I’ve changed jobs and find myself I’m working in Basel, which lies near the border between Switzerland, France and Germany. It means, as I’m still living in Germany, that I’ve become a Grenzgänger, or what the French call a frontalier – someone who crosses a national border to go to work. 

There are a few stereotypes of the Swiss and there’s much about Switzerland that I’m curious about, however so far I haven’t seen a single cuckoo clock. That said there’s a big show on in town this week – a watch and jewellery exhibition. It typifies the other end of the Swiss sterotyp scale: the luxurious, money-laden gold-backed life of luxury. It pretty much lives up to the hype. Yesterday on my way home I saw a Luis Vuitton people carrier with blacked out windows giving way to a Lambourghini, and today a sharply-dressed couple sporting a Rolex bag.

The show is just a flash in the pan, though, and doesn’t reflect lives the lives of most Swiss. Wages are higher than the surrounding countries, but so is the cost of living. That seems to be breeding some resentment about us border-crossers (the Swiss may soon be introducing quotas for foreigners working there), but it’s not something I’ve experienced directly. Basel seems much like any other city. There are super-markets, kebab shops, people just going about their daily business. There’s the odd run-down building, some very smart bits and some buildings that look a bit the worse for wear. Apparently the crime rate is low, but I can’t imagine it’s significantly different to Freiburg.

So what’s my favourite thing about Basel? It has to be the Rhine. At lunch-time, if I have time, I take the five minute walk to the river-bank enjoy a stroll along its shores. In Basel it’s wide, but bridgeable, comparable to the size of the Thames in London. It flows impressively fast and there’s a ferry-boat that uses the flow to go across. It’s also lined with high, colourful buildings and so far I’ve seen canoes, ferries, barges and even the odd swimmer passing by. Living in the centre of the European land-mass, I miss the sea, but the Rhine gives me just enough open water to keep me going.

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