The Nightwatchman's Tour of Basel ...

"This looks like an unauthorised assembly," says the nightwatchman and casts a suspicious glance across the group that has assembled beside Basel's Zschokke fountain. He gives us a once over, holding his lantern up to our faces against the dwindling evening light and announces that we may accompany him on his tour of Basel's old town. We follow his cloaked figure along St. Alban's Vorstadt - a quiet road that meanders between sixteenth century buildings. At intervals he explains the history of the area from the ice age until present day: a charming blend of fact and opinion - mostly formed by his overhearing gentlemen through open windows.

The walk becomes yet prettier as it ducks down a gentle hill and buildings rise up from the road on either side. As the light falls, traditional streets lamps cast soft beams and reveal tantalising sections of the scenery: a chunk of old wall here, a quaint fountain there. We peer through an un-shuttered window and see an ancient wooden-beamed ceiling. While a guided tour is one aspect of the tour, theatrics are another. Our guide, Rudolf Streif the nightwatchman, has a secret. She reveals herself early in the walk. Helena is the wife of a soldier, away with the army. She rides higher in society than Rudolf and his forbidden to him. But late at night, as he goes on his round, they meet awkwardly and display a mutual love.

The actors perform a hilarious display of cat and mouse - Helena appears from nowhere, gliding down a stairwell or dozing beside a fountain, and Rudolf disappears telling us he must "hide". Helena complains about her patronising cook at home, suggesting this as the reason for her evening outings. Rudolf hopes she may indeed have another motive: him. Spectacular highlights include a remaining tower of the old city wall, St. Albans Tor (a thirteenth century tower) and an array of old and intricate fountains. And how does the love story end? Well, perhaps you'll just have to attend the tour yourself ...
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