On the road – discovering so much around Basel: To the southeast (I)

Discovering treasures, while being forced to just walk around Basel

As from April to August some surgeries forced me to stay at home, I walked and walked discovering and rediscovering gems around Basel. Here are some of them in the southeast of Basel, starting with a first selection.

This map shows the hill of Wartenberg (between Muttenz and Pratteln) and the long stretched mountain plateau of the Gempen southeast of Basel. The Gempen belongs to the Tabular Jura.


Source: Bundesamt für Landestopographie 213T – Basel


The Ermitage – the romantic landscape garden near Arlesheim

The Ermitage is a romantic English style landscape garden in the Gobenmatttal above Arlesheim (in English also: Hermitage). The garden dates from 1785, was destroyed by Napoleon in 1793, and has since been renovated repeatedly.  The Birseck castle (also destroyed by Napoleon) is part of the garden.


Along the Gobenmatt creek, there are a few houses. The entrance is marked by an aqueduct, the former mill and the house of the gardener with the  annex that was used to produce tobacco for some time (“Tabakstampfe”).


There are three ponds. The first pond is small…


… and it is fed by a small rocky waterfall.


The second pond is larger. It is full of memories for me. When I was a child, my grandmother often took me to the Ermitage. In her huge bag she always carried old bread, and we stood on this wooden platform to feed the carps. I was surprised to find the wooden platform unchanged, but feeding the carps is no longer allowed. What do kids do today – do they play carp feeding on their iPhones?


The rocky hill under the castle Birseck hosts attractions such as caves and hermits cells – I visited the monument for Jacques Delil (also called Virgil de Lille). He translated Virgil and he was a nature poet. After the revolution in France, he emigrated to Basel and wrote “les hommes du champs” that contains this wish: “If anyone would devote a monument to me, it should be under a poplar and near a creek.” He returned to France later and died in Paris in 1814 (Wikipedia ). Basel remembered his wish and erected this monument below the castle ruins..


His wish is written on a slab that stands behind the monument


It was the two Austrians with their Nordic Walking group that took me back to the Ermitage after many, many years. Arlesheim makes a nice target point with its magnificent cathedral (Dom). Our group enjoyed lunch in the friendly restaurant Rössli.

In case it would stop raining (it has been raining all July and August this year), I propose this picnic spot – it is just above the Ermitage in a romantic setting bordering the Gobenmatt creek. Of course it provides a luxury barbecue grill, as most barbecue places around Basel do.



On the way to Schönmatt: The farm that looks like a boat: Ränggersmatt.

A third class road (Schönmattstrasse) leads from Arlesheim to the Schönmatt on the Gempen plateau. On the way there is the farm “¨Ränggersmatt“. In the late 18th century a man called Renker owned a small house on this meadow. In 1821 Conrad von Andlau built the farm with this hipped roof (Walmdach) that reminds me of a boat.



Behind the Ränggersmatt I find another great picnic area… the wood is already waiting to be used for the next barbecue.


And behind this picnic spot the Grenzweg (“border trail”) to the Schauenburg starts.


The trail following the border between  two cantons and leading to the Schauenburger Flue

Yes, I have been on this trail before. I always came here with Ernst, and we balanced our mountain bikes over wet blocks of stone, when heading to the Gempen (Schartenfluh). I then always wondered, what these “stone blocks” were, but we never stopped to look at them more closely. The trail was slippery and needed caeful attention from us bikers. When I came here as a Nordic Walker, guided by my friends from Austria, they pointed out to me that this is the border between the canton of Rural Basel (Baselland) and the canton of Solothurn.


And they showed to me that some of these boundary stones are old… this one is from 1660. 1660 – this was long before 1833, when Basel split into Basel Town (Baselstadt) and Rural Basel (Baselland), when the farmers revolted. In 1660 there was just one canton of Basel ruled by Basel Town. Hence, the boundary stone shows the emblem of Basel Town: It is a bishop’s crook with the handle looking left – and it is black on white (the color has faded here).


The emblem of Rural Basel is also a bishop’s crook, but the handle looks to the right and is red. The inhabitants of the two Basel will vote about being reunified soon. Some parties in Rural Basel are against the reunification, as the red (rural) bishop’s crook on this poster says defending himself against the black crook attacking him.


Wait a minute, what has happened to the emblem on this boundary stone of 1667. Also 1667 was long before 1833. Hence the crook has to be of  “Basel Town” with the handle pointing left. Yes, the crook’s handle is directed to the left, but someone has painted it red to make it look more like Rural Basel, But it is not quite right… Rural Basel would have to exchange all border stones….



A Gallo-roman temple on the Schauenburger Flue

Another Nordic walking tour with Andreas took me to the Schauenburger Fluh above Frenkendorf. On the edge of the rock (Fluh in German or Flue in Swiss German) was a Gaelic and later a Roman temple. Not much is left  of it.


On www2.rzgm.de, I find the detailed history of temples made for circumambulation (Umgangstempel) that could be found in Roman towns and also in salient locations such as wells, lakes or hills – the temple on the Schauenburger Fluh being one of the most extreme examples – built directly above the rock.  This is what historians think it looked like.


Source: www2.rzgm.de

And this foto shows the cliffs from below (from Alt Schauenburg).


Below the cliff is the hotel and restaurant Bad Schauenburg. When working for Ciba-Geigy and Roche in the 1980/90s, I spent some time here participating in brainwaves, enjoying the excellent food and the hotel in this quiet setting.



There are more treasures around Basel

These were some of the treasures southwest of Basel. There are more… and I will continue to write about them. Looking back I just wonder why I knew so little about my homeland.


On the road – discovering so much around Basel (to the southwest)

Discovering treasures, while being forced to just walk around Basel

From April to August this year some surgeries forced me to stay at home. So I walked and walked and walked around my hometown Basel. Almost every day, I started at my house – alone, with a group of Nordic Walkers guided by two Austrians, with friends or with family members. Often it were foreigners that unveiled new treasures to me that I had not noticed before, though have lived in Basel since three years old.

After having blogged about the treasures of the Bruderholz south of Basel, let me continue with the hill of Allschwil/Binningen and the creek “Birsig” in the southwest.


Source: Bundesamt für Landestopographie 213T Basel – 1:50’0000


Friedrich Oser – a priest and a poet in Biel-Benken

Just above Biel-Benken there is a memorial for Friedrich Oser who became a priest here in 1884. Friedrich Oser wrote poems that were set to music and are well-known with German speaking choirs. Friedrich Oser is a very local celebrity, and he has a memorial just above Benken…


… with a great view of the Blauen, part of the “Faltenjura” or Jura mountain range with folded layers (as opposed to the “Tafeljura” or Jura consisting of plateaus, sometimes called “Tabular Jura”).

My friends from Austria showed to me that it takes just a 90 minutes to walk from my home to Biel-Benken, and they introduced me to Frîedrich Oser.


Biel-Benken is a charming twin village (Biel and Benken) that has kept its rural character. There are two excellent restaurants, Heyer and Zihlmann. We shared an excellent lunch in the quiet and shady garden of Heyer.


The “Löliwald” or literally “dumbass forest” near Biel-Benken (then I find out “Löli” means “grove” and not “idiot”) 

A friend from England, Adrian, invited me to walk from Oberwil to Biel-Benken – he knows a romantic path through the wheat and rape fields along the creek Birsig.


The path crosses the Löliwald, and ends in Biel-Benken, where all streets are labeled “Löli”: Löliring or Lölimattweg etc.


I laugh out  loudly. “What is so funny about “Löli”, what does it mean?”,  Adrian asks. “Hm, something like “idiot” or “dumbass””, I answer, “and “Löli” is different from “Glünggi” – do you not know the famous song of Mani Matter  “Schimpfwörter sy Glüggssach“.  Later I find the toponomastic reason for the name “Löli”: It is said to relate to “Loch” (German) or “Lucus” (Latin) =”Grove” (in German: “Hain”) describing a light forest of oak and beech trees. I also find a bleak story about a murder in the Löliwald that happened here in 1913. The Internet tells me, there are more “Löli”-forests in Switzerland, and they must all be groves – no, there is no congestion of Löli or idiots in them.


French lunch culture in a cosy garden in Neuwiller

From Biel-Benken, Adrian and I continue our walk through the forest to France. On the French side, we oscillate on a muddy path that vanishes in a swampy meadow. Guided by two ladies with a mastiff, we eventually find the path that takes us to the village of Neuwiller. In the garden of  the Auberge de Neuwiller , we celebrate a great French lunch – three courses and  an Edelzwicker (blended white wine from the Alsace). I feel like being far, far away from Basel and Switzerland. And an hour later, we are back in Oberwil and in Switzerland – a straight hiking trail connects the two villages (no border check points here).



Later I come back to Neuwiller with Barbara, enjoying a lovely zander fish with Riesling sauce accompanied by a glass of Alsacian Riesling. We notice there is a “Grenzwaggle” (border walk) of 12km around Neuwiller that I might explore later.


With Barbara I walk back the 2.5km from Neuwiller to Biel-Benken. Now I easily find the muddy path that vanishes in the swampy meadow and I guide a group of lost hikers through it. Half an hour later, we reach the hill above Biel-Benken and the lovely view of the mountain range Blauen and the ruin of Landskrone in the south.



The nature reserve Herzogenmatt – a small gem

While walking on the hill of Allschwil/Binningen, I also came across the Herzogenmatt. This is a nature reserve close to Allschwil. The website tells proudly about the rare species of amphibians living here.

This romantic path leads through the nature reserve Herzogenmatt. We count seven wooden bridges crossing the creek.


An artist has created this scuplture – maybe dwarfs are protected here as well?


The path ends near this pond with white and pink water roses and with water lillies.


The Herzogenmatt is a small gem just half an hour away from my home… and I only discover it this summer.


A short walk from Herzogenmatt to the water tower of Allschwil

From far, I had always admired the elegant water tower of Allschwil. With my 1:25’000 Swiss topo map, I find it tucked away in the forest. It is not far from Herzogenmatt. It was built in the 1970’s and is open in the afternoon on weekends .



Vo Schönebuech bis Ammel

Vo Schönebuech bis Ammel ” – this is the song of the Baselbiet or “rural Basel” (Baselland). Schönenbuch is on one edge of it and Ammel is on the other edge (Rural Basel separated from Basel Town in 1833 – there was a revolution of the farmers against the patricians in town).

Schönenbuch is a two hours’ walk from my home and a short hour from the watertower of Allschwil.


On the way to Schönenbuch (or in Swiss German “Schönebuech”), there is a romantic bridge across the Mühlebach. Note the yellow signs marking the official hiking trail. There is a dense network of well marked hiking trails in Switzerland.


I have never been at Schönenbuch before. I find a quiet village on a hill. There are farms, mansions, family homes, a restaurant and a small church.


Watch out for cats in this idyllic village – please drive slowly, this road sign says.


One of the farms sells freshly picked cherries. I buy some cherries and eat them sitting at the table in front of the farm.


The green ordinary Basel town bus 33 connects Schönenbuch with Allschwil and Basel.


More treasures – the footpath along the Mühlebach (mill creek) leading to the Mühli in Allschwil

My friends from Austria unveil another secret to me. Not far from the Allschwil water tower there is a romantic footpath along the Mühlebach to the center of Allschwil. The Mühlebach is the creek that drove water mills.


We reach the gorgeous village center of Allschwil with its timbered houses and the restaurant Mühli , where the millwheel is still turning. There is a garden behind the watermill. I remember that 13 years ago I had an excellent dinner in a restaurant near a watermill – this was in Homs in Syria where the watermills uplifted water to the fields high above the river. Are the mills of Homs still turning? Maybe I should plan a dinner in this garden, when the summer rainfalls of this year will stop to remember my evening in Homs and think of the people in Syria.


Our target for lunch today is the Jägerstübli, one of the rustic restaurants at the center square (Dorfplatz) of Allschwil.


There are more walks around Basel…

These are some highlights I found on the hill of Binningen/Allschwil. I discovered more great places and treasures around Basel, and I will continue to tell about them.



On the road – discovering so much around Basel (to the south)

Discovering treasures, while being forced to just walk around Basel

From April to August this year some surgeries forced me to stay at home. I was allowed to walk and I walked and walked – starting with the Bruderholz. This is where I grew up in the fifties and sixties. As a child I strolled here with my parents, played in the woods, sledged or took my first efforts on skis. Now I rediscovered the treasures of the Bruderholz in more detail –  and I am telling about them. Now that I fell better, I started to take pictures to illustrate my stories.


The Bruderholz – south of Basel

The Bruderholz is an extension of the Alsacian/French hills called Sundgau. It is a plateau about 150m above Rhine level bordered by forests. On the plateau, loess enables agriculture. The farms sell their products. Legend says that the forest brothers  (or hermits) lived in the forests surrounding the plateau –  or perhaps there were just three hermits that lived near Klosterfichten – legends are never precise. The name “Bruderholz” is derived from the legend of the forest brothers (Bruder = brother, and Holz = wood) – perhaps.


Source: Bundesamt für Landestopographie “Basel 213T” – 1:50’0000


St. Margarethenkirche – Saint Margarethe Church

St. Margarethenkirche is a protestant church overlooking Basel. I like the terrace offering a great view of Basel, the Black Forest and the Vosges. I sometimes attend the service of the singing priest of Binningen, Tom Myhre. He sings his (down to earth) sermons and plays the guitar. When I was a child, my grand mother told me proudly that as a young girl she was allowed to play on the organ. This must have been the organ from 1884 that has been replaced later in 1964.

The origin of the St. Margarethenkirche is full of legends: Three sisters, Margarethe, Ottilie and Chrischona, built three houses of prayers in the 3rd or 4th century: Saint Margarethe on the Bruderholz, Saint Ottilie on the Tüllinger Hügel north across Basel and Saint Chrischona on Chrischona to the north east across Basel. At night their lamps burnt to greet one another and the people in the valley below them. Later these houses of prayer became churches.

The Margarethe church has been confirmed to exist in the 13th century. It has been renovated several times and has received the current right angle shape  (Winkelhakengrundriss) in the 17th century. A farmhouse is connected with the church. Cows graze on the meadow below Margarethen…


… and there is also a vineyard of 2200 square meters on the west slope that gives 2500 half liter bottles. The wine can be tasted here in the restaurant Schällenursli located in the rick of the farm.



The Battery built in 1815 to defend Basel

The Battery is a popular target for people taking their dogs out. As a child I wondered what the “Battery” has in common with electrical batteries. Dr. Google says about the Battery: Around 1815 Basel was being shot at from the fortification of Huningue (on the French frontier bordering the Rhine). Basel erected fortifications and one of them was our Battery located at 365m. It is a quadratic entrenchment for heavy canonry and was called “La Superbe”, and later “Battery”.

In the two World Wars 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, the Battery was used again to host the Swiss border troops. The “Wehrmännerdenkmal” (monument for the soldiers) was erected north of the Battery to commemorate that.


The border between Basel town and the village of Bottmingen divided the Battery. When the revolution of 1833 had separated Basel town and rural Basel, Bottmingen also split off from Basel town to join rural Basel. The border between the two cantons of rural Basel and Basel town now divided the Battery. This odd situation was corrected in 1954 and since then the Battery has fully belonged to Basel town.

After 1945 trees have grown on the Battery. Since then children have come here to play – biking, hiding and running in summer and sledging in winter. I was one of those children in the 1950’s and 1960’s.


Once per year there is a warlike scenario like before 1945: On first of August (the Swiss National Day), the giant Bruderholz firework is shot off from the Battery.


The Bruderholz water tower

Not far from the Battery the water tower  offers a spectacular view from the top – over Basel to the Black Forest, the Jura, the Sundgau and the Vosges. The water tower was built in 1926. There are two parallel staircases leading to the middle level  (with the balconies) and from here one wooden staircase goes to the top. This was a wonderful playground for us; as children we used to play catch for hours. Four or five of us would fit into one compartment of the revolving door at the entrance (we had to drop 10 Rappen or .1 Franc to enter the tower).



Some small ponds and nature reserves

The Bruderholz hides some small ponds and nature reserves. Here is one example: This pond is near the hospital (Bruderholzspital).


And this is another interesting example: On the roof of the Froloo reservoir it was decided to let nature take over the former reservoir construction place, with no further human intervention. This is called a “Ruderalstandort”  or “ruderal area“).


These are the ruderal plants that have taken over so far  without any human intervention (the path may have needed some human intervention, nevertheless).



On the plateau the loess is fertile and enables farming and garden centers

The rather flat plateau of the Bruderholz is fertile. There are wheat -, corn and vegetable fields as well as cherry and apple trees, overlooked by the Jura mountains (on this picture we can see the Gempen).


The farms sell their products – for example the Bruderholzhof .


Among other things, the Bruderholzhof sells porc meat. Note the green and white Bio but – this is eco meat.


Some farms offer self picking berries – such as strawberries, blackberries or raspberries “Beeri” is what we Swiss say for “berries”).


I often shop in the garden center “Bauer” that grows and sells flowers and trees on the Bruderholz plateau.



Following the forest brothers on very hot summer days

On very hot summer days, I walk along the slopes of the Bruderholz plateau. The slopes are covered with forests that protect from the sun. This is where the forest brothers lived that are said to have given the Bruderholz its name.

I enter the forest near Münchenstein…


… I find romantic creeks along the steep slope…


… and small bridges…


… and lots of picnic spots with elaborate barbecue grills…



Battle of Bruderholz – 1499

A small detour to Reinach takes me to the monument reminding of the Battle of Bruderholz.


The Habsburgian rulers of the German empire intended to limit the freedom of the Swiss Confederacy (Eidgenossen). On March 22nd 1499 the Swiss defeated the German army at the Battle of Bruderholz during the Swabian War. Later in the same year the Swiss defeated the Swabian League again near Dornach. In the peace treaty signed in September in Basel, the Swiss Confederacy became largely independent from the German empire (ruled by Maximilian I of Habsburg) and Basel joined the Confederacy two years later in 1501.


Froloo – the electricity hub, the water reservoir and the picknick area

The Froloo disposes of an electricity hub, a water reservoir  and a huge picknick area with a barbecue grill and a cottage.

The electricity hub is one of the most important hubs in the North West region of Switzerland. It is being overhauled now. There will be a new transformer packed into a building which frees up 7000m2. Also some power supply lines will move underground.


The water reservoir Froloo is one of four drinking water storage tanks in the area. They are fed by eight ground water fountains. The other three reservoirs are Rebberg, Hollen and Bielhübel.


The picnic area is large and boasts of a luxury barbecue grill – like all barbecue spots on the Bruderholz.



Leywald – the nature amd sculpture trail

South of Reinach there is the Leywald. I wonder, what kind of forest the “Leywald” is, and Dr Google says “Ley” is a cliff or escarpment (Loreley in Germany is a dangerous cliff above the river Rhine). Hence I expect to find the Leywald-forest climbing up a hill. Understanding “Ley” makes it easier for me to find this forest, as I saw no signposts pointing to it.

The Leywald hosts a trail that combines learning about the forest and wooden sculptures near a barbecue area .


I recognize fgures from fairy tales like “der kleine Muck” or “little Muck” (“Muck” is a name). The sculpture trail is a great place to visit with children. My Austrian friends take their grand-child here, and this is how I heard about the trail. Why is it always foreigners that know my country better than I do?


Because this is also a forest trail, bushes and trees are labeled. This is a great place to learn or teach about the forest.



Orthography is a matter of luck – Orthografie ist Glückssache


“Krise”=crisis and  “hier nicht”=not here. But someone wrote “Kriese” instead of “Krise”… yes, orthography is a matter of luck and I always smile, when I walk by this electricity hub.

Then – Switzerland tries to stay clean. People who take out their dogs have to retrieve little plastic bags at the “robidog” dispenser, pick up all the dog leaves on the way and throw away the small plastic bags after having tied them up carefully.  These dog toilets are called “robidog”, because it is Robi AG that has provided the box and the plastic bags. They even provide apps to find the robidog dispensers. Bravo is another provider that prevails in Basel town. Basel blyb suuber – Basel stay clean!


There are more treasures around Basel

These were some of the treasures south of Basel. As I extended my walks to the southwest, southeast and north of Basel, I will continue to write about what I discovered and rediscovered here.