The boat departs from a pier below the staid, stately Les Trois Rois. A guesthouse as far back as 1641, it reopened as a Grand Hotel in 1844 in the midst of Basel’s picturesque medieval village. It remains a splendid five-star, a repository of elegance situated directly above the Rhine near Mittlere Brücke (Central Bridge) – the oldest existing crossing over the Rhine (below) between Lake Constance and the North Sea. The bridge's origins date back to 1225, although it was rebuilt over the ages.
Les Trois Rois guests enjoy exquisite views of Basel’s most beautiful quarter from Le Brasserie and their rooms, as well as of the river, where hardy summer swimmers, many using Rhein-Schwimm-Säcke (Rhine-swimming-bags), drift downstream on the currents.
The Grand Hotel’s well-appointed interiors are also peerless, with a crystal chandelier hanging above the lobby and tastefully traditional luxurious units with balconies above the Rhine’s rushing ripples. The service ranged from helpful concierges to snooty waiters to camera-shy staffers in colorful 19th-century costumes.
Overlooking cornfields, beside Monet-like ponds, Fondation Beyeler showcases the private modern art collections of two late dealers. When I visited, Jeff Koons’ floral, wood, porcelain, canvas, balloon creations were displayed; Dadaist Max Ernst’s work will be exhibited May 6-Sept. 8.
On an earlier excursion to Kunstmuseum Basel, I experienced an exhilarating Van Gogh exhibition. A Picasso retrospective is underway through July 21. Basel is presenting jazz and blues festivals April through June.
Spine-tingling Museum Tinguely is another architectural gem designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, situated between the Rhine and Solitude Park. The eponymous artist’s outlandish, phantasmagorical, machine-like moving sculptures are kids’ favorites. Children of all ages step on buttons to activate the kinetic statuary, causing cogs to whir, wheels to spin, music to play, all to no purpose other than to delight. Call these “metamatics” – the Industrial Revolution still lives. During my visit, the oil, theater design and sculptural art of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Tatlin was highlighted in a special exhibit.
Outdoor installations (“out-stallations”?) of Tinguely’s oeuvre can be seen at Basel’s Theaterplatz, where “Carnival Fountain” sprinkles art lovers.
Basel’s Children’s Hospital’s eye-catching exterior literally changes colors, from pumpkin orange to lime green. Bathed in a psychedelic Purple Owsley glow, it’s so apropos for LSD’s hometown. I turned on and tuned in while I dropped out; taking in Basel’s razzle-dazzle, my trip naturally expanded my mind, taking me beyond the doors of perception.
Visiting Switzerland? The concert “LSD – Lucid Sound Dreams,” dedicated to Albert Hofmann and performed by Camerata Variabile Basel, will take place at Gare du Nord (Basel’s railway station), April 18 at 8:00 p.m.