It is two o’clock in the morning on our first night abroad in our new apartment in Basel and I’m awakened by creaking floor boards outside our room. Intruder? Ghost? Roger Federer? I creep to the bedroom door and spy a shadowy figure standing in the dark kitchen. Thankfully, the figure is three feet tall and says “I’m hungry” when I switch on the light. Both our kids are wide awake and looking for food. Jet lag. To them, it is dinner time back in Colorado. We have spent the last 24 hours carting our “Brady Bunch” sized pile of luggage to LAX (including a marathon check-in process with Swiss Air–we didn’t realize backpacks are not considered personal items anymore), 11 hours on the plane into Zurich (kids fared better than adults) followed by more carting/driving to Basel and a grand-finale haul of 16 pieces of luggage up four flights of stairs. Everything went better than expected! Granted, I expected to be strung up at Zurich airport and publicly flogged for an unforeseen flaw in our visa or for our cab from the airport to be overtaken by pirates.
The weather has been warm so far (around 80 degrees–not that anyone speaks in “Fahrenheit” around here) and we have kept our attic apartment windows open in the absence of air conditioning (sun sets completely at 10 p.m.). There is a church tower within earshot that chimes at the top of the hour–a nice European touch. And, as expected, on our first night we listened to them chime at 2, 3, 4 and 5 a.m.
Today, we headed out into Basel with little to no information about anything and began adventuring. We found a park and playground for the kids, figured out the tram system, registered with the Canton (all new residents need to register within 14 days) and got our Swiss Rail Passes so we can tour the country without limits. All of the people we came into contact with were very helpful and gladly switched over to English after we asked “Sprechen sie Englisch?” A couple of them even laughed at our jokes (if only we knew some in German)! I listened when we were in public places to see if I could hear other people speaking English so I could then stalk them and make them our friend, but heard only German being spoken and a little French.
The downtown area of Basel feels welcoming and manageable with a clean, efficient public transportation system and lots to see. We plan on getting to know it much better in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we need to figure out health insurance, Swiss bank accounts and a local cell phone carrier. Oh, and we should probably learn to speak German at some point for those who “Spreche keine Englisch.”