Floating Down the Rhine

It’s been a few days of settling in, but I thought it would be a good time to check in. Since we’ve arrived, we’ve had our first two days of working (because we are here to work, after all). The clothes and items we shipped arrived Friday morning and have been mostly sorted. Waiting until the relocation company comes by on Monday to put the rest of it away.

Our initial plans were to spend our first weekend in Zurich. Eventually, the plan turned into us only spending one day in Zurich and going somewhere else the other day. Then, reality set in and we realized that we would probably have to spend at least part of our weekend in Basel to do basic things like shopping and unpacking. The shopping part took the morning and we finished most of the unpacking on Friday afternoon/evening, which left us a bit of time to explore and try out one thing that appears to be quite popular here over the summer – swimming in the Rhine.


When my Basel assignment first became a reality and it became clear that I was going to be here in the summer, one of the recommendations I heard most frequently was that I had to swim in the Rhine. Given that major rivers in most towns aren’t particularly clean or welcoming, it seemed weird at first but, you know, when in Basel. It turns out that this is a more frequent occurrence than either of us expected. Since we’ve arrived here, we’ve seen a pretty steady stream of people walking by our place to float along the Rhine and cool off. They all carried giant waterproof bags with them and then used them to float along the river until their stopping point. We became pretty set in the fact that we were going to take our first step in being locals and join the fray.


The first step was to get the waterproof bags. Knowing that I was going to do this at some point during my Basel stay, I had actually set aside my dry bag to take with me for this experience. It ended up getting packed somewhere in the rush to move out of the house, so it didn’t make it to Basel in the end. It turns out that most people here use this bag known as a Wicklefisch. It’s a dry bag that keeps some air in and ends up doubling as a floating device. They’re not exactly cheap, so we almost got one of them, but ended up getting a second after watching more people float down the Rhine and seeing how well it worked for flotation.

The second step was the getting ready part, which took exactly two episodes of Rick and Morty (the second was necessary when we realized the waterproof camera was out of batteries).

We walked along the Rhine to the Tinguely Museum, where there is a small beach and most people start their route. We threw everything into our Wicklefisch and got ready to take off. Apparently, I made a rookie mistake by trying to tie the bag to my body, which someone immediately told me was very dangerous. Lesson learned. The water was a lot colder than usual, but we eventually did settle into the water and let ourselves take off.


Once you get adjusted to the cold water, the next thing you notice is how fast that current is. You can see it when you watch people float down the river, but seeing Basel pass you by while you’re the one in the water is a whole different experience. That moment fades, though, and once it does, it’s such a cool experience to see Basel from the river and a unique way to escape the heat.



We had stopped along one small beach along the way so Chris could put his watch in his bag. It also worked as a good test to confirm that yes, we can actually make it out the river. The second was to actually get out of the river around Mitlerre Brucke, where we hung out right under the bridge for a while before heading back home.


So, we swam in the Rhine and it ended up being a lot of fun. We’ll very likely end up doing it again this summer, especially given how hot it’s been. With my experience of having done this a whole one time, I’m probably not too qualified to give too many tips for what to do, but it’s certainly an activity worth trying if you’re here in the summer. I would, however, not recommend this if you can’t swim because while the Wicklefisch does help you float, you still have to contend with the current. For that reason, I’d hesitate to recommend if you’re not too strong of a swimmer.  If you do it, stay within the buoys like you’re instructed. There actually are quite large boats that will be going by at the same time and you don’t want to get in their way. Wear water shoes or sandals if you can. The shores are rocky, so the shoes will make getting in and out of the river a lot easier. Also, don’t drink the water. The water is clean enough to swim, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.


Tomorrow, we take a day trip to Strasbourg. That wasn’t the original plan, but plans change.


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