Friday, June 14, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Basel region

Basel - photo courtesy of Sérgio Jacomino / Flickr
Located in northwest Switzerland on the Rhine River, Basel is the third-largest city in Switzerland (after Zürich & Genève). Although the city is at the conference of France, Germany, and Switzerland, like Zürich, the primary language in the city is German. Basel is also home to the only cargo port in Switzerland, as freight ships can connect to ocean-going cargo ships via the Rhine.

Basel can trace its official history back more than 2,400 years, although people settled in the region long before that. Augusta Raurica, 20 km east of Basel on the Rhine, is the oldest known Roman colony along the Rhine, and the best-preserved north of the Alps.; today, it is a Roman archaeological site and open-air museum. Basel also has Switzerland's oldest university, the University of Basel, founded in 1460.

Hockey towns Olten and Langenthal are located in the area between Zürich, Basel, and Bern - you could easily stay in any of the three cities and make the short commute to see either of these two teams play.

HC Ajoie is located in Porrentruy, which is in the small region of Switzerland that juts northward into France, Ajoie. Not surprisingly, French is the dominant language there. Porrentruy showcases remnants of medieval city fortifications and the Porte de France castle was home to the prince bishops of Basel for 265 years. The old town offers a lot of charming historic architecture, and plenty of historical sites. If you are a stained glass enthusiast, you will find the largest concentration of stained glass art in a small region of Europe in the region's nearly 60 churches and chapels. It may surprise you to discover that the Ajoie region is loaded with vineyards - but Swiss wines are well worth your time! The area also produces a lot of fruit, notably the damson plum, which is made into a popular local eau de vie liqueur called Damassine.


Four teams are in this area: EHC Basel Sharks, EHC Olten, HC Ajoie, and SC Langenthal. While Langenthal could also be included with Bern hockey clubs, we'll talk about them here. All four teams are currently National B tier.

Team: EHC Basel Sharks
Twitter: @EHCBaselSharks
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: St. Jakob-Arena, Vorder Brüglingen 33, 4052 Basel
Public transportation stops/stations: From the main Basel SBB station, take the 2 or 12 bus to the St. Jakob stop (approx 3 km). St. Jakob is an extensive sports park with multiple sports facilities; it is a 2 block walk to the ice arena.

Team: EHC Olten (Eishockey Club Olten AG EHCO)
Twitter: @EHCOlten
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Sportpark Olten AG, Sportstrasse 95, 4600 Olten
Public transportation stops/stations: Basel S-Bahn S3 to Olten (25 minutes) or IR train from Zürich (40 minutes); change to NFB bus, take to Kunsteisbahn stop (Olten). Walking is approximately 1.1 miles.
Olten tourist info: website

Team: HC Ajoie
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Patinoire de Porrentruy, Route de Courgenay, Porrentruy
Public transportation stops/stations: Basel S-Bahn S3 to Porrentruy (1 hr 15 min); Delémont or Charmoille bus to Patinoire stop. Walking distance just under 1 mile.
Porrentruy tourist info: website

Team: SC Langenthal
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Stadion Schoren, Dorfgasse 99, 4900 Langenthal
Closest public transportation stops/stations: IR train to Langenthal (time approx 45 minutes from Basel; or 55 min from Zürich); connect to Basel bus NFB to Schoren-Eisbahn (Langenthal) stop. (1.7 km via taxi).
Langental city/tourist info: website
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Peter Regin (Senators)



A few sites worth exploring in Basel: 
  • Kunst Museum of Fine Arts - world's oldest public art collection 
  • Basler Münster - a distinctive Protestant church (and former Catholic cathedral), originally built in 1019 and rebuilt after the 1356 Basel earthquake, blending Romanesque and Gothic styles. It underwent further reconstruction and restoration over the past 160 years. The city is home to many heritage sites, including many other churches and monasteries. 
  • Vitra Design Museum -  Frank O. Gehry's first building in Europe, home to the one of the largest collections of modern furniture design.  
  • Basler Papiermühle (The Basel Paper Mill; a.k.a. the Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing) - located in a historic paper mill; its collection focuses on paper making, book printing, and writing.
Where to stay in Basel

Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels". 

A great side perk of staying in Basel: the Basel Mobility Ticket (BMT), received free when checking in to Basel hotels (no matter what price range!), allows visitors free use of the local public transportation.

Luxury ($225+)
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois | Hotel D
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
hotel bildungszentrum 21 ‡ | Hotel Ibis Basel Bahnhof | Hotel Krafft | Hotel Metropol | Hotel Rochat | Hotel Spalentor Basel | Hotel Victoria | Radisson Blu Hotel
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
BaselBackPack (hostel) | Jugendherberge Basel (hostel) | YMCA Hostel Basel 
View of Porrentruy - photo courtesy of Juan Carlos Aceros / Flickr

Where to stay in Porrentruy

The Hôtel Terminus Porrentruy Sàrl (Rue du Jura 31) is directly across from the train station; the Hôtel Auberge d'Ajoie (Rue Gustave-Amweg 1) is a 2 block walk.
Getting around:

Basel has an extensive public transportation system, including trams, ferries, and buses.

Basel is home to three railway stations, serving the Swiss, French, and German networks. The Swiss (Basel SBB) and French (Bâle SNCF) stations share a complex, with Customs and Immigrations between then. You can reach Basel in 3 hours from Paris via the TGV Rhin-Rhône line. The German rail station (Basel Badischer Bahnhof) is across the city.  The regional S-Bahn network consists of five lines. Note that if you travel out to Basel's French or German suburbs, you will have to go through customs; Switzerland is not part of the EU customs.

Like Zürich, Basel has a tourist discount card, called BaselCard; pricing is for 24, 48, or 72 hours. The card includes a free use of public transportation, free city tour, entry to the Zoo, reduced admission costs for museums, cruises, and cinema, and discounts for restaurants, shopping, and spas.  

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