Basel: A Thrash-Punk Crossover of Swiss, German, and French Influence
The city of Basel, Switzerland, includes two train stations, located in three different countries. The main facility, Basel SBB, sits in the old town area and is the largest border station anywhere in Europe. In a separate annex, French Railways (SNCF) operates a station next to Basel SBB, allowing travelers to pass through an official border-crossing, putting them in French territory without leaving the complex. The French annex sits on Swiss land, but the tracks and the trains belong to France.
The other main station, Basel Badischer Bahnhof, is not too far away, across the Rhine River, but still in Switzerland. An austere construction of sandstone and concrete and recently renovated, the Badischer Bahnhof functions as the city's gateway to Germany. Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, operates the facility, and once travelers exit the lobby and move through the tunnel toward the trains, they are technically in Germany. The land is still Swiss, but the trains and the platforms are German territory.
I would misrepresent or even limit Basel by describing it as ‘Swiss.’ Or, a ‘city.’ Or, a ‘Swiss city.’ Sure, Basel is located in Switzerland, but the suburbs disperse into France and Germany, creating a glorious interstitial border-zone groove. There is no obnoxious wall separating the three countries. Only the Rhine, that’s it. Instead, Basel is a Venn Diagram of German, Swiss and French. And those three couldn’t be separate even if someone tried to separate them.
Crossover is my keyword in Basel, a catch-all word I have decided to use for everything. 'Fusion' doesn't work, nor does 'melting pot.' Those are overused terms anyway. Since I originated in the thrash metal/punk crossover scene in the San Francisco area, back in the 1980s when those two warring scenes found a way to exist in the same sweaty clubs with a minimal degree of violence, the word 'crossover' stuck with me.
That said, Les Gareçons, a bar and restaurant inside Basel Badischer Bahnhof, is a groovy riot of soft reds and mahogany with chic cushions of black, white and gray. Natural light streams in through skylights and large windows, illuminating the open dining areas. As chillout beats fill the space, cocktail aficionados lean over to each other and talk at banks of knee-high nightclub-style ottoman seats. The name of the place is a play on words. Normally spelled garçons, meaning boys or waiters, the word contains an ‘e’ because gare means station in French.
So it makes sense that Les Gareçons surrounds me with a gloriously loud language collage. I hear at least five languages within earshot. The belligerent rednecks back home would complain about such things, but I adore the audio mix. It reminds me of a text-sound collage I created in college 23 years ago, in which I recorded people speaking many different languages and then controlled the samples on stage via MAX software.
At the table, I opt for pasta as the slim-suited waiter takes my order. Not because I want pasta. Not because it's the only item on the menu I can identify. But, rather, so I can claim that I ate Italian food in a French restaurant in a German train station in Switzerland.
Such is Basel. A thrash-punk crossover of German, Swiss, and French.
To be continued ...