Basel

Morning view of Merian garden in Basel, Switzerland
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Well, my dears, we have finally arrived at the present. After I’ve taken you through all of my journeys, using my memories which tend to become faded away with time (I’m getting old, I know), we have arrived in our days. Since we are now living in Basel, I would like to tell you how we got here.

The moving itself and our life here will be available in a separate section because I have a feeling I’ll have a lot to talk about this, but the way that we first visited Basel was actually similar to a usual journey.

The decision

My husband and I were already talking about leaving the country. The political climate in Romania is becoming more and more hard to deal with, and we also have some personal frustrations, gathered by anyone who has ever interacted with the Romanian health system, or with any other public institution, where people expect you to give a gift to someone for doing his/her job.

Somehow, everyone thinks that it’s normal to get some flowers to the civilian officer that performs the civil marriage ceremony, or to put “a little something” into an envelope for the doctor that’s performing a medical consult, or a “small gift” (and I’ve heard some outrageous prices for this “small gift”) for the teacher who educates and deals with our children.

So, we’ve thought that, although we’re not having a rough life in Romania, and we cannot complain, it would still be a good idea to keep our options open for abroad opportunities too. We knew that we weren’t going to leave just like that, anywhere, anyhow, and we just thought about places where we can raise good and nice children, who will become fair and responsible adults, the type of adults that all of us want to meet.

In this context, I’ve let my LinkedIn account open to Europe, thinking we would still need to remain closer to our friends and parents, and not needing to travel half of the world to see them in person.

So, in a very nice and sunny day, after a few non-technical interviews failed, I had an interview with the CTO from the company I work now. He showed interest in me and my husband, probably thinking we were a good deal, some sort of 2 for 1 sale. After a very easy interview, he called us in Basel for a more serious, technical one.

This interview would be a full day assigned to a web application development and not an easy one for sure, and it was settled for a Monday, while our plane tickets were bought from Saturday to Tuesday so that we have some time to also explore the area.

Getting in Basel

We arrived on Saturday evening excited and enthusiastic. Everything looked extraordinary, starting with the bus that took us from the airport to the city center in under 30 minutes, and ending with the nice lady from the hotel who recommended some things we could do the next day, including some sort of carnival that would take place in her “village”.

It’s true, probably nothing was as interesting as we were seeing it, but the fact that we were invited to an interview made us feel very excited about everything. We went out that evening, after we discovered, using a map, that we were really close to the old town area, and we tried to get something to eat.

First disappointment: starting with 10 PM, you rarely find a place where you can eat, as a tourist. If you’re not a big fan of fast-food and take-out pizza, you’re screwed. I’m sure there are places where you can eat, but as a tourist, you rush into the first place you find in the city center and you find out the kitchen is closed. We finally ate a dreadful pizza in a fast-food, had a beer and, just like that, we spent 35 francs.

First shock: in Switzerland, food that’s eaten out is not only less tasty, but also expensive. I assume the good one if very expensive, but I’ll let you know when I’ll find it. So, after we filled our tummies and emptied our pockets, we started walking to the hotel. While doing so, and observing the really alive atmosphere that was present into the old town, a guy landed on my feet, lying down on the sidewalk.

He had gotten out, or was pushed from a club, and was now lying in front of me. He looked like he was alive, so we walked from there with the panic still present on my face, especially since we’re not used to walking, in the middle of the night, on the streets, and not be afraid of something.

Getting around Basel

If you have accommodation at a hotel in Basel, you are granted a Basel card, which covers unlimited journeys using public transportation and a 50% discount if you want to visit museums. That being said, we decided to have a few walks the next day.

We had already read that usually, on Sunday, everything is closed in Switzerland, so we had to leave the museums for another time, but we decided to go to the zoo, since deep inside I am just a child who’s glad to see animals, even though I know animals don’t like to be in captivity. Yes, I do feel guilty about this.

Of course, the zoo is amazingly beautiful and well-kept, almost as beautiful as the one in Munic. We even had the surprise that a giraffe, while being SO beautiful and velvet-looking, came so close to us I was under the impression I could just touch it. I didn’t even get the chance to take a picture, I was so mesmerized by the brown and sweet little eyes that were looking at me.

My husband said that if he ever saw me looking like that to a man, he’ll be worried. The poor guy should be worried about other things, like having a child-wife frightened by deep waters and roller coasters. I was able to take some pictures with this beautiful guy I attached, who had his powerful pose present for me, and to make a short film with a crocodile that was not moving at all, so I initially thought it was the plastic toy for the real crocodile.

Even though it started snowing a little, we decided to go also to the carnival, since we have chosen this time of the year to visit Basel. The “village” the nice lady was talking about was, of course, a very pretty suburb, with small buildings and a lot of houses, together with a lot of green areas.

This was the place for the incredible carnival, where people stand near the main street and watch various carriages, mythical characters and big trucks filled with music. From the trucks, some guys throw things to the people attending, like candy, fruits, some beverages, but usually, they are offered to kids. Still, the confetti is offered to everyone: much, often and colorful.

When you leave the premises you feel that you have confetti sticking to your soul. The calm rain helped the confetti stick to us. We left, eventually, because we started to be very cold (I cannot, under any circumstances, understand why this carnival is in February), and we started to search a place to eat nearby, hoping that we’ll find something since there’s that huge crowd gathered around for the carnival.

We eventually found a place that didn’t look exactly like a hotdog stand, and we ate schnitzel and some unfrozen French fries, which were even worse and even more expensive compared to the food from the previous day. We came back and tried to have a little walk through the city center and, as true Romanians do, we tried to find some puddles so that we can clean our shoes that were covered in confetti.

The accommodation that the company offered for us was a four-star hotel right in the city center, and we were actually ashamed of entering that nice place with our shoes covered in colorful confetti. We found it hard to encounter a small puddle next to a church, even though it rained all day.

I couldn’t say where is the rainwater going in here, but I know it doesn’t get into puddles. And, I know it can sound like a hypocrite, but maybe, MAYBE, it’s because the asphalt has some special areas near the sidewalks, so the water gets drained easily.

The interview

On the big interview’s day, at exactly the agreed time, while I was nervously shacking, we arrived at the company for the technical discussion. That was a hell of an interview! Basically, each of us had a project to create. Obviously, it couldn’t be finished, so we also had to decide about the priorities, and the ideas that we don’t have time to implement, we had to specify as “nice to have”, if there would have been more time.

It was incredibly hard and complex and, when they invited us for lunch, we were very upset because we had the feeling that we’re losing so much precious time. We both left dizzy from there, and I was having a small depression, feeling that I did very poorly, and they’ll even regret the money spent on the plane tickets for us.

In that evening we did what we wanted: we went to Germany briefly, just to see how it is to go to another country with the tram. Again, we were amazed that the representatives from the two countries were able to get along so well that they created the infrastructure which makes people’s life a little easier.

The tram line is included in the Swiss company’s public transportation pass, but it goes through Germany. There’s also a similar case for France. Fun fact: Basel airport is located on French territory, but a long-term agreement gives the Swiss state rights for a small land part, and on this land, a road was created.

This road is the only one that leads to the airport, and in the airport, you have two different exits, for Switzerland and France, which are very discreetly marked and if you’re not attentive for a few seconds, you can end up in the wrong country.

Also, in the Basel train station, there are a few platforms that are organized by the French state, and French trains leave from there. It looks like it should be a customs point in there somewhere but usually no one is there and you barely find out that you are, in fact, in another country.

Meanwhile, we don’t get along with the Bulgarians enough to make the Ruse bridge useful and it took us so many years to create a highway connected to Hungary, but it’s still not connected to Bucharest.

The outcome

One bottle of wine later, because this is how I measure time and fight failures, we were finally able to fall asleep, knowing that we cannot change anything we already did and that a big day awaits for us after. But somehow, I have no idea how it happened, but we managed to get the jobs.

Even though they called us separately to discuss, and I was very nervous while I waited for him at a Starbucks nearby, we still managed to celebrate our victory with a nice walk through the supermarkets, to see the prices of day-to-day products, so that we can estimate correctly the cost of living for Basel.

For the before-mentioned bottle of wine, of course, we had to buy a corkscrew, which we have taken also to the airport, thinking we could ask if we’re allowed with it in our cabin luggage. We asked and we were actually allowed to take it onboard.

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re in France. Or maybe all countries that produce a lot of amazing wines have some sort of special luggage allowance that doesn’t ban corkscrews onboard? We still don’t know, and we’re still amazed by it.

Leaving Basel

Yeah, that’s about the extent of our first experience in Basel. The next ones will be posted in Being an expat because I’m sure we’ll have lots of cultural shocks and some amazing social experiences. It’ll be interesting, we’re somehow aware that we’ll have an adventure, and we are kind of nervous about it.

But the nervousness is similar to the one from when we got married: we do feel it, our thoughts and dreams are filled with it, but we still want to do it. Those are good emotions, we just feel like a sudden wind of change did start a new life for us.

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