonymous was Hungarian?  I didn't.  Supposedly this was the man who recorded Hungarian history in the 12th century.  His name really was "Anonymus."
Bob absorbing as much wisdom as possible from this erudite author:
Julie had him autograph her guide book, most of which he probably wrote (as he wrote a good part of everything we read these days):

Why is it that in foreign countries, EVERYTHING seems to be a work of art?



Even a man with goblets and water can be a spectacular musician in Budapest:

Isn't he amazing?

 Well, all good things must come to an end.  We had a blast traipsing all over Budapest with these fun people:
Chris, I think you are having a good dream.  Alex, what are YOU thinking about here?

But we had other places to go and other people to meet.

Good-bye to a truly beautiful . . .
magnificent city. . .
. . . and two beautiful and magnificent tour guides!

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