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…
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.
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.