Stein am Rhein, the hidden gem on the High Rhine
Stein am Rhein is the ultimate picturesque little town. Not only because of its historic charm but particularly due to the delightful painted façades in the town centre.
Surprising natural and cultural landscape
I leave the hostel in Stein am Rhein invigorated by the delicious dinner and the hearty youth hostel breakfast. The next stage of my journey takes me further towards Schaffhausen. After visiting the German enclave of Büsingen, where I cross the German/Swiss border that runs through the middle of a garden restaurant, my zigzag route begins in earnest. The path along the Schaffhausen stretch of the border leads me to the northernmost point in Switzerland, the “Schwarze Staa” (Black Stone). In earlier times, this is where people were deported to the neighbouring Grand Duchy of Baden.
One of the countless boundary stones on the hike. ©Heinz
Most people probably know little to nothing about the “Randen” (mountain), i.e. the eastern foothills of the Jura, with its exciting, diverse landscape. It marks the start of my route into the winegrowing region of Hallau in Klettgau (Chläggi) and ends at Schaffhausen border point No. 1 near the Rhine Falls.
Actually, it’s a pity I’m taking the direct route along the border. By doing so, I’m not only missing out on a boat trip on what is supposed to be the most beautiful river in Europe, but also the Diessenhofen to Schaffhausen footpath.
The charms of the youth hostel
My aim-point for today’s leg is the Schaffhausen Youth Hostel, where I feel a bit like the lord of the castle. It’s a unique property located in a beautiful park – and the receptionist gives it a real French flair. Waking up to the chirping of birds in the morning reminds me of this special place.
Beautiful little castle in Schaffhausen – the youth hostel. ©Heinz
The Rhine – my faithful companion
Of course I have to catch a ride on the ultra-modern fleet of electro buses in Schaffhausen before I throw myself headlong into the next stages of my hiking adventure. Stages five and six take me all the way to Basel.
The section in Zurich runs along the Rhine and is a mixture of “flat and hilly”. Time and again, I am treated to superb views of the Rhine and all the way to the Alps. The hiking trail, which sometimes meanders to the left and then the right of the Rhine, sometimes directly alongside the water and sometimes above the river, leads me on towards Basel. It runs alongside colourful meadows and through riverside woodlands and forests luminescent with their bright green spring foliage.
I take the opportunity to collect my thoughts and barbecue a sausage over the glowing coals of a good fire when the mood takes me. Every now and then, I have time for a refreshing dip in Europe’s longest river. It’s a real privilege to be able to drift like this.
An unknown but tried-and-tested youth hostel
I take a little detour from my border hike to visit a historic little castle which is now Brugg Youth Hostel. It is the perfect example of a hostel of this type. Simple and authentic, from the furniture to the fabulous breakfast, and the icing on the cake is the magnificent weather.
Schlössli Altenburg in Brugg, Aargau. ©Swiss Youth Hostel
It’s precisely this variety that I like about the Swiss Youth Hostels. The hostel in Brugg is a real contrast to my next stop, the modern Basel Youth Hostel. In Basel, old and new structures have been married together in an exemplary, innovative manner. It’s really quite stylish.
Getting more urban
There is still a lot to discover on the way to Basel. Power stations, natural wonders, historic towns like Laufenburg, German Bad Säckingen or Rheinfelden. Last but not least, the wonderful Roman Augusta Raurica (in Kaiseraugst). Passing all these charming little towns, I reach Basel-Birsfelden via the impressive hiking trail that runs through the middle of the Rhine harbour and goods transshipment centre.
Once around Basel
It’s possible to “circumnavigate” Basel along Switzerland’s border in one or two days. As I start out from the impressive locks on the River Rhine at Birsfelden, I’m suddenly caught out by a spring shower. However, the spectacular play of light in the beech forests immediately makes up for the wet weather. I can easily make out the new architectural landmarks of Basel from a distance, first from the north, then from the south, and they help me to get my bearings.
Three-country bridge in Basel ©Heinz
The next section of the hike along the border with France will definitely be new territory for me. I’m looking forward to it. Here’s to the next stage of my hike, to you reading about my adventures, and see you soon!