Overview Zurich and Basel
Zurich and Basel
With 391,068 inhabitants, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and a metropolis in many respects. It is distinguished by its attractive museums, the Swiss National Museum and the art gallery, and its significant historical buildings, for example the churches Fraumünster and Grossmünster. Numerous cafes and restaurants, the River Limmat and the lake lend the city a special charm. The history of Zurich stretches back into Roman times, and its development into a city dates from the High Middle Ages. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Zurich became the economic centre of Switzerland.
The University of Zurich, founded in 1833, is today the largest in the country and, together with the ETH (Federal Institute of Technology), makes Zurich an important centre of higher education.
Objects of interests to Nordicists in the city’s public collections include the Reichenauer Verbrüderungsbuch (confraternity book of the monastery of Reichenau, including name entries of pilgrims from medieval Scandinavia and Iceland) in the Central Library and the Bülacher Runenfibel (a silver fibula bearing a runic inscription) in the National Museum.
Basel lies in northwest Switzerland and borders directly on Germany and France. With its 167,422 inhabitants it is a rather smaller city than Zurich. Basel is known as a university city with a humanist tradition, where important scholars such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Paracelsus lived for long periods; Erasmus’ grave is in Basel. Historical buildings such as the city gate known as the ‘Spalentor’, the old paper mill and, above all, the cathedral still dominate the cityscape, through which the Rhine flows. The University of Basel, founded in 1460, is the oldest in Switzerland and has its origins in the Council of Basel in 1431. It maintains close connections with the universities in Freiburg and Strasbourg.
Printing, introduced in 1468, drove Basel’s cultural upswing and was also significant for humanism in Scandinavia. An exhibition at the Basel University Library showcasing early printed books with Scandinavian connections is planned to coincide with the Saga Conference.
The conference will be held in the main buildings of the two universities, which in both cases are conveniently located in the city centre and easily accessible by public transport or on foot.