I don't really function by dates, but I guess it would be good to give you some since I'm always posting slightly later than the actual event.
Monday late afternoon on June 14th, we arrived at the one track train station of Haltingen, just a six minute train ride from Basel Badischer Bahnhof. There we were greeted by the Maurers (our hosts) and two incredibly cute grandchildren. After the short ride to their house (essentially three blocks away), we sat outside on the patio for some really good ice cream. If you ever worry about becoming old, come visit the Maurers, they are the most active, busy and entertaining grandparents I have yet to meet.
Tuesday morning we woke up and after a good breakfast, took off for some hiking in the black forest. We drove part way and then climbed up a large hill/small mountain called Blauen. It was a fairly steep hike, but the Maurers never lagged and we were soon to the top. The view was spectacular and when the clouds were replaced by the sun in the distance, we could see all the way to the Swiss alps. From the top, Richard pointed out another large hill/small mountain, telling us he had climbed up with skis and then skied down. Imagining what it would like to accomplish such a feat, I imagined myself undergoing a few weeks of training to prepare or at the very least upon reaching the top, spending a day not moving. So I asked Richard how long ago he had done it. Last year, was his response. Now you may begin to see what I am talking about when I say they are active people.
After descending the mountain, we grabbed some gelati at little store in a classically European looking little village.
When we returned home we were treated to an authentic meal from the area. For our meal we had Raclette. Essentially cheese on everything, Raclette is an ingenious idea where you melt Raclette cheese in a special device and then pour it over potatoes, tomatoes, whatever you feel like really. You can also throw in onions, peppers or meat in with your cheese on the melting tray to excellent effects. How you Raclette is up to you. The combinations are endless, but all the combinations I tried tasted absolutely amazing. Then to top the meal off, genuine Black Forest cake was brought out. It tasted great, but our host, Richard, looked disappointed. Something was missing. A few seconds later he came out with a bottle of "Cherry Water", alcohol distilled from the local cherry harvest. A light (i should probably put quotations around light too) sprinkling of "Cherry Water" later and we could never go back to the Safeway version of Black Forest cake.
After lunch we biked to two of the garden plots owned by the Maurers. It was a relaxing and beautiful ride that wound through the small town and hilly vineyards to get to the garden plot and small orchard.
After returning home and relaxing a bit we set off to their daughter's by bike to watch the Germany Netherlands match.
The next morning we took off fairly late (due to me being so faithful and writing posts for you guys) and headed for Basel by car. We walked around the city a bit and saw some of the major sites. Basel is a very beautiful city with small winding roads, many only accessible by foot.
Walking by the shops you can definitely sense that this is a city for the rich (or at least not the budget traveller). In the evening we watched slides with the Maurers, which at first may sound like a recipe for boredom, but when the slide show is with the Maurers is anything but. Travelling in a foreign country you notice the differences. As Karl and I travelled, we were amazed by the history of the place, the outstanding food and so forth. The Maurer's slides, on the other hand, showed the opposite perspective, what it was like to be a European visiting America. Things so unbelievable they had to be documented on film included, obese people (evidenced by a photo taken in the zoo of the overweight people attending, not the animals) and the fact that dilapidated automobiles were allowed on the road (seeing once such vehicle, Margit stopped on the side of the road to pose by a rusted out truck with her granddaughter).
The next morning was our last of "Part I" (we were to return in a few days to meet Kyla) and Karl and I did a relaxed walk through Basel in the morning and then said farewells and took off for Ulm (our next destination).