One of the hardest things about being in Basel is being so far away from family during the holidays. But for this Christmas my parents came to visit!
This wasn’t my folks’ first trip to Europe. My Mom’s first trip overseas was to go with me to Paris, France about 14 years ago. I had called her to tell her I was going to Paris alone and, when she freaked out that her baby girl was going over a huge ocean into a country that didn’t speak English all by herself, I totally blackmailed her into coming along. It was the best trip we’ve ever had together and it changed our relationship forever. We became friends and not just a Mother and a Daughter.
My Dad’s first trip overseas was a family vacation to Prague about 10 years ago. I should have had an inkling that this trip was going to be something to remember the moment he asked if Mark and I wanted to go along. To understand how momentous this was you have to understand a few things. It took Dad 25 years to even leave Floyd County, Iowa for the first time and that was because the Army demanded he report for the draft. (A fever of 103 spiked his blood sugar and he was rejected for being diabetic, which he actually isn’t. He didn’t bother to correct them.) He is also scared to death of heights, has mild clausterphobia, and can’t swim and he declared he was willingly going to cram himself into a metal tube and hurl himself through thin air and over an iceberg-filled ocean. Plus this notion was totally out of the blue. When I picked up the phone there was no preliminaries at all. It was just “How about we go to Prague?” My response was to laugh hysterically. When I finally figured out he was serious I was able to pull myself together and we discussed dates and details while I hiccuped and tried to control myself. That trip included February snow, morning sickness, and a cousin of Dad’s who no one in the family can believe we willingly traveled with. It is now a family legend. One day I will tell you about it. Let’s just say that “what is seen cannot be unseen.”
For someone who hadn’t left Floyd County, Iowa until he was 25 years old and then not again until he was in his 50s, my Dad has become a world traveler. Dad and Mom have been to San Francisco, Seattle, DC, Canada, Prague, and all through Italy. And now – just when Dad thought he was done traveling – they have come to Switzerland.
The flight from the US to Switzerland is a long and hard flight. You leave Minneapolis 10pm, stop in Amsterdam or Frankfurt for 2 hours and then land in Basel at 11am the next day, having slept for probably a maximum of 30 minutes because some guy next to you has decided to not only annex your share of the armrest, he keeps glancing over trying to determine if you’re really using all of your seat or can he get away with annexing that, too. A la Vladimir Putin.
BUT, they arrived. On time and with little trouble. The kids and I took the bus to the airport, picked up their weary carcasses, and drug them through the Basel streets and back to our house. I let them rest a little and then I plunged them right into the heart of Basel!
We went to the open-air food market outside the Rothaus at Marktplatz and then through the whole Rothaus and into my favorite chocolate shop. I think we visited that chocolate shop 5 times in the 8 days they visited. The only reason it wasn’t everyday is because they were closed on Christmas and Boxing Day and Mom had to leave too early on the 30th to get to the shop and then to the airport.
We even went to Bern. It was about 0 degrees C and we were pelted with what the States calls a “wintery mix” and the Swiss call “a little weather”. Seriously, the DC area would have had school shut down for the week and every grocery store would have been stripped bare of bread, toilet paper, and milk. The Swiss were ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, and walking through the Winter Markets. No big deal. By the end of three hours we were soaked and cold so we headed back to Basel on the train.
Dad loved the train. He loved seeing the countryside and comparing farming techniques with those back home. He commented on terracing, the popularity of blue Harvestor silos, and the multiple uses for the land. He even saw cows, which made him feel like he was home.
I took Mom shopping! We went to Manor and through some other markets. It was so much fun. I think she single-handedly raised the GDP of Switzerland by 2% just through her purchase of chocolate. Everyone is getting chocolate. (Spoilers!)
And too soon it was time to get them to the airport. There were tears and brave faces with stiff upper lips and all that. Promises and plans of a return trip have begun and there will be lots of new stories to tell.