Spalentor & General Walking

This, I must admit, is quite a shitty photo. This picture was taken in January a few years ago, in Basel.

I spent the winter in Basel, and was staying at SchutzenmatStrasse. When I went around exploring the area, this is the first thing that I came across, and it was only much later that I discovered that this was the gate through which provisions and goods would come in from places like Alsace.

I remember Alsace from school. Alsace and Lorraine are two places on my “must see” list. In our school history books, there was this little section about the Franco-Prussian wars, and when Alsace and Lorraine fell to the Germans, the teacher lead the kids into shouting “Vive Le France” in defiance of the oncoming German troops. One day.

Schutzen, as I discovered, was a great place to stay. Easy access to the airport bus, great tram lines, next to the market; and, brilliantly enough, there is a nice walkway through the ancient gates to Bafusserplatz and the MarktPlatz.

It’s also close to the zoo, which I visited. For some reasons, I did not take any photos.

What I loved about Schutzen was the easy access to almost any place through the streets, or public transport. I hate driving in Basel. It is the most exasperating place to drive, with one ways, two ways, half ways and what more! Now, if an Indian can say this, then the place has to be exasperating indeed.

Times gone by. Hmm. Sometimes, it is just nice to wax eloquent about times gone by, albeit in a slightly treacly manner!

At Tinguely

The first time that I saw any of Jean Tinguely’s works was the famous fountain near Baffuserplatz in Basel. This was one of the most freakish things I had seen, and I was bloody well hooked.

A year later I went across to the Tinguely Museum in Basel, and I even took my kids there. After the initial protests, my son was absolutely hooked, like me!

This shot of the fountain was taken just outside the museum, after I left. The sun was starting to go down, and I looked into the waters and took the shot.

It’s a pity that I never got to meet people like Tinguely or Salvador Dali. Their works are absolutely fascinating. Tinguely’s art, in the Dada tradition of art would possibly have offended many. To me, this was a discovery of a completely alternate view of reality. It seems that many of his works were a satire on the mindless overproduction of goods in advanced industrial societies.

This is one of the issues that has often plagued me. To give an example: we need mobile phones for making telephone calls, yet these days, it is difficult to buy a smart phone,because in a few months a new version is out. So, we spend money, our homes get cluttered with e-junk, and mountains of junk pile up.

Who is the master? Are we the master of our goods and services, or are they the master of us? I discussed this with an Aussie chap I met in Beijing, and he had taken the conscious decision to reduce his masters. I don’t know if he still holds to that philosophy, but I remember that it impressed me a lot at the time. Since then, I have tried – without much success – to reduce my masters.

Tinguely’s works, while they may be satirical, are so freakishly imaginative, that just contemplating them can force you to look at the world differently. For me, as I look back at the photos I took in the museum, I am forced to ask myself how I can develop my photographic abilities and styles to produce photos that continue to surprise. I think that this could help many people in their day to day lives, and jobs.

In the meanwhile, for those who visit Basel, I can only recommend a visit to the Museum..

GoldDust!

Mettlere Brucke is really a lively place. One of my favourite characters, is this old gentleman who I called Gold Dust. This is not the Goldust of WWE fame.

I have followed this gentleman ( I did not hound him!) through his treks at the Baffuserplatz, at the MarktPlatz, at ElisabethenStrasse and at the Bridge. I have seen him in winter, during the Christmas market, I have seen him in summer, I have seen him during the day, and in the evening. I even saw him one evening, as he walked back home, presumably, along with the bicycle.

I was always fascinated by him but, sadly, never had the courage to go up and say hello to him. So, my questions of him have remained unanswered.

What impelled him to take up this vocation? Is it because he, as a retiree, wanted to supplement his income? Or, is he a writer, watching people go by, to write about them in the evenings alone at home?
What do his children do? What does his wife think of this vocation? What do his friends and family think of this vocation?

What does he do when, after sitting for hours, his back goes stiff? What does he do when he wants to pee? Or,eat something? What happens during the cold winter months, when the cold starts to bite through the gold outfit? What happens in summer, when beads of sweat start to run down his face?

How long does it take him to get ready in the morning, and to prepare for the night? Does his face itch with the paint?

Does he get bored? Do his earnngs help him lead a decent life?

Questions, questions, questions. For those of us in the wonderful corporare world, this is a strange life choice indeed. Strutting from board room to board room, from business class seat to business class seat; noses buried in reports and glasses of wine – do we ask what ails thee old man?

I think, if we do, we would make our individual worlds much richer as places..

Mittlere Brucke – Contemplation

One of my favourite places in Basel is the Mittlere Brucke.  This bridge was built in 1225. The current structure was built in 1905.

It is, quite simply, a fantastic bridge. Now, I don’t quite know why I say this. I am fascinated by bridges in general. They carry us across rivers, across mountains, across all sorts of passes. In management speak, they connect us together. Ha!Ha!

Anyway, while I don’t want to get too deep into the whole idea of bridges, and how they are the symbols of connection, they are absolutely fascinating. I like the Mittlere Brucke because it is solid, it has wonderful design symmetry, and in the warm sun, it brings all sorts of people together.

I have spent many hours on the bridge, generally hanging around, warming my tootsies. I have rushed across the bridge in winter, especially on Sundays when everything is shut, rushing to Starbucks to have some coffee and to pee. Oh God, how glorious is the feeling when you make it to your destination, and you feel warm success gushing out of your genitals!

On one such afternoon, I noticed this young lady sitting there, contemplating her life in the warmth of the noon day sun. I have no clue who she is, or was, but while she sat there in peace and quiet, she got her daily dose of Vitamin D through her legs. Life indeed seemed to be good for the young lady as she sat there in her Buddhaesque attitude. This is wonderful indeed, to be able to do this. This is a throwback to that wonderful old song by Donovan, “Slow Down World”. He sang that song in the 1960’s, when life was much slower. In the 1960’s, as per George Harrison, the English smiled more than they did in the 1970’s. Now, in 2013, can we honestly say that we smile with genuine smiles, and pause to smell the flowers?

The absolute glory of European bridges, is that they allow you to sit and read, and generally philosophise about life, in the quiet certainty that all is well with the world at that moment. This is not the same on Asian bridges, where you rush from point to point. Some Chinese bridges do have character, I must say.

But, the Mittlere Brucke  has a character all it’s own. To me, this is the sign of a great bridge. It need not be huge, but it must have character, and this is something that I feel about the Mittlere. History convenes on the present moment. Down the centuries they have crossed this bridge, and now they even sit there in the afternoon sun, and contemplate the glories of life.

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