It has been an interesting week since my last post. We finally got our taxes postponed. It has been really frustrating waiting for someone else to figure out something I have done myself since 1987. :). The Swiss taxes should actually be pretty easy. The payroll taxes are figured out automatically based on Julie’s contract, and then we had to provide proof of all other assets we have. That is figured out on a straight percentage as well, but for some reason the Swiss taxes are the ones causing all the problems. So we filed for an extension, and then paid a LOT of money to the US Treasury for the privilege of being American citizens!
As I started writing the blog about a year ago, I let everyone know that Julie’s Aunt was taking the mutt for us. Well, the mutt has had some health issues, so I’ve been trying to get some money to Jane. Once again, I learned a lesson that Credit Unions are great when you are local, and all of your transactions are straightforward. They are not so great when you are living in another country, and try and transfer larger sums of money in and out. The credit union has contracted out with another company for their online bill pay system. For the last 12 months, the ONLY thing I have used the bill pay system for, is to pay a credit card that has some auto payments attached, and I think I made one Verizon payment for the kid’s cell phones. Since my checkbook is locked in the storage locker, I figured I would set up another payee and send Julie’s Aunt a check to pay for dog expenses. Well I think after about 4 hours on the phone, and two days, the payment is finally set up. Apparently, I set off all kinds of red flags because I hadn’t used the system very much in the last year. The credit union did not update the bill pay partner with my new contact information; so the bill pay system called my OLD office number, get a different name for the phone number, and that caused them to flag my account as possible fraud! I only lost my cool once….
I had spent an hour on the phone with the credit union trying to determine what the fraud was. As part of the conversation I mentioned to the support person, that my contact information was correct when I am in the credit union’s website, but wrong when I am in the bill pay system. The credit union tech support informed me the bill pay system would be able to change my contact information. So during one of the calls to the bill pay support, I talked about changing my information. I was informed that the credit union doesn’t pay for “international” support, so they cannot enter my phone number or address. I then tried to use a Google Voice number I have, and to change my address to my parent’s address, but was told I had to contact the credit union to do that. I blew up just a little, and said you need to call with me, because the credit union said they can’t update that information, you need to do that. Bottom line: Dave, you will probably get some more calls for me! Sorry about that. I’m not in the mood for a tech support fight right now!
I am not a HUGE beer drinker, but I have learned I really like the beer over here a LOT more than what passes for beer in the US. The Budweiser of Switzerland is a much better product than the Budweiser back home. When I learned the Feldschlösschen Brewery was pretty close I made that one of my goals for a day trip. Last weekend we took a trip to Rheinfelden to visit the brewery. Rheinfelden is a beautiful little town. The town straddles the Rhein river.
Feldschlösschen literally translates to “castle in the fields”. The brewery was founded in 1876. It is the largest brewery in Switzerland, and it really does look like a castle.
The picture above is a stock photo, but I didn’t get any pictures that really do it justice. The building and the grounds are very impressive. It really does look like a castle. I was joking that they built it like a castle to protect the beer!
The tour was interesting, to say the least. The website said they had tours available in German, French, Italian, and English. Unfortunately, I could not find English tours available; so we signed up for a German tour. The guide was very accommodating. He did the whole tour in German, and then as we were walking from place to place, we would give us a recap in English.
One of the tidbits of beer making I learned was in the preparation of the malt. I had always assumed, they just took dry grain, and with addition of water, hops, yeast and heat (simplified version) that beer magically came out as the end product. At least in this brewery that isn’t the case. They actually take the grain, and start the germination process. They start and stop the germination of the seed two different times, before the grain is ground for the malt. This is probably something that everyone else knew, but I never really cared how the beer is made, as long as it is cold. Another tidbit I learned was in the preparation of the hops. This brewery now takes the hops, dry them and crush them into little green pellets. These pellets all have the same size consistency, so it makes it very easy to always get the same flavor from every batch of beer. The tour guide explained that based on the hop growing season, the recipe for the beer had to change from year to year, because 1 kilogram of hops would contain different amounts based on how big the individual hops were. By crushing the hops, it allows the consistency to be the same batch to batch. Again, this might be something that all big brewers do I just did not know it!
Dealing with Covid also caused a bit of a chuckle. We were forced to wear masks for the tour, but at the end of the tour, we were dumped into a dining hall, with about 100 other visitors. We all sat shoulder to shoulder at banquet tables for an hour or so as we sampled the different beer. The tour tried really hard to social distance, and keep everyone wearing a mask for the tour, and then threw it all out the window at the end!
On Sunday, I took a bike ride around part of the lake. Hopefully the weather will be good this weekend. I plan on biking around the entire lake. For my Fox Valley friends. Zürichsee is the same length as Lake Winnebago. The difference comes in the width. Lake Winnebago is 3 or 4 times wider than Zürichsee. The best part, is that for most of the ride, you are between 100 and 200 meters from the lake. It is a beautiful ride, and the only real hill I have to worry about is the last mile back to the apartment. 🙂 I still suck at the hills, but it is so much nicer on my road bike vs the commuter bike I have. I think the 10 – 15 pounds you save with the road bike make a HUGE difference.
Once again, I hope you enjoy the pictures. Talk to you soon.