Perth, Western Australia
Basel, Switzerland – Heat wave in June – ICAANE conference and a Roman Site.
By a spouse attending with her husband!
Flew into Basel airport – seemed to be entirely automated – no people until you go through Passport control. Everything was spotless and the sun was shining. Visitors are given a Mobility Pass allowing free transport on trams and buses around the city – the trams even accommodate prams and luggage. More people seem to ride bikes than drive. Drivers politely give way at all pedestrian crossings. Our apartment was entirely furnished from Ikea and thankfully included a fan, which the main hotels in town did not.
Buildings with shutters and window boxes and dates over the door – 1315! Cobbled streets, church bells – Reform Church – and courtyards – each one and most parks and corners have a fountain and a water trough. The locals use these to fill their drink bottles and, in the heat, as public paddling pools. The River Rhine, dividing the city, is the Basel equivalent of the beach – with a strong current heading down to Strasbourg in France and on to Amsterdam. The local idea of fun is to put your towel and dry clothes into a Dry Bag and then hurl yourself into the current and float down stream! Hopefully the ferries, which cross on wires, or the motorboats, or the transport barges, or the tourist boats – can see the bobbing heads!
The conference was held in the University buildings – no air-conditioning in 37 degree heat required dedicated audiences; windows closed so that blinds could be used to allow for PowerPoint presentations did not help! Much talk and networking went on outside the lecture theatres and around the poster displays and gardens. The evening Welcome Reception spilled into the gardens and much beer was consumed to quench thirsts. A later, city reception at the Museum of Antiquities also served the food and drink in a courtyard and the tram ride home was relaxing.
A free bus trip into the country took us to the Roman town of Augusta Raurica. Construction started in 15 BCE; it was redesigned in 50 CE and comfortably settled until 280 CE. Here we enjoyed the reconstructed Theatre and the Museum with its Roman House and shops, which was entertaining a school party. The Cloaca/sewer for the bath system was wonderful; [about 150 metres of barrel vault, 2 metres high by 80 cms wide] and with the well and cellar provided a cool respite from the afternoon sun. We came out to find and pick wild black cherries.
Thoroughly recommend Basel – expensive food in restaurants but cheap food, wine and of course chocolate in the supermarkets – clean, friendly, safe, polite and almost entirely German speaking – surprising since the airport is actually in France. Take a hat if it is summer – the locals don’t wear them – it interferes with their sun worship.
[ICAANE – International Conference on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. This article was kindly submitted by a RAG member]