One Foot in Germany, the Other in Switzerland

Fiona Dang
March 25, 2014

After checking out inexpensive flight offers to Basel, Switzerland, I gathered up the courage to ask a few other students from my program to join me.  This was my first time traveling with friends who were not from my home college, and that experience was a wonderful adventure itself.  We were situated in an Airbnb in the Black Forest near the German-Swiss border, which provided us not only generous breakfasts every morning but also the opportunity to have a well-rounded trip.


Before our big trip to Basel, we decided to visit the picturesque old town of Aarau, Switzerland.  There were not many tourists so we were able to peacefully explore the area.  It was refreshing to not have to plan out specific sites that we needed to see.  Instead, our lack of expectations encouraged us to feel pleasantly surprised whenever we turned onto an unanticipated corner and encountered something beautiful.  We admired the beauty of painted eaves, “Dachhimmel” and the winding alleys of pastel-colored horses.  While walking back to the central station, I noticed our relative disinterest towards the more industrial side of Aarau. The media portrayal of Western Europe as a picturesque, if not quaint, region had fostered our tendency to turn a blind eye towards its unadvertised aspects and search for the postcard/Instagram-worthy image.

Many of the houses featured beautifully painted eaves, otherwise known as “Dacchimmel.”

Our lovely host lent me her scarf to keep me warm and match with the buildings!

We took a moment to watch the sun set over the Jura foothills.

Unfortunately, Swiss commodities are ridiculously overpriced so we shamefully settled with our McDonald chicken nuggets and fries.


Black Forest

We could not afford to miss the chance to hike in the Black Forest or eat a delicious slice of traditional Black Forest cake.  The forest was dense and quiet, and our path was quite doable.  Yet, due to the lack of helpful signs, we were often confused about our location; luckily, we somehow found our intended destinations and had fun conversations.

Although our Airbnb was a wonderfully comfortable lodging, transportation was not always convenient or dependable.  We were required to come home by early evening lest we missed the last bus home.  On our last night, we had to walk for about an hour under the starry night from the village of Kandern to our Airbnb. I felt extremely grateful to have companions alongside me for it would have be difficult to brave the numerous frogs alone.

Hiking in the Black Forest was a great break away from our city life.


After a few hours of being uncertain of whether we would reach our intended destination, we found the Sausenburg. The fortress had a tower that we quickly climbed up to claim our victory.

We were extremely excited to see sheep on our return route, which informed us of our proximity to Kandern.

We rewarded ourselves with traditional Black Forest cake after our long hike! Although Black Forest cake is my go-to birthday cake option, the added traditional flavor of rum in the whip cream was slightly overwhelming.


We decided to take two guided walks around Basel to relieve ourselves from the stress of finding our way.  Although there were touristy areas filled with souvenirs, we were able to navigate towards the less densely populated sites and alleys in addition to drooling at numerous chocolate shops.  The city was preparing itself for Carnival by decorating interiors with masks.  We were extremely fortunate to witness Morgestraich the morning we left.  At 4 am, the entire city shut off its lights before cliques would march around the city with masks and music. The once disturbing masks suddenly became part of something magical.

Our first stop was the Romanesque and Gothic styled Munster Cathedral with its ornate stained glass windows and courtyard.

It would be difficult to not mimic the outrageous expressions of the masks.

We couldn’t leave Switzerland without eating fondue!

The marches also featured elaborately designed lanterns. The parades satirized political events that had occurred in Basel or Switzerland in the previous year.

We followed a clique to an alley where they performed their climatic scene. Our favorite part was the moment after this climax where the performers would immediately take off their masks and go about their day, as if nothing had happened.


We had decided to go to Laufenburg on a near whim. While ordering gelato in English, a woman behind us loudly whispered to her friend, “Why are they visiting this town? There is nothing to do around here.” While I can agree that living in Laufenburg would make me take the town for granted, I found our visit irresistibly charming. It was similar to Aarau in terms of being peaceful and an old town, but crossing the German-Swiss border of the same town by crossing the Rhine river continues to amaze me.  While exploring the churches and alleys, I loved spinning around to admire the surrounding beauty.   While sitting near the river and enjoying our supper, I watched the buildings reflect on the water and knew that it was a moment that even a photograph could not capture the bliss I felt.

The German side of Laufenburg.

The Swiss side of Laufenburg. Do you notice the difference?

Again, we found ourselves at a fortress site and said, “Why not?” before climbing the tower to see a panoramic view of the town.



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Fiona Dang

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am an art history and psychology major who decided to escape Southern California and explore the four seasons in rural Williams College. I love engaging in spontaneous adventures and finding great spots off the beaten path. I enjoy viewing and creating travel and food albums. Wish me luck in finding the perfect scarf and all the European cheeses!</span></p>

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