2009-05-31 47 7

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Sun 31 May 2009 in Basel, Switzerland:
47.9138364, 7.5325219

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[edit] Location

In a residential area in the small town of Fessenheim in France, best known for its nuclear power plant.

[edit] Expedition by Ekorren

This is part 2 of a multihash. For part 1 see here.

Now, I was on my way west, to the next graticule, to France. The train followed the Rhine river and finally reached Basel in Switzerland. Switzerland? Yes. The main railway line follows the valley here - but as the border is not always exactly in the river, it crosses the border several times. From the very beginning of railway construction, the city of Basel had two, later three main stations: A swiss, a german and a french station, with the german station located in a northern suburb and the other two south of the centre. The very special about the german station is that the platforms actually are, although swiss territory, a kind of exterritorial german area. That means: In case you aren't allowed to enter Switzerland (e.g. because of lack of visa), you still can take a german train there, and change to another german train, but you may not leave the platforms. Border control takes place at the end of the passenger tunnel before reaching the station hall. However, for a few months now Switzerland has partly joined the Schengen treaty, with the result that usually there aren't any border controls any more. But the control point still is there, and you never know. I'm not sure whether I had my ID with me, so I was much more confident with there being no controls.

I had half an hour time to change the train, and took a few steps outside, then went back to catch another train continuing down the Rhine valley through Germany until Müllheim. Although originally meaning "mills home", as it is spelled now it means "garbage home". It didn't look that bad, anyway.

From Müllheim there is a minor railway line to France, which has been closed in passenger traffic in the 1970s, but retained freight traffic ever since. Since 2006, there is touristical passenger traffic on some sundays, and it was one of those trains I wanted to catch. But where the heck is platform 4? No decent signs showed the way, and the platforms easily visible were all not platform 4. Oh, there is a french railcar at a short track at the very southern end of the station... may as well be a platform there? There was. And it was #4. And there were other passengers from a non-european country even more startled.

I got off already at Neuenburg, still in Germany and the only intermediate stop, took a break to somehow readjust some bike issues (I had taken some tools with me...), and then went on the Rhine cycle trail on the german side of the Rhine for about 10 km, where, at the Fessenheim lock, there was a bridge. I read that it had taken ten years of international bureaucratic activities involving dozens of authorities to finally have this bridge constructed (how long may it have taken if less were involved?), and shortly after finishing construction it was already rebuilt - there were significantly less cars than expected but more bikes, so they changed the two lane road into a one lane road and a two lane cycle trail.

The most important and best known building in the little french town of Fessenheim I had reached now is a nuclear power plant. One may speculate about that it might not be random that a preferred building site for a nuclear power plant is just at the eastern border, with the common wind direction being from west, at a river which shortly after passing leaves the own country. However, there have been a number of more or less critical incidents over the years, but - of course, as always with nuclear incidents - they all were totally harmless, and it's definite that all local earthquakes will wait until the plant is closed for age, and so it was always perfectly reasonable to treat peaceful protesters with everything a well equipped police may want to try out.

Apart from this facility, which was well hidden behind several rows of barbed wire fences and trees, Fessenheim is a typical small Alsace town. And as such, there isn't much to report about the hashpoint itself. It seemed to be a little bit off a residential road, on a private parking space, but it was open and lead to several houses, also there seemed not many people to be there, so I went in for a very short visit. I can't exactly tell from the coordinates - it might have been on the neighbouring property. It would have been possible to enter that also, but less legal. Since the distance I measured was less than three metres, and less than five metres from the road, with a GPS accuracy of about 6 m, and google maps usually not better - I count this as reached. It's by no doubt good enough.

There didn't seem to be anything worth seeing at Fessenheim, so I turned for another place which I knew was worthy, but never had been there up to now, about 12 km north from here, and not far from the direction I would most reasonably take to get back to a german railway station. Strong northern wind had come up in the meanwhile, and northern meant headwind, so I was really slow but finally reached my next destination Neuf-Brisach.

Neuf-Brisach is a town which was built as a heavily armed and reinforced citadel in the 18th century, with several circles of fortifications. The fortifications are still almost intact, and worth a visit. Due to the headwind I was well behind my schedule, so I could only get some views and not really explore the area. I'll try to come back with more time later.

I had aimed for a minor line train from Breisach at 18:11 which would circle the Kaiserstuhl mountain and then allow for a connection along the impressing Black Forest Railway. Being delayed by a wrong turn and absolutely insane traffic on the bridge back to Germany, I missed that one by a few minutes, and instead took a connection via Himmelreich (heavens domain), which is located in the Höllental (hell valley). That route is not less impressing anyway. If you ever come to the Black Forest, don't miss both of them.

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