Today I traveled to Basel via Strasbourg. Unfortunately I only had a short layover in Strasbourg and wasn't able to do a lot of sightseeing, but I left the train station for a little while to look around.
Here are Octavia's words from their journey from Paris to Strasbourg:
"We left Paris on the 8th July in sadness. What indescribable feeling did I have. “Paradise lost.” Came through a beautiful country, smiling with peace and plenty — and at the same time swarming with beggars.
Strasbourg. Like all other french towns, is filled with embellishments; characteristic statues of Kleber — assas. Egypt — St. Mad[. . ..] Went to the top of the Cathedral with two military men and valet who knew only one English word. “Yes” Satisfactory."
[Jean Baptiste Kléber (1753–1800), Napoleon’s general in the Egyptian campaign, was soon after his victory there assassinated by a Syrian student in Cairo. His statue stands in Place Kléber in Strasbourg. At the time Octavia climbed its tower, the Strasbourg Cathedral was the tallest structure in the world (474 ft.) and remained so until 1874.]
And here are the words of her father in a letter to his son Mont:
"We took the diligence to come through in 48 hours to Strasburg— 366 miles— we had 24 or 25 persons on board (24 full complement). We travelled over a finely cultivated country full of towns, some of them elegant, and I think strongly fortified. Bar le Duc, Luneville, Toul, Nancy, Phalsburg the most important that I recollect. In the morning of the 3rd day in descending the Vosges mountains (once the boundary of France and Germany) we saw the spire of the cathedral of Strasburg— which is the highest human structure in the world, 474 or 590 French feet high— 12 feet higher than the great Pyramid and 135 feet higher than St. Paul's.
Our approach to Strasburg is over a dead level plain of Great fertility. Well, we arrived at Strasburg— and what then? Why, you will say that like exhausted night travellers we went to bed and to sleep. No such thing! In two hours I was on the floor of the Cathedral examining its wonderful old clock (which stood still 50 years until repaired 4 years ago) and Sis was on the top of the tower where she saw a long stretch of the Rhine and more cities than she could count or remembered the names of. We went to the cannon foundery— saw them bored and finished— but no casting etc. etc. Then took the rail train and went to Basle in Switzerland."
A trip that took them 48 hours took me fewer than 2 on the TGV.
The train ride from Strasbourg to Basel is an hour and 20 minutes. I arrived around 12:30, and my uncle picked me up from the train station. We drove to Therwil, which is a small village outside of Basel where he and my aunt live. We ate on the terrace, and then all took a trip into the city together. We did a loop of all the sites that Calvin and Octavia visited, beginning with the former residence of Mr. Vischer (who was a scion of the silk industry in Basel). Octavia had mentioned visiting his gardens. We then walked to the Münster (the cathedral) and the Hotel Trois Rois, which is one of the (or perhaps the) oldest hotel in the world. Calvin and Octavia stayed there in 1844, and we decided to have a drink on the terrace. Afterwards, we walked across the Rhein and then took the ferry across so that we could get a view of Mr. Vischer's garden.
From Octavia's journal:
Took cars [i.e., railroad] for Basle; arrived in 4ó hours from Strasbourg. Hotel of the Drei Könige, whose walls are washed by the beautiful Rhine — a most excellent house—splendid—most charm . . . . After 5 o.c. dinner went to the old Cathedral, commenced by the Emperor Henry 2 in 1010 and was finished in 1119. There saw tomb of Anne with Rudolph of Hapsburg, mother of the line of Austrian princes. The room of Luther in which the council was held and a most excellent bust of Erasmus in brass. Grave of Barnuelly [i.e. Jacob Bernoulli], the mathematician, bosom friend of Sir Isaac Newton. To the garden of Mr. Vischer, lovely spot where we saw in our view the Jura alps, Black Forest — Germany — Switzerland."