After a day of looking around Harrow & Pinner & generally not doing too much it was off to Switzerland with a uni friend, Josh. Some months ago we had chosen Basel at random for a weekend in Europe. It turned out that Euro 2008 was in town & it was quarter-finals weekend – consequently the city was pretty much alive & teeming with football fans.
Having negotiated Terminal 5 & Josh doing a great impression of someone losing his boarding pass at the counter, we arrived in what turned out to be three countries at once. The Euro airport services respective French, German & Swiss cities – once landing you can choose which country you want to go to. In Basel itself (pronounced Bar-zil), we were eager to have a look around so after wandering through the crowds, over the Rhine, up the cobbled streets & down again it was back to the hostel for a horrible two hours of sleep.
Saturday dawned wonderfully sunny & the bike was quickly assembled & we headed off down to the station for a train ride in to Germany for a spot of riding in the Black Forest. Somehow we managed to make it through the station – as the Netherlands were due to play their Euro quarter that night against Russia, every train coming in to the (large) station disgorged hundred of orange clad fans.
After a missed connection, a high speed train & then a small diesel up in to Stauffen – we were out in the baking sun trying to find somewhere for Josh to hire a mountain-bike. This proved rather frustrating, & in the end, unfruitful – never mind, we had a good look around the small town & rode/ran up a hill above the town to a ruined castle affording great views over the surrounding plains.
Back in Basel after, this time, successfully changing trains it was in to town to join the 150-200,000 odd Dutch fans that had invaded the city (there may have been a few thousand Russians around too). All the orange shirts were a bit hard on the eyes…
Eventually we found a pub that had big screens on the outside, so we could stand with the masses & soak up the game & the atmosphere. It was a great game to watch, with the Dutch drawing level in the last few minutes of regulation time & then two Russian goals in extra time to take them in to the semis. We wandered our way back to the hostel listening to cheers of “Rush-e-a!”.
A big sleep after yesterday’s big day in the heat & we were well prepared for our epic ride to France, then on to Germany & finally back to Switzerland – ok maybe not so epic, maybe only twenty to thirty kilometres in total. But it was hot – well into the thirties, a nice change to the weather left behind at home. Managed to find a bike for Josh to hire underneath the main station – & also happened across the largest collection of bicycles I have ever seen. It was a full-on bike park where you had to get a ticket out of the machine before the gates would open automatically for you to push your bike in – fantastic.
We managed our ride quite easily & border crossings were a complete disappointment – no machine gun fire, flashing lights or even a stamp in the passport. Back to London & frustration with Terminal 5 – you would think they would sign post it from the major roads & the pick-up points, but that seems to escaped someone’s attention.