On Friday night, I stayed up all night ironing clothes. Such chore should be something I do normally every couple of days. But no, I pile and ignore until I must be somewhere else. This time was to be at the train station by 6am, for the train I scheduled myself weeks in advance. My departure time was ticking closer. This day I was headed to Switzerland, a less than 3hrs ride away. Of course, all the disorders in the house was driving me nuts. Here I was, about to leave the babies behind for the first time with their father, and nothing in the house was organized. So I kept on ironing. Finally by 5am I panicked and finally packed everything in 15 minutes, showered, and ran off to catch the last possible bus that would put me on my train. I did it!
That was just the personal side of this story. My general purpose for this trip is to catch up with my American friends’ jazz group The Nels Cline Singers playing at a small Baden Jazz Festival. And while I was at it, I’d take the opportunity to explore a couple of these towns I’ll be spending time in. I packed with me 2 cameras. One is an internet camera, as I allocated it. The other is the whenever-I’ll-get-to-see-it-film camera, and with that, lots and lots of film. The most weight though, was with the giant sack of food care packages by Guillaume, who included also a ton of drinks plus a bottle of Alsace white wine gift for my friends.
This packing plan wasn’t the easiest as it could be considering I wouldn’t be catching up with my friends until the afternoon. The train rides were pleasant, smooth, quick with one change in Mulhouse,(South side of Alsace), then another at Basel the French/Swiss border. I got startled crossing into Swiss. Living in Strasbourg for the last several years, I’d gotten so used to with crossing freely from France to other neighboring countries. Germany is just a matter of a bridge away. We drove in and out of Luxembourg and Belgium with no issues. These countries are just like states in the U.S., where border indicators are the street signs. Other subtle reminders are (sometimes) the language changes and losing the phone reception. Switzerland is not part of this Schengen non-EU deal. There was still a border guard however low key that he was. This guy ‘pulled people over’, into this room, I think, to ask for papers. Groups around me were guided into these rooms. I continued to walk through unscathed. It’s a nice to not have a negative ‘profile’ on my appearance. I was once again reminded of my Asian upbringing how blending in is a virtue. Ok, fine.
After the border, it was only a hop away from my final destination BADEN. At 9am, the 6 hour wait until I can unload some weight was going to give me a little work out. Without much choice, I soldiered on. Every so often I’d have to stop and eat the food supplies to lighten the weight whether I was in need of nourishment or not.
Being a Saturday, I as delightedly surprised to find the weekly farmers market spread out in the town center. I circled the different stalls many times before taking a walk further outward from the area. I knew I had a castle ruin to climb up to. I was dreading a little bit the efforts it would take, but I knew I had to do it. Finally after a few rounds of town investigations, I found the stairs in the ‘back side’ of the hill. I put one foot in front of the other, stopping a few times to take some pictures. I arrived to the top without much problems. Whew. And I thought I was going to suffer. The view was as amazing as I imagined it. There were sparse visitors of mixture local teenagers going for a hike and smoke some weed (to chill with the view), a young group of men running up and down the hills exercising, some tourist families, some lonesome persons.
After about an hour just slowly looking around, I descended back, direction town center. By this point it was around 1:30pm. I had about an hour before my meeting up with the music friends. I exited the historic part towards the more box-y, modernized areas. The old village charm sort of drops off quickly and it just became a simple city layout with commercial type building.
At 2:30pm, I finally, after 3 years for one, and over 5 years on another, I met up with two of my favorite music friends in the whole wide world. They were touring as a group of four. One that wasn’t my friend was the bass player named Trevor Dunn, someone of my personal musical hero past of the famed Mr. Bungle in the 90s. I thought about it and realized that without getting into such band in those days, I might not have been opened to this Avant Garde Jazz music that Nels Cline is pushing his envelopes today. Maybe. The other musician I didn’t know was Cyro Baptista, a percussionist. Without prior research into his work, I wasn’t even sure how would a whole forth person fit in this group. Well, his contribution blew my mind. Indeed, I felt ever so lucky at moments like this to be bathing in their sonic aura made by some of the nicest people.
Speaking of bathing… let’s go to the history of this town that I’ve found. Baden means bath in German. The Romans used their natural hotsprings to have meetings and called this place “Aquae Helveticae”. The first train railway was paved through here for this reason. It also was a capital of Switzerland for 285 years.