Eli Orzessek goes surreally off piste on an art-lover's trek from Switzerland to Germany and back.
As I find myself sweating, exhausted and engulfed by a swarm of tiny flies in a vineyard in southern Germany, the words of DJ Khaled ring in my head: "The key is to make it, the key is to make it. The key is to never give up."
I may not be as huge on social media as the music producer who hit the headlines after getting lost at sea on a jetski in the dark, while Snapchatting the whole ordeal — but I'm taking him as inspiration in my current dilemma.
I started this unexpected journey in a different city in a different country: Basel, Switzerland, home of world-class art gallery Fondation Beyeler. Designed by Renzo Piano, it was created to house the private collection of the art dealer Ernst Beyeler and Hilda Kunz. In a city well-regarded for its many art galleries, the Fondation is definitely the crown jewel of the bunch.
Walking my way around a retrospective of the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, I see major works — I'm talking Picassos — being casually wheeled out of a back room. It's quite an experience.
Since I have the better part of an afternoon to kill before I'm due for dinner, I decide to embark on the 24 Stops walk — a 5km sculpture trail created by the artist Tobias Rehberger that links the Fondation Beyeler to the Vitra Design Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany.
I've got a paper map and a phone with German data on it that will start working once I cross over the border — it seems straightforward enough, so what could possibly go wrong?
Things get off to a strange start, as I wander around the picturesque courtyard of the Fondation, attempting to find the beginning of the trail. As I meander along aimlessly, a tall blonde woman walks towards me. And stops. Right in front of me. She babbles for a bit in Swiss German — my regular German is bad enough so there's no hope of understanding — before she starts singing.
This encounter reminds me of my weird art school years a little too much, so I grin awkwardly and scuttle off along the path. Looping the courtyard a few more times, I finally consult my phone to get on the right track – the provided map is a little basic — or at least I think I'm on the right track.
The walk is marked with 24 waymarkers, cartoony-looking sculptures in bright colours and pastels, some of which take the form of everyday objects, or have some useful function, like viewing platforms and chairs.
Right from the beginning, I'm never quite sure if I'm on the right path — so as each sculpture comes into my view, I feel a sense of relief and satisfaction.
"It's so real out here." — DJ Khaled
I walk through fields and cross a bridge over the Rhein, realising I'm on track to cross the border. It seems like it should be more of an occasion, but I just walk on through a covered road and an empty office, past a sign that announces I'm now in the Bundesrepublik Deutchland. And I'm happy, because my German Sim card — expensively useless in non-EU Switzerland — has sprung back into life. It's here that I start my Instagram story. If I'm going to get lost like DJ Khaled on the jet ski, I want everyone back home to know about it.
The houses in the outskirts of Weil Am Rhein are classically German, but the 24 Stops takes me away from all that and into the vineyards on the hills above. I pass some sort of industrial structure painted with Rehberger's designs and feel that sense of reassurance that I'm moving in the right direction. It doesn't last long. While the vines look spectacular, bulging with fat purple grapes, I start feeling lost again quite quickly. Lost and thirsty — and also hungry — I realise I haven't planned well for this walk. Eyeing up those tasty looking grapes, I consider grabbing a fistful and stuffing them in my mouth, but the potential of an angry German vintner emerging from the vines makes me think twice.
The sun is beating down and more and more swarms of fruit flies hit me as I move along. Meanwhile, my Instagram story becomes more and more delirious — and my battery is already getting low, a dangerous prospect that I'm sure DJ Khaled felt out there in the wilderness of the dark waters around Florida.
"Where am I?" becomes a common refrain in my head, but I soon pass one of the more useful sculptures: a set of binoculars pointed at the town below. Through them, I can see my target — the Vitra Campus. Further along, I find another holy grail — a bubbling water fountain to fill up my empty Coke bottle.
"The key is not to drive your jet ski in the dark." — DJ Khaled
Once I emerge from the vineyards, I make my way through charming farm cottages with eccentric yard decorations and take a seat on a sculpture in the form of a giant chair. The last stretch is getting painful and I've probably walked more than the prescribed 5km by making wrong turns and doubling back — but with my destination so close, I'm filled with an intense determination to make it.
When I spot the strange angles and curves of the Frank Gehry-designed Vitra Design Museum, it could almost be a mirage. But it's real and I park myself at the cafe for a well-deserved drink before checking out the museum. The collections are displayed as if you're in a real house — but one that's filled with the most important furniture designs of the last century.
After admiring a selection of chairs I could never afford, I make do with a purchase of a miniature replica of the plastic Panton Chair and some modernist napkins.
Behind the museum stands an impressively tall viewing tower with a twisting and turning slide to get back down.
Though it looks like a lot of fun, I ask my feet whether they're keen to walk all the stairs to the top. They're not, so I give it a miss and watch some kids take it on instead.
After all, it's still another 4km walk to get to the tram station and head back over the border to Basel.
"God is good. We made it. We never said it was easy to win." — DJ Khaled
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For more information on the artwalk, go to