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Switzerland TravelSwitzerland / Basel

Basel canton

Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland by population, with just over 166,000 inhabitants in 2008
Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland by population, with just over 166,000 inhabitants in 2008. The surrounding metropolitan area, part of which is in Germany, and part of which is in France, has approximately 830,000 inhabitants, which is Switzerland's second largest metropolitan area. Basel is a German speaking area, specifically the dialect called Basel German.

Basel is on the Rhine River in northwestern Switzerland and is one of the leading industrial centers in the world for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry. The University of Basel dates to 1460 and is the oldest university in Switzerland. More recently, the first congress of the World Zionist Organization took place in Basel in 1897. The Basel Convention was held in 1989 for signing of an agreement that wealthier exports would not send hazardous waste to developing countries for disposal.

Like Switzerland as a whole, Basel has an excellent transportation infrastructure. In fact Basel's infrastructure is the best in Switzerland. It is a center for shipping because of its location on the Rhine, and the Basel airport is set up to handle air freight. Basel is in addition a hub for European highways and rail lines and is Switzerland's only cargo port. In Basel, three railway stations, one German, one French, and one Swiss are located, though the French and the Swiss stations are in the same complex and are separated by Customs and Immigration points.

Goods travel the Rhine River and connect to ocean vessels at the port of Rotterdam. The airport is operated by France and Switerland but is located on French land. Half of it serves the French side. The other half serves the Swiss side. In the middle of the airport is a customs center so that people can legally cross to the other part of the airport. It is now possible to go from Basel to Paris in just 3.5 hours.

Within Basel, there are five bridges that connect parts of the city. Alphabetically, they are: Dreirosenbrucke (1935/2004); Johanniterbrucke (1967); Mittlere Brucke (1225/1905); Schwarzwaldbrucke (1972) and Wettsteinbrucke (1879/1998). The numbers in parentheses indicate the year a bridge was originally built and the year in which it was rebuilt. The Mittlere Brucke was the first bridge crossing the Rhine River.

If Basel's roads, rails, and airports weren't enough to keep the city running smoothly, there is in addition a widely used ferry system crossing the Rhine. Four ferries are situated equidistant from two bridges. These fascinating boats are attached to overhead cables. The pilot orients the ferry at a 45 degree angle so that the current causes the boat to cross the river. Hence, no supplemental energy source is needed to run the ferries.

Public transportation in Basel is tops as well. There are trams and buses, with trams run by overhead lines, and buses powered by natural gas. Commuter bus routes are run in cooperation with the transit systems in Alsace, France, and Baden, Germany.

Because Basel is located at the junction of France, Germany, and Switzerland, there are many rail and road crossings connecting Switzerland with the other two countries. This became somewhat easier in 2008 when Switzerland joined the Schengen area. The Schengen area is a collection of 25 European countries which have abolished border controls between each other. Therefore no immigration checks take place at the crossings. However, because Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, there are still customs checks at international crossings.

Basel is home to many historic sites, including churches and monasteries like Basel Munster, St. Albankirche, the Synagogue, and the Kleines Klingental. The city also has a reputation as a cultural capital, with the Theater Basel's constant schedule of ballet, opera, and plays. Basel has a city carnival, which is a major cultural event. It's the biggest in Switzerland and draws big crowds each year. One odd thing about the festival is that it begins at 4:00 in the morning and lasts for 72 hours exactly.

But one of the top, if not the top attraction in Basel is Zoo Basel. The city is also home to a very impressive array of museums. They are the result of private and public collection and municipal promotion of culture that dates back to the 1500s. These museums have internationally respected holdings and collections.

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