Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A bit more about Basel

As I said, the bikes are more prevalent than cars. People park their bikes everywhere. Most people put a bike lock on so you can't just ride off on it, but they don't bother to secure them to anything. Some people don't lock them at all. You'll see big patches of parked bikes and scooters in all sorts of nooks and crannies. The drivers -- those relatively few that there are -- are surprised if a pedestrian waves them on. They expect to stop. The trams go by constantly. It's completely unlike a U.S. city where people pile up in large groups for 15 or 20 minutes waiting for a bus or a trolley. You're supposed to buy a ticket or a pass, but it's on the honor system. People board by the back door and the driver never checks.

All of the cafes -- and as I say, there are three or four on every block -- have outdoor seating, and hardly anybody sits indoors. Of course the weather is paradisical right now, I can't say if that's always the case. And there are people there all day, often with beer or wine, but maybe coffee, a plate of cheese or cured meets, talking and laughing and interacting with passersby, half of whom, it seems, are their friends. That's where they live, on the street, in the cafes. Everybody seems relaxed and friendly and trusting. Yes, the service is slow and the construction workers are taking it easy, but there isn't a single piece of litter on the street, anywhere. I haven't seen a single cigarette butt or paper cup. Not one.

I was walking around in the early evening and I came to one block, just like all the others with the people out on the sidewalks having their beer and wurst, three hairdressers on the block (mysteriously, as always), and this happened to be where the ladies of easy virtue were. They were all young and lively and bantering with the cafe sitters but their reason for being there was obvious, and of course they all walked up to me and made what were evidently very friendly remarks in German. I just said Hi how yah doin' and walked on and everybody laughed. As I left the block a police car (they're Mercedes!) came around the corner but I expect they were just making sure everything was peaceful, it didn't seem like they were going to broom the young ladies. But don't hold me to that.

Update:  I looked it up. Prostitution is legal in licensed brothels. Street prostitution is confined to designated areas only. I am guessing that the young ladies I saw were actually the equivalent of carnival barkers for one or more indoor establishments on the block. They were there to advertise the business and invite customers inside, which is why everybody took them for granted. Maybe somebody who knows the city can confirm whether this is a plausible interpretation.

I asked somebody why there are so many hairdressers and he was nonplussed. It had never occurred to him that this is abnormal. I've mentioned it to my fellow American visitors and they confirm, I'm not crazy, they noticed it too. I should probably get a haircut before I leave, just to check it out, but . .. see below.

So yes, this is definitely a nice place to visit but save up for it. In case you think the Yankee dollar has clout, get over it. Swiss francs are very dear in dollars. A haircut would set me back 40 bucks. I just blew seventy bucks on two drinks and a cheese plate. But the cheese was good. And yes, it had holes in it.

No comments: