Basel border run 2 / Welcome back to Laax

Basel is on the border with Germany and France and after visiting the Herrenwald yesterday, my second border trek was to walk to both Germany and France and thus cross two international frontiers. I also was looking forward to seeing my first ever tri-point. “Tri-point” is borderspeak for the point at which three countries meet.

I took a tram which let me off near the German border, then I crossed over and headed for the Rhine. The Rhine separates France on the west from Germany and Switzerland on the east. A pier was divided by a fence which went all the way to the steep riverside, so it was impossible for anyone to cross between the two countries. From this position I could follow the line of the fence to the other side of the Rhine and see where the wet tri-point would be [1]. I noticed a narrow peninsula in Swiss territory that had a monument to the tri-point, and I figured out that unless I chose to swim across the Rhine, I was going to have to retrace my steps completely and head back into Switzerland then walk up the entire length of this peninsula to see this monument up close. I did so, took photos of the Dreiländereck monument and gained a Swiss perspective of the place where I had just stood. It was so close yet so far to walk back to!

I headed back into Germany and walked north along the Rhine shore until I arrived at Palmrainbrücke (Palmrain Bridge), which connected Germany with France. I crossed this bridge and set foot on French territory for the first time. For border freaks like me, it was exciting to pass the midpoint on the bridge which proclaimed “R F” ( = “République Française”). I crossed the German-French frontier and then proceeded to walk south and walked through the village of Huningue and looked around, taking photos of the local post office and looking at the library which unfortunately was closed on weekends. I stopped at a park called Parc des Eaux-Vives to rest. I was doing a lot of walking during this trip to Basel, and as I write this the following day in Laax I can tell you that my legs are aching.

Once I was rested up I continued my way to the French-Swiss frontier and walked across. There is obviously some thrill I derive from walking over imaginary lines that turn red in atlases. Why am I so excited about crossing borders? Is it because that as a Canadian, there is only one that my nation shares? Do I feel somehow deprived in the international border sweepstakes? Were Canadians last in line when they handed out border-crossing opportunities? We have the longest border in the world, yet in Europe there are borders bursting at the seams.

I made good time to catch the late afternoon train back to Zürich, such that I could shower and change and then take my very generous and gracious host Andi out to dinner.

This afternoon I travelled to Laax where my Romansch course is taking place. Now I am sitting in the Cheminée-Raum at the Casa Caltgera writing this mail after a lovely opening reception and dinner. Check the website Galerie and you can see the very room I am writing from.

During the opening reception I found out that there are 69 students enrolled in the course, with 63 from Switzerland, two from Germany, two from Austria, one from the Netherlands and me.

I was so happy to see all my friends and I am looking forward with passion and excitement to my first lesson in Level 2 tomorrow. Quite a change from my first impressions last year, when I was feeling so sad and insecure being among all these people who spoke Romansch, a language that was so foreign to me. While I am a long way from being as competent a speaker as some of my friends, the fact that I have studied the language, am aware of its sounds, can pick up quite a fair bit already, and, most importantly, that I know I really have nothing to fear in this course, has given me a positive outlook and I won’t be almost in tears as I was last year.

It is quarter past midnight here, and I must try to get some sleep in order to be wide-awake for the first day of class.

Buna notg!

[1] In borderspeak, a wet tri-point is the place where three countries meet on water, while a dry tri-point is the place where three countries meet on land.

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