02 January 2010

One of the locals

Prior to this holiday some had questioned whether a visit to the Swiss Paper Museum at Basel would be a 'fun' thing to do; some even went so far as to suggest that a museum dedicated to paper might be 'uncool' or even 'boring'. Well eat your words, nay-sayers: the Swiss Paper Museum is fantastic. There isn't room here for me to wax lyrical enough about all the paper pulping, paper pressing and paper drying we saw, so instead I'll concentrate on the second-most exciting thing we did on our whirlwind tour of Basel: lunch.

The residents of Basel seem to have hidden away their best eating spots so as to confound tourists in an attempt to force us to eat at McDonalds rather than sample the gastronomic delights of the local cuisine. But we, intrepid explorers in the labyrinthine by-ways of the Basel dining scene, immediately saw through that rouse and had no problem in spending a hour wandering around in the rain trying to find a place to sample the local specialities. At last we happened on a little beer hall cum brasserie in the heart of the Old Town.

What a place this was. Every inch one hundred percent genuine Swiss, from the dozens of people smoking while munching on bretzels picked from little breztel stands to the old man in the back twirling his handlebar moustache. Every customer was chattering away in German and there was a noticeable pause in conversation when we entered and everyone watched us try to work out what to do. At this time of year, Swiss places offer set menus for most meals and we had wanted to order 'Menu 1', only because it had the only item on we understood: 'Bratwurst'. The waitress gestured that this was unavailable and so we got the 'mystery menu' that was option number 2. Mercifully, this option was a corn soup followed by a meat dish in which everything was flavoured with bacon. Delish. In time, the locals stopped staring at us and appeared to accept us into the fold, the old ladies on our table resumed their conversation about 'an importer-exporter' who was going to marry one of their nieces, I feel like such a Swiss villager.

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