Basel border run 1

Friday’s border run would take me to a place that has long fascinated me as a fan of international frontiers. The northeast part of the city is really not a city at all, but forest and farmland. I was interested in the northeast finger of forest called the Herrenwald, which at its tip is an extremely narrow piece of Switzerland wedged between Germany. I bought a Basel map on a 1:15.000 scale to show this region up close.

In order to get this far out of the city I found the tram route that would take me to the German border. I crossed over without any questions from customs officials, in spite of my zealous passion for border photography, which meant that as I crossed I was taking pictures of signs and flags and different-coloured international asphalt.

My map guided me through a new subdivision of the German town of Lörrach, and then I headed out to the forest. As with my border run last year through the German enclave of Büsingen (a village completely surrounded on all four sides by Swiss territory) I took photos of the border stones demarcating the border between the two nations. In so doing I crossed the international frontier dozens and dozens of times, yet only made four “formal” border crossings at officially marked pedestrian-only spots. The trail took me alongside then through the forest, and it was interesting how the border jogged here and there, resulting in stones to be placed accordingly, and one only knew what country one was in by the grooved indentation on the top of each stone, indicating on one side Germany or Switzerland.

I finally made it to the very end, where a German trail called “Die Eiserne Hand (Grenzweg)” ( = “The Iron Hand (Border Trail))” marked the frontier. I saw a border stone set in the centre of three other stones and only a few metres away was another such arrangement. From one stone to the other was the Swiss border with Germany. I was standing at the narrowest tip of Switzerland, which from my very detailed map of the city, resembled a needle injecting Germany.

Once I had reached this border curiosity I relaxed and had my sandwiches that I had packed. Then I had to decide on a return hike: do I go back through the forest, but this time on the other side (which was merely metres away from the route I had taken) and see different border stones; or do I walk along a road until I get to the German town of Lörrach. I decided upon the latter, and was happy to stroll through the small border community and even got to buy five postcards in a general store.

As I headed to the Swiss border I noticed that the German buses pulled up to the frontier and then let their passengers off, exactly like the Swiss trams that drop everyone off at a border loop. Buses do indeed cross the border, yet not this route.

Tomorrow I would embark on another border run, where I cross into Germany and France on foot, and where I visit my first ever international tri-point, which is the place where three international borders meet. That adventure will follow in the next mail.

I am getting ready now to leave Andi’s house and leave for Laax, a 2½-hour trip. Tonight is the opening reception and dinner for all students of the Romansch course and I am looking forward to seeing my Swiss friends again.

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