From German to Swiss-German: Getting around in Basel

It’s been a few months since I first came to Basel, and I clearly remember how curious I was before I did so. Even though I had been living in Germany for two years, I had never crossed the southern borders and visited Switzerland. I had been anticipating a lot of changes, until I arrived at Basel Badischer Bahnhof and took the bus trip to where I would be staying. Somehow, I did not feel that I was in a completely different environment, as the city did not seem to differ much from a German town(Heidelberg remains my favourite though). And that made sense, as Basel is located barely 5 kms away from the German border.


However, what I had not anticipated was the change in the German dialect. After several trips to the supermarkets,bakeries and cafes resulting in confusion, I realized that things would have been slightly better if I knew certain words and phrases  in advance. So, today, I am compiling a list of the most basic things,out of experience, that would be useful to you if you are visiting Basel for the first time,or if you,like me, are making a transition from basic German to Swiss-German.

1.Salutations – My first few visits to Migros and Coop supermarkets left me quite perplexed in this regard.  While paying up at the cash counters, it was very common in the German supermarkets to greet the cashiers with a ‘Hallo’ and ‘Tschuss'(Bye) or ‘Danke'(Thankyou). However, I was left clueless when the cashier at Migros responded by saying something completely different. On asking my Swiss friends, I got to know that the most common forms of greeting someone here are ‘Grüezi‘ and ‘Adieu/ada’(formal) or ‘Salü’ ,’Ciao’ ,’Tschuss'(informal). Since Basel is very close to the French borders, a lot of French influence can be seen in the dialect too. Hence, ‘Danke’ is replaced by ‘Merci‘ , and ‘Vielen Dank’ by ‘Merci vilmal’.


2. The Cheese conundrum- Undoubtedly, Switzerland and cheese go hand in hand. While I was getting used to the different names of cheese available(and trying to find the mild ones), I was smitten by some cheese snacks prepared by a friend one day. On asking her what they were called and where I could buy them, I was told that the name would be translated in English as ‘small cheese cakes’. To me, the German name sounded as ‘Käse Kuechli’. On my next visit to Migros, I started looking out for such a pack in the frozen section, so that I would just have to bake it in the oven. After several futile attempts to find anything beginning with ‘Käse’ , I finally asked a salesperson to help me out. When she conveniently took out a box from a spot I had crossed several times, I was utterly shocked! And here’s why:


It is spelt as Chäs chüechli in Swiss-German!

3. Eating Ettiquetes – Just like the tradition of wishing each other a good appetite (or  Bon Appétit) is followed around the world, Switzerland too has a special phrase for it. And it is not Guten Appetit , as I had assumed it to be. When I got a different response to my greeting, I got to know that the correct phrase is ‘En guete‘.

4.Breakfast Bafflement-While getting up in time to have a leisurely breakfast on weekdays has rarely been my cup of tea, grabbing a croissant on the way to work or Uni had been quite common with me and my friends.Hence, out of habit, I stopped outside a bakery one day to read their breakfast specials, and was quite confused on not seeing a ‘croissant and coffee’ combo listed. How could a bakery not have croissants but ‘Gipfeli + Kaffee’ listed on top? A few seconds later, I discovered that croissant too had another name in Swiss-German: Gipfeli, indeed!


5. Ice,Eis baby!- Who would not love to get some ice-cream on a hot,sunny day?In fact, I have actually seen people change their random evening plans to go back to the dorm because someone from the common kitchen had got a Movenpick ice-cream box!And if ever there was an ice-cream eating competition, I’m sure that my kitchen mates would definitely be on the list:) Anyway, if you are in Basel and want to treat yourself to some delicious Movenpick  flavours, remember that ice-cream is not Eis, as in Germany, but glace.


6.Biking- All the bicycle or Fahrrad lovers would agree that it is one of the most flexible and convenient ways to move around, especially if the weather is good and you have Google Maps by your side. As is the case with a lot of train stations in Germany or France, Basel too offers you the opportunity of renting a bike or an e-bike and cycling around Switzerland. However, a Fahrrad is known as a Velo here , and that would be the basic term you would need to know before you can book your bike in advance at !

There are several other instances when I just do not understand Swiss-German; if someone either speaks very fast or uses some confusing words. For instance, Paprika is German for Capsicum and I thought Pepperoni was Salami or something similar. But, I have also heard people in Basel use pepperoni for capsicum!

The most amusing time,however, was when I had picked up the menu somewhere during the Basel Fasnacht (Carnival) 2014 and the typical Basel dialect seemed to be more like Dutch to me. I enjoyed myself a lot though,and shall blog about in detail later.


Hope this list is able to give someone a heads up before they plan a trip to Basel!

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Next stop:Solitude


  I walk along the empty roads,

 at peace with myself, sensing my soul.

 I stare at the mountains and the river infront of me,

 each one of us is just a speck in the vastness, my mind agrees.


Crowds and company are just make-beliefs,

the truth is that you are all alone, or so I feel.  

I had sensed this first when I was nine,

even though people surrounded me all the time.

As time passed, people would disperse

in twos or threes,

as per their desires or work.

That strange sense of isolation momentarily dawned on me,

and I knew I was all alone, despite everything.  


Now I walk along the empty streets,

Inner peace is what I seek.

I am tired of being surrounded by crowds,

Of the false sense of security and the misleading people asking my whereabouts.  

    Image Image hImage     Image Image Image The Solitude Castle

Steps to Solitude


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A foodie’s delight : 6 places that left my taste buds tingling!

Being a food lover, I never miss out on an opportunity to try out new restaurants or cafes. Having friends sharing the same level of foodiness just quadruples the fun!In the two years that I have spent in Europe so far, there were a few times when I faced difficulties finding vegetarian food, and sometimes ended up paying through my nose for something as horrible as a small quantity of potatoes and yoghurt. But, nevertheless, I happened to visit a few places which left me (and my tastebuds) with super-delicious memories and are responsible for my sudden food cravings :) So, here goes my list:

1.The Best Carrot Cake and Carrot-Cream Soup – About six months ago, I went on a trip to Prague with some of my friends.Everything about the trip was great (except the rains ofcourse), but the best memory I have is of the lovely (surprisingly)vegetarian restaurant our friend took us to. I remember walking quite a bit that day, but I have NEVER ever had a  (carrot) cake and a (carrot-cream) soup as delicious as I had at Estrella Restaurant. Infact, I was initially quite skeptical about how the carrot and cream soup would taste. But, all my doubts vanished as soon as I had the first spoonful. Thinking of the carrot cake now makes me wish I could bring back a lifetime’s supply with me!

2.The Best Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce – I intended to devote an entire post to my quest for the best dumplings. Too bad I haven’t done it yet.But, let me brief it up for you. So, sometime nearly three months ago, I paid a visit to my lovely friend(+foodie pal) in Tübingen, more of a University town in South Germany. She had told me excitedly that all her food research was up-to-date and had made a mental list of ALL the places we should eat at :P (#LoveHerSoMuch) We went to a beautiful restaurant called the Neckarmüller , overlooking the river Neckar. As usual, I did not know what vegetarian dish would be the safest to order. But, thanks to her, I ordered the Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce, and TILL DATE, haven’t come across any other place offering THAT taste in their dumplings!Maybe I’ll do a detailed a post about it sometime afterall. But, for now, don’t take it as a joke if I say to you that the thought of making a day trip JUST for the dumplings has occurred to me..err.. a few times or so.

3.The Best Mexican Food(Enchilidas and more)- There is no questioning this in my mind.Thanks to my friends in Bonn, I had the opportunity to frequent Tacos whenever I (or my foodie pal) craved for the cheesy,delicious Enchiladas. Though I always had a choice of limited items, my non-vegetarian friends loved most of what they tried. In fact, sometimes, there would be such a long queue for the seats that waiting for 45 mins- 1 hour was not uncommon for people.

4.The Best Chinese Food – Bonn lovers, I hope you agree with me on this one. Ding Dong is the best place for having a Chinese buffet.What say you? C’mon, I know you have stuffed your dishes with food to the brim many a times and have even got it packed when you could eat no more. Of all the places I tried, this was the only one serving food which tasted well + wasn’t soaked in oil. I miss you too, Ding Dong :(

5.The Best Indian Food – Well, the quest for finding good Indian food had been quite disappointing when I was in Bonn. Apart from Dosas at ‘Taste of India:South’, I thought my friends cooked better than all the expensive food we tried at a few restaurants.However, I am pleased to say that I have found a place serving the best tasting and affordable North Indian Food – Raja Rani in Heidelberg. Tada! I am so very thankful to my friend who first took me to this place. I could not believe that such taste could be experienced in Germany, and at such a reasonable price. I’ve never since stopped referring it to people or taking my friends there or infact, going there on weekends(well, most of them). My friend once said that whenever he missed Delhi , he would visit this place and enjoy the good tasting food.

6.The Best Falafel Sandwich – Falafel shops are a common sight in every city in Germany, I suppose. Falafel sandwiches have been my alternative to Burgers and Pizzas many a times. However, there has only been ONE place so far, that has set my taste buds tingling – Arbil Restaurant in Heidelberg , right across the street from Galeria at Bismarckplatz. I had walked past it so many times but never stopped to eat there, until one fine day. And oh boy! the taste of the freshly made Falafel balls is simply unforgettable. This is the only place where one has to wait for quite some time to get a Falafel. But, as they say, the wait is worth it.

So, this was my list of the best food I’ve had in Europe so far. I’ll surely keep adding to this list , as and when I visit more places. But for now, leave your comments below and let me know what you think about it. Have you visited any of these places? Or perhaps you have other recommendations? Would love to know!


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Stuttgart: A glimpse of the city and the Cannstatter Volksfest (Beer Festival)

I had heard a lot about Stuttgart, the capital city of Baden-Württemberg , but had never visited the city before. For the past five months, I have been living about a hundred kilometres away and only when I had some work there, did I finally get around to making two day trips. Luckily, I happened to be in the city on the opening day of the Cannstatter Volksfest, popularly known as the Beer Festival , though it has been more of an Autumn festival for hundreds of years.

I spent my morning going around the lively city centre and the market place. The KunstMuseum is located right in the centre of the city, and cannot be missed.


A street sign in remembrance of Robert Bosch, the founder of Bosch Industries.

     Car lovers have a treat in store, with the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums located right inside the city! While there is a direct tram to get to the Porsche Museum, I would suggest taking the bus 56 from Canstatter Wasen to stop right infront of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. I visited both these museums on different days. Interestingly, students have a highly reduced entrance fee between 4 pm and 5 pm , or so.

At the time of my visit, there was a 50 year celebration going on at the Porsche Museum.


The afternoon was reserved for the Canstatter Volksfest, at the Mercedesstrasse tram stop.


I was thrilled to see the colours, the rides, the numerous beer tents and people sporting Dirndls and Lederhosens, the traditional German wear.







And there were numerous beer tents too, some hosting band performances and all of them packed with people in traditional wear, enjoying their beer jugs.



 One of the scariest rides though, must have been the ‘Revolution’, which reminded me of the time I took the ‘Talocan‘ ride at Phantasialand. I didn’t even bother trying it out!

As it was nearly time for the Mercedes-Benz Museum to close for the day, I hurried to reach it. Unfortunately, my phone and camera batteries were drained and I could not take any more pictures. This is just a picture from a postcard I bought.


Visiting this museum was a wonderful experience. If you happen to visit Stuttgart, definitely try to visit the Mercedes Benz World.

And so, it was time to bid Good-Bye to the city. Don’t know if I’ll ever go there again. But would love to hear about your experiences if you do! Signing off with thge last few impressions.

cathedral 20130927_131245 20130927_135719


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The thrill of finding English books in a non-English speaking country:Happiness undefined

When I came to Germany two years ago, I was disheartened to see that buying English books was not an easy task. I would keep walking into bookstores, only to realize that they did not keep any English novels.I missed picking up monthly copies of ‘Reader’s Digest‘ and reading the English daily over breakfast. It felt very strange to see books all around, but none in the languages I spoke or wrote.(My German is still not strong enough to read novels:( ) Reading news online was one thing, but how could e-papers and e-books substitute the heavenly feel of lazing around for hours with ‘The Sunday Times’ or spending hours in a bookstore deciding which books to read first? Occasionally,I would spot an English newspaper at a Kiosk.But, my excitement would be dampened looking at the price printed on it. I was saddened,depressed and felt handicapped a lot of times.I suppose the first time I got excited finding a whole lot of English books was at the Munich Airport, when I was flying home a year ago. I hadn’t been able to resist buying a copy of ‘Dead Europe‘ then to give me company on the long flight back home.

A few months ago, I moved to Heidelberg. Smitten by the natural beauty, I got around to exploring the city on foot during the first two weeks of my arrival. Hearing a lot of English on the streets was quite surprising! I realized that there were a lot of people from different  countries who came to Heidelberg for their studies, research or work. I had already fallen in love with the city as soon as I had arrived though. As soon as I would get off from work in the evenings, I would take the direct bus to Bismarckplatz, and keep walking around.

On one fateful evening, as I was walking along the Hauptstrasse, I suddenly realized I was walking past a bookstore. Hang on!Did I see some English titles staring back at me? I rushed into the store to give shape to my doubts. Voila!There was indeed, an entire rack full of English novels!I couldn’t contain my excitement and expressed my disbelief to the girl at the counter.Whoa!, I thought aloud, I finally found them in Germany! Not surprisingly, I spent the rest of my evening in that store, browsing through all the titles they had and leaving only when they had to close it. That discovery had made my day and  I couldn’t have been happier!

Or so I thought until a few days later. I was (as usual) walking around dreamily, past the Schneeball (or ‘Snowball’) selling cafes and stores, when I spotted piles of books kept outside a store. ‘Antiquariat Hatry’, it was called. On going closer, I realized that many of these books were infact old. Ahh, could it be?I stepped inside the store only to find myself lost in a deluge of books of all kinds- old and new, English and German, classics,self-help and modern fiction, to name a few! I couldn’t believe having walked into a huge store which housed innumerable old as well as new books right in the city I lived! By the end of the hour, I was on the floor, buried deep inside an old classic novel , while surrounded by piles of books on all sides. Infact, I got so engrossed that I didn’t even go up the beautiful spiral stairway to explore the store further. I felt the same way as I had on my tenth birthday, when my parents had complied by my wish for getting books as presents, and had greeted me with a huge pile of Enid Blyton‘s ‘Faraway Tree‘ collection and other fantasy novels as soon as I was up.It was complete bliss.

Move along a few months. I had been having quite a few difficult days. I was disturbed,low and stressed.Today, in particular, I thought I would be suffocated if I directly went home from work. I wanted to breathe in the fresh air and relax my mind.I wanted to talk to someone to feel lighter, but at the same time, didn’t want to bother any of my friends (who are now in different cities) with my rants. I had no idea what I would do in the city, but went ahead anyways. Strolling past UniversitatsPlatz, I spotted my favourite Gummi Bear shop. I stepped in to buy a small pack of ‘Mango Fruchtgummi’ and then continued to walk back and forth. On my way back, I happened to notice Jokers, a seemingly big and fancy bookstore. I decided to step in, unsure of what I would find apart from greeting cards, calendars and German books. And lo Behold! There they are again!Multiple shelves full of English titles!Believe it or not, THAT was the instant cure to all my depression.I kept picking up multiple novels, until I rounded up on two of them. Paying for my newest possessions, I left the store,smiling. When I thought money couldn’t buy happiness, I hadn’t thought of this. This was Happiness undefined for me.


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When the sky lit up in vibrant hues: Heidelberg Castle Illuminations

There was a chill in the air and revelry all around!  The  last of the spectacular shows of the season was supposed to light up the Heidelberg sky on this cool September night. As I walked past the colourful stalls and gleeful faces, I remembered the Fireworks I had witnessed in the summer. It was the second Saturday of July and I was out with two of my friends to witness the historical and popular Fireworks at the Castle and the Old Bridge. The entire city seemed to be picnicking  on the banks of the Neckar!


Unable to find a spot over the Bridge or along the river, we walked up to the Philosophenweg  to get a wonderful view of the Castle and the Fireworks from up above in the hills. Though I was out of breath, panting and mocked at by my sport-loving but encouraging  friends, we did have a great view from up there! However, I wasn’t up for all that trouble this time. I had already discovered a good spot along the banks (just in case you missed the reference in my last post) and was determined to get a good view from here.

Though I reached the city centre well ahead of the schedule, I was surprised to find people already positioned comfortably over the bridge and along the banks. The water and cool drinks seller had also started doing his rounds, reminding me of India for a moment. As time passed, more and more people gathered all around. While some stationed their tripods at the best possible spots, others seemed to be enjoying their picnic with family and friends over wine and food.

Heidelberg has had a long history of wars and tragedies, one of them being the destruction of the castle by the French, way back in 1693. However, Heidelbergers (if I may call them so) know better than lamenting over the past. The Castle is illuminated thrice a year to commemorate the destruction, followed by a brilliant display of fireworks. The fireworks though are more of a tradition from the time  King Friedrich V of Germany got married to Queen Elizabeth Stuart of England.

So lost was I (as usual) that I didn’t realize time flying by! The Castle Illuminations had to begin at 10:15 pm, and I hurried in the direction of my spot. Much to my dismay, people had crowded everywhere, and I managed to find some space just in time . As the show was signalled to begin, the entire area plunged into darkness. With the first spark of the illuminations, the crowd cheered whole-heartedly. The Castle seemed ablaze as it was drenched in red Bengal fires (much to my surprise and delight) .After about five minutes, a grand display of fireworks was put up over the Old Bridge,leaving everyone awestruck once again.

Image :Heidelberg Marketing

I must say though, that the people on boats had the best, unobstructed views, while many of us struggled to look past the trees and people ahead of us. As the splendid show came to an end and the crowd started dissipating, I decided to hang around a bit and enjoy the cool breeze. I sat on a bench and watched the well-lit boats making their way back to the other side of the river.

One of the boats

Ad the boats drifted away, I thought of the evening in July when I had come to watch these fireworks with my friends and bumped into other friends and colleagues at Philosophenweg. Today, I was alone, and both of them, back in France.

Heaving a sigh, I decided to start walking back, lest I missed my bus.

klein Cotton Candy would not be that bad an idea though, I thought to myself, as I stopped at the Candy stall on my way back.


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On the banks of the Neckar

On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’, I pondered as I walked by.


I looked above at the setting Sun,

gleaming over the ruins of the majestic Castle,

And wondered if centuries-old misfortunes  could be undone.


I looked at the flowing river and stared,

Losing myself, as often, in the beauty and the  glaze.

I was delighted by a rush of cool breeze all around me,

And allowed it to penetrate my senses, gently absorbing me.


On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’, I pondered as I walked by.


I looked around to see the tree-covered hills ,

which seemed to cradle the city, by their will.

‘How long could the forest have taken to grow?’

I remembered the musings of a friend , not very long ago.

I smiled to myself as the thought crossed my mind,

And saw a falcon perched atop a roof, ready to take  flight.


I was distracted by the ‘Alte Heidelberg’ crossing the Neckar,

And a bunch of excited passengers waved across with a fervour.

I saw the ripples it created as it passed,

Disturbing the geese and the ducks,

As they honked and quacked their way past.


On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’, I pondered as I walked by.


I crossed people lazing around in the Sun,

Parents doting over their toddlers,beginning to run.

While little kids played dauntlessly all over the swings,

A tired rower seemed to be in his world of dreams.


A mile further towards the ‘Alte Brucke’ as I strolled,

I discovered some spots, which I hadn’t yet explored,

I saw the Bergbahn crawling over the steep tracks, in the distance,

And reminisced about that ride I took with my friends.


As I started walking back home, a thought occurred to me,

A mere rhetorical question, it was indeed!

My heart knew the answer and so did my mind.

For never before have I been happier living elsewhere,

Oh Heidelberg! You have stolen my heart and are all over my mind!


The 'Alte Brucke' over the Neckar, with the Castle in the distance.

The ‘Alte Brucke’ over the Neckar, with the Castle in the distance.

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