This is the last weekend that we have one of the kids over here. Drew went back to Law School last Tuesday. Kaylee has been able to stay for a while longer. Last week we basically stayed around Zürich. We did take one trip to Konstanz, Germany. You will see some pictures of the day trips, but with the exception of the Grossmünster Tower, they were all places I have written about before.
The Tower was a fun experience. We climbed up a narrow circular stair case maybe 1/2 way up. Then the tower opens up to this very wide wooden staircase. At first glance I thought it may have been the original timbers, but I started paying a little more attention and was able to determine that there is no way this was original. It was still fun, though. The views from the tower allow a completely different view of Zürich.
Konstanz was another fun day. My only other trip to Konstanz I wasn’t that impressed it is basically just one giant shopping mall. 🙂 I have to admit I did a little shopping as well. I have been looking for a “winter” coat. I put the quotations around winter because the definition of winter has changed in Switzerland. Back in Wisconsin, you had winter, but usually around January it becomes WINTER. I had a jacket for Wisconsin. This was great for staying warm for the 5 minutes it took you to get to my car and get it warmed up for the drive home. Then I had my WINTER coat. This was the coat that only got worn once or twice before Christmas. It is the coat for when the thermometer never climbs above 0. Unfortunately, I was trying to pack light. I believe I actually donated my jacket to Good Will before moving. I had a camouflage jacket that was actually Sunday wear in Wisconsin, but Julie said it wouldn’t be appropriate for Switzerland, so that jacket is back in the storage locker with the rest of my hunting gear.
The problem with the weather here, is that it always seems to hover between 31 and 38 degrees F. So if I wore my winter coat, I was boiling alive even with it unzipped. So anyway I bought I new jacket. You can see it below.
Outside of shopping we did visit the cathedral in Konstanz. This was a treat. The crypt of the church was awesome. There are two saints buried under the church. Kaylee also really hated the statue over the harbor. It was a very large lady holding up two small men. One was supposed to be the Pope, the other a King. It is called the Imperia and was erected to commemorate the Council of Constance. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Constance)
The main trip we took was to Genève (Geneva). Kaylee and I took the train over Friday morning, and Julie followed us later that night. We got checked into the Hotel, and I learned my first lesson about there being different sections of Switzerland. You see Julie and I have traveled a little around the German area of Switzerland. We never needed anything more than our residency cards. However, Genève was a little different. I checked into the hotel and they immediately asked for my passport. I handed the clerk the residency card and was told “That isn’t good enough.” Now I was a little worried. I explained that my passport was back in my apartment, but I would contact my wife, and see if she could go get the passports. This allowed me to check in. I called Julie and she reminded me that I had electronic copies (pdf) of our passports in my phone. I went back to the desk and asked if I could email the passports. It turned out that was OK. So I contacted Julie and told her not to worry about getting the passports.
Then problem two came up. Kaylee was looking at a different page on the CERN website, and it talked about needing a passport that would allow us to cross over the border into France. Now I was a little worried. Julie was already on the train, so no way for her to go back to the apartment. I had resigned myself to saying that Julie and I would just miss the CERN tour if they required a passport. I was not going to spend another 6 or more hours on a train just to go home and get something I probably should have brought with me anyway. Kaylee was a little worried that Julie and I would not get the tour, but it turned out to be no big deal. In fact, when we got the passes, the person at the check-in counter didn’t even ask for any identification. 🙂 So it turns out we really didn’t need the passports, but I have pretty much decided if I am traveling out of the German area of Switzerland I would make sure to bring my passport.
After getting our luggage up to the room. Kaylee and I went for a hike to find the United Nations building. Kaylee had found that we could get in, and go to lunch in a UN cafeteria. That sounded like fun, so we started walking,. We found the UN ok, but had one little glitch, There was some kind of student group that also was visiting that day, There had to have been at least 100 HS kids all wanting to get in the ONE gate at the same time. So we decided to change our plans on the fly. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent (IRCRC) is literally right across the street; so we decided to visit there instead.
The IRCRC museum was actually pretty good. It was kind of small, but still worth the visit. The museum was broken up into three wings. The first wing was about disaster response, and also disaster mitigation. The second was what the IRCRC does during war to help with Prisoners, finding KIA/MIA and relocating civilians. The last wing was what the IRCRC does to help with overall human rights. I know the American Red Cross sometimes gets a bad reputation for how much it pays the administrators, and all the leftover stuff from a disaster, but after seeing the museum; I feel a little differently at least about the leftover stuff. The Red Cross can’t help it if 90% of the donations come in AFTER as disaster, and the items are specific for that disaster. I still think the US administrators are overpaid, but I won’t talk any more about that!
CERN was amazing. Kaylee and I got up about 2:00 AM one morning in Indiana to sign up for the tour. The tours fill up really fast. I am glad we did. All of the tours are actually given by CERN scientists. Our tour guide was a physicist from Thailand. As much as possible he explained what they do so that even someone of limited science background can understand. The best part of the tour was going onto the campus, and going through the original Accelerator building. This was decommissioned in the late 80’s early 90’s, but was opened up recently after they were able to get the radiation cleaned up for the tour.
The picture above is a display of the experiment our tour guide works with. He said it was the “small” machine at CERN. This one is only 14 meters in Diameter. The picture only shows the center of the machine. Another of the little tidbits we learned. The particle accelerators are almost never an exact circle. The reason being. It is easier to attach the detectors if the accelerator section is straight. The current collider is 27 kilometers (17 miles) long. CERN is planning to build one that will be approximately 80 kilometers long! The collider is an average 150 meters underground. They went that deep because that is where the rock layer is most solid. The particle accelerator is able to get Hydrogen particles traveling about 99.9999999% of the speed of light. That is pretty fast! For more information please visit https://home.cern .
If you ever get the chance to visit Genève, you certainly need to put CERN on your list of MUST SEE. If you want the tour. You will have to remember to log in to the website at 8:00 AM CET 15 days before your visit. They only do limited tours in English. The other tours are all done in French. Even if you can’t get a tour it is still worth the visit. There are two other museums at CERN that are worth visiting. For any of my education friends that are reading this pay attention to the next picture. There is a website for a HS student competition. Another thing to look at is that CERN also sponsors student and teacher workshops during the year. They are extremely competitive, but I think would be incredibly interesting and worthwhile.
After our CERN visit we went back downtown to visit St Pierre’s Cathedral. The church is enormous, but since the reformation most of the things that made it a Catholic Cathedral have been removed. Other than the organ the church is very stark and bleak. The church is also famous because it was the adopted church of John Calvin (One of the leading figures behind the protestant reformation.) However, there is a side chapel called the Maccabees Chapel that was redone in the traditional grand style of the older catholic churches. This was magnificent.
Sunday morning, we woke up and toured the Reformation Wall. The only problem was that we toured the wall backwards. For some reason the street signs leading us there, took us to the back door, not the front door! Kaylee and I decided the wall was a little odd. One of the big things from the reformation was to remove all the statues and other things from the Catholic Churches because it was idolatry, and the grand churches represented all that was wrong with the Catholic Church. So instead the Protestants built this gigantic wall 200 yards long and probably 20 – 25 yards high to commemorate the leaders of the Reformation. I don’t think John Calvin would have approved!
I am also working on a video from our trip, and will get that posted soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the pictures. We only have a couple of days left with Kaylee, so I may not post much this week, but for sure next week, there will be a couple of blog posts, as we are going to visit Luzerne, Bern, and take a long hike around Zürich.