Cycling to Basel - Part 3
Out of Mulhouse and to the Rhine...
The final stage of my 3-day cycle tour through ‘three countries’ took me from Mulhouse to Basel. This was only a short day of about 60 km to complete the overall ride, but one that meanders between France, Germany and Switzerland alongside the Rhine cycle path.
I left industrial Mulhouse via the Eurovelo 6 cycle route following the canal out of the city and past the Peugeot-Citroen factory. This was a pleasant ride along the cycle path with a good surface and excellent signage. I followed the French section of the cycle route to the large EDF dam at Kembs that acts as a border point between France and Germany.
Crossing over into Germany via the Kembs Dam...
Along the Rhine, there are a number of hydroelectricity power plants, nuclear power stations and hubs of heavy industry. Interestingly, despite being privately owned industrial centres, the cycle paths often cross over the dams and you can see the massive barges that transport goods from Basel all the way to Rotterdam on the North Sea for export around the world.
After crossing back into Germany, I saw a machine-gun bunker pointing directly at the French side. This was one of the offensive posts in the early part of World War II and then defensive in the latter stages of the war defending Germany from the advancing allied armies.
After riding past the bunker, I shortly arrived into Weil am Rhein. This is a border town that acts as a key shopping location, distribution hub and commuter town for workers who work in Switzerland and benefit from higher wages but pay the lower living costs of Germany.
Weil am Rhein and the Vitra Design Centre...
Whilst in the Rewe supermarket, I found out from the girl in the queue that today was a Swiss National Day and everything would be shut when I arrived into Basel. She was a volunteer at a local refugee project and was buying supplies for the large numbers of refugees that have reached southern Germany.
After leaving the shopping park, I headed back onto the cycle path to go to one of the region's most famous attractions. The Vitra Design Museum on the outskirts of Weil am Rhein was one of the highlights of the cycle tour and somewhere that I have always wanted to visit.
The complex is home to some of the finest examples of modern architecture in Europe as well as hosting an excellent interior design museum. There are buildings designed by world-famous architects such as Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron and Frank Gehry. The campus is revolutionary as it is a playground for modern design and architectural thinking.
Into an empty Basel City Centre on Switzerland's birthday...
I left Germany and was waved unceremoniously into Switzerland through the manned border control post and continued through the industrial suburbs of Basel to find a city unexpectedly deserted because of the Swiss Bank Holiday. No shops were open, no workers were in the city and other than people cycling and walking up and down the riverbank, there were few people around the city centre.
There were actually more people in the Rhine floating along the river using buoyant waterproof bags and being carried along in the strong river current! I also found a ladies beach volleyball tournament going on in the city centre too. This was a great spot to have lunch before handing my bike back to complete the tour.
I pre-arranged to leave my bike at a hotel close to the French/Swiss railway station and after a quick shower, went out to explore Basel in more detail on foot. I walked up and down the Rhine for a couple of hours in the hot sun and between the head offices of the multinational pharmaceutical companies based in Basel - Roche and Novartis.
Overall, this was an excellent cycle tour through Alsace with the added bonus of visiting three of my favourite countries on one route. There were several memorable highlights on each day of the tour and I do not think I could have planned the route any better given the time available.
I was actually quite sad when I left my bike in Basel as I can honestly say that there are very few places in Europe as great for leisure cycling as Alsace and the Lower Rhine Valley.