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June 23rd 2018

Via Basel to Leukerbad

Yesterday I left Arnhem on the Lower Rhine for Basel “am Rhein”, where I spent the night in a special hotel, “Das Breite Hotel”, in the quarter of Basel, called “Breite” (literally “broad”), which explains the name. The hotel is special because it offers jobs to people “with a distance to the employment market”. I have stayed there several times before and each time I notice how much tranquillity and “zen” radiates from this hotel.
The colour scheme is peaceful, the interior design is spacious and the employees are very friendly and welcoming. This hotel is part of the German hotel chain Embrace hotels (only in German), where the emphasis is put on the capacities of everyone, with or without disabilities. It is the only hotel in Switzerland.

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Basel: lighting in the Breite Hotel – also illustrations of nerve cells

The hotel is situated quite close to the river Rhine and also to the Tinguely Museum. I went there on foot.

I wanted to visit this museum, dedicated to the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (1925 – 1991) once more ‒ this time is was a party again, especially because of the artistic-technical level. Moreover it appeals to visitors of all ages, because it is a museum where you are allowed to push many buttons and then installations will start moving, making noise etc….

The building has been opened in 1996 to the occasion of the centenary of the pharmaceutical concern Hoffmann La Roche, which also is the main sponsor. There are many installations by Jean Tinguely on display, all made of junk, scrap and other waste materials of the (consumers’) society. At the beginning of the exposition some Tinguely’s “one-liners” are shown, which run like threads through his life and work – and also through this museum.

Of the many installations on display in the museum, Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia from 1987, makes quite an impression. Not only by its size, but also by the ingenious way in which every bizarre item sets the others into motion: the brush of the car wash, the horse from the merry-go-round and the plush curtain or the wooden spools! You can even climb on the installation while it is working! Because of the vulnerability and the age the whole construction will be put into motion only every 15 minutes.

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Basel: Part of the Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia in the Tinguely Museum

Another, world famous installation is Mengele Totentanz – Mengele’s Dance of Death from 1987. Tinguely used the charred and twisted remains of a burnt-down farmhouse in the village where he lived to design a probing installation consisting of 13 parts, with as a centre-piece a not quite recognisable pressing machine for corn, made by the firm Mengele (yes, family of the doctor from the concentration camp Auschwitz…), that he called Hoch-Altar (High Altar). He got the association with the destruction camp because of the peculiar chemical layer, caused by the burning of those large quantities of hay, which had covered all items. The other part of the name of the installation comes from the Basler Totentanz (the Basel Dance of Death), an allegory dating from the middle of the 15th century. The Dance of Death means: Death comes to take everybody away, regardless of his social position, so all man should better comply with the social rules…

Once outside again it was sunny and (out of the wind) pleasantly warm. I walked along the river Rhine for a while and thereafter crossed the Rhine on a small ferry, the St. Alban Fähre.

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Basel: view from the ferry over the Rhine – to the left the La Roche Tower

Today I continued my trip by train to Leukerbad. From Basel to Bern we passed through an increasingly greener and more mountainous scenery with at the horizon the snow-capped mountain tops of the Bernese Oberland: a. o. the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau. I could have made the choice to travel through the new 35 km long tunnel from Spiez to Raron (the Lötschberg-Base Tunnel, opened in 2007), but I finally chose the “slow” track, from which the 14,6 km long Lötschberg Tunnel from 1913 forms a part. There is much more to see than in the new tunnel, although the journey takes an hour longer! The rough terrain appeals to the imagination – and the moment in which the whole Rhône Valley becomes visible is very special. From Brig it was only a short trip to Leuk, from where the bus took us to Leukerbad via a steep road along the river Dala. Halfway the view over the Rhône Valley towards the west was wonderful.

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Above Leuk: view into the Rhône Valley towards the west

Up to 1967 there was a railway connection between Leuk and Leukerbad, but that has been cancelled and replaced by a bus connection. In the village of Inden a reminder of this period is on display.

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Between Leuk and Leukerbad: In Inden a railway waggon is still at display

Exactly at 14.09 hrs. the bus arrived in Leukerbad. The hotel (Dala) was quickly found – and  I was also quite pleased with my upgrade!

When I made a tour through the village I came across an important sign. It shows exactly what I am going to do within the next days: hiking Stage 98 from Gampel/Steg to Leukerbad and Stage 99 from Leukerbad to Schwarenbach!

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Leukerbad: on this sign of the Via Alpina are my plans for the next days!