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Impressions from my Basel Photo Walk

Rhine Walk in Basel, SwitzerlandOne of the great joys of living in Basel is walking along the Rhine early on a sunny Saturday morning. Sorry, did I just put sunny and Saturday together in the same sentence? We do not seem to get too many of those, but I managed to score one last week.

There are few people out at 8:30 AM and I practically had the river to myself. Being a photo junkie, this was the perfect opportunity to bring my new mirrorless camera and take a few pics. People travel from all over the world to see Switzerland, so I feel blessed to actually live here.


It takes an artist

Photography and the resulting digital artwork that I make from these pictures gives me the opportunity to really look at the landscape that I am living in. I appreciate that landscape in a whole new way when I am photographing it rather than when I am just going for a stroll. I always tell people to find what you truly love about a place and photograph that.

When you go on a photography walk, you are using your eyes to truly see the environment around your walking route. Anyone can press a shutter button, but I believe that it takes an artist to truly see the picture to begin with.


Planning your Basel Photo Walk

When I go on a Basel photo walk along the Rhine river, I usually pick the Klein Basel side (as it is my favorite). There is a popular walking path right along the bank of the river with occasional staircases directly down to the river's edge.

I suggest walking from the Museum Tinguely towards the town center, finishing just past the Mittlere Brücke. There are many perfect photo opportunities as you walk along. Remember to change your viewing angle, too: Get up higher, and get down low.

Then, switch to portrait mode. And if your camera has a panoramic function, it works great standing just beside the Wettsteinbrücke on the river edge. Start your panorama with the full bridge and carry onto the river trying to keep your horizon level.

If you are lucky, some of the Weidling boats will be anchored and you can get the Münster in your frame, too.

I never get tired of seeing the Münster cathedral, perched majestically on its hilltop home. If you happen to do this walk during the Herbstmesse (Fall Fair), you will get to see the huge ferris wheel towering over the city directly beside the Münster. It will be clearly visible from the river.

Rhine Walk in Basel, Switzerland

By foot and by boat

If you wish to cross the Rhine river, you may like to take the inexpensive ferryboats called Fähre. These historical, non-motorized boats use the power of the current to make the crossing. They are tied to a stout metal cable that crosses the river. And by simply angling the boat, the powerful flow of the Rhine pushes them across.

The Münster-Fähre "Leu" crossing will take you right to the base of the cathedral. If you feel like a bit of a climb, it is worth seeing. There is a great view from the back deck behind the cathedral overlooking the Mittlere Brücke and the Novartis Campus in the distance.

If you are full of energy, the climb up the towers is exceptional - just ask at the front desk.

I enjoy the walk heading up towards the Mittlere Brücke the best. The Mittlere Brücke (or Middle Bridge) is the oldest in Basel, dating from unbelievable 1226. It really is the symbol of Basel.

This is a bridge built in the old way with solid stone. It can be quite nerve-racking to watch the big Rhine barges racing downriver with the current. They seem to just barely squeak under the bridge going at a hundred miles an hour!

One of the tricky photo challenges is trying to get a blue reflection in the Rhine waters. The Rhine is naturally green in color, or a muddy color if it has been raining. But if you can catch the sun at the right angle on a sunny day, you can pick up the reflections of the sky particularly if you get down low towards the water.

When you walk along the Rhine, you will probably notice some long rowboats anchored along the shoreline. These are known as Weildings. Take some of the steps down to the river's edge to get up close. They make great foreground subjects with some of the old houses in the background on the opposite side of the river.

Rhine Walk in Basel, SwitzerlandFinally, you will approach the Mittlere Brücke. There are some steps up to the bridge on either side. Halfway up produces a fine shot along the length of the bridge and emphasizes the buttresses of the medieval structure with its flags flapping in the breeze.


And finally, a typical Basel treat!

After all that hard work and deep concentration, you will need a fine cup of cappuccino and a Gipfeli croissant! Pick them up at one of the numerous cafes. While you are at it, take a few street shots, too.

If your pockets are deep enough, you can try some of the Basler Läckerli. There is a shop right by the steps going up to the Mittlere Brücke which sells these delicacies.

A Basel tradition, Läckerli is a gingerbread with orange flavor. It is not too sweet, with a chewy texture. I guess some people must like it as the business has been open since 1711. Legends about Basler Läckerli go back further still to the 15th century. As for me, I have grown to really like them!

Wherever your photography takes you, be it with your phone or with a DSLR and 500 kg of lenses and other photo junk (uhm, gear): The Rhine rarely fails to show something interesting to those who are willing to really look.

Rhine Walk in Basel, Switzerland


Franklyn is an artist, teacher, jewelry maker, woodworker and writer. Originally from Canada, he lives near Basel with his wife and two daughters.

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