FOR Museum lovers, a great place to treasure. Best known for its namesake art fair, the birthplace of Roger Federer is a perfect place for aimless wandering.

BASEL - SWITZERLAND is, perhaps, the only city in the world that's best experienced at 4 a.m on a Monday. On a particular Monday, that is : the one after Ash Wednesday, when nearly every local with a pulse turns up in the Old Town for a parade known as Morgenstreich.

Then, on the fourth chime of the bells at Basel's oldest church, all the lights of the city are turned off and costumed marching bands called cliques fire up a tune to signal the start of Basel's Fasnacht.

Thus uniquely exhilarating, 72-hour Lenten Carnival illustrates an essential truth about this cosmopolitan riverside 170,000 that hugs Alsace and the Black Forest.

Basel maybe best known for Art Basel, the world's biggest art fair [June 18 to 21 this year] for its museums and pharmaceuticals companies; and as the birthplace of the tennis legend Roger Federer.

But is, above all, a city of traditions. And in an era in which the most popular global destinations are often under siege with too many tourists, underrated but equally alluring places like Basel deserve a look.

Start your adventure in Kleinbasel along the banks of the Rhine, the lifeblood of the city since a Celtic tribe first settled along this bend in the river during the Bronze Age.

The Kleinbasel [Lesser Basel] side is great for a river front front ride on an bike, available at the main train station for 20 Swiss francs per day, or about $20.50, with a Basel Card [free with any hotel stay, also includes 50 percent off museum admissions and other perks].

But if you want to become an honorary Bssler, you've got also to feel the current of the river. In the summer, swimming in the cool, clean Rhine and then repairing to a riverside buvette [stall] for a drink or snack is the quintessential Basel tradition.

Another tradition, which can be done year around [weather permitting], is crossing over to  Grossbasel [Greater Basel] on one of the city's four wooden ferry boats [1.60 francs], which use only the natural power of the river's currents.

Medieval Power couple
Basel's cathedral, Basel Munster, was consecrated on Oct 11, 1019, on the site of an earlier church and in the presence of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II [who became the patron saint of Basel] and his wife, Cunigunde.

The cathedral is an awe-inspiring place best seen with a knowledgeable guide like Dr. Helen Liebendorfer [Liebendoerfer@bluewin-.ch], a charming English-speaking guide who will show you fascinating sites here and elsewhere in the city you'd otherwise walk by without a second look.

Inside don't miss the grave of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who settled in Basel and lived for a time in a home that's now a pharmacy museum.

Erotic Chocolate
Now it's time to buy all all the Swiss chocolate you can afford at Laderach, one of the country's leading chocolatiers. The blocks of frischschoogi - silky sweet milk chocolate with giant Piedmont hazelnuts - could have won the Cold War [if only Switzerland hadn't been neutral].

If you would like to bring something home that won't melt, pick up a box of Basler Lackerli - a gingerbread biscuit that has inspired devotion in these parts since the Middle Ages - at Lackerli Huus [three locations] .

Walk it all off on Spalenberg, one of the city's nicest shopping streets, home to stores like Hejkoh, which has stylish women's clothing, home decor, gifts and a cafe.

The honor and serving of the latest writings on beautiful destinations and tourism, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Dave Seminara.


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