It has been another pretty quiet week over here. We did make reservations for an apartment in Locarno the last weekend of this month. Locarno is a town in the southern part of the country near the border of Italy. One of the reasons I am looking forward to the trip, is that it will be my first time driving high up in the Alps. Though that has Julie very worried.
Back on the third I said I would tell you the story about driving in Stein am Rhein. So after we walked around town we still had a lot of daylight left; so Julie wanted to drive up the hill to see the castle. We knew the castle would be closed, but we thought we could get some good pictures up above the city. So we start up the hill, and almost immediately Julie starts to have second thoughts. As soon as we turned off the main road the width of the road changed drastically. Basically there was just enough room for two cars to pass, but the car on the hillside to the road, would have their wheels about a foot onto the shoulder. Within the first 200 yards we passed a few bicycles. Two going up the hill, and two going down. Julie was convinced that I was going to hit the bikes. By the time we had gone 1/2 a mile, the river side of the road, was a cliff. There was a small “guardrail” but that was it. I have guardrail in quotes, because the guard rail was single strand of wire, and it was about 18 inches off the ground. It might have stopped a car, that was parked against the wire, and then started rolling, but there was NO way it was going to stop a car. Even one only driving 5 mph.
I could see the terror on Julie’s face, so I tried to calm her down. I had no success. Then we came to the pass. The pass was a 2 – 300 yard stretch of road, that was barely single lane. If a car were behind a bike, the car could only go as fast as the bike. There was not enough room to pass. Julie wanted to turn around right there, but there was no place to turn around. There was a sign at the start of the narrow that the car going up had the right of way. The problem was you couldn’t see the other end. So once you have started you are committed, and if you see another car they have to back up. We made it through OK, but Julie was done. So the first place I could park the car, I parked. We then hiked up the rest of the hill to walk around the castle. The castle looked like a great place to visit; so we will be heading back in the summer. I am just not sure how we will get up the hill.
I was a very BAD husband on the way down, though. I probably deserved to sleep on a coach, but Julie took pity on me and let me sleep in the bed. So we get in the car, I start to back up, and I reach into my pocked to pull out my GoPro. Mistake number 1 was taking my hand of the steering wheel. Mistake number 2 was truing to convince Julie to turn on the camera and record the drive down the hill! :). Once she stopped lecturing me, Julie closed her eyes. I do not think she opened them up again, until we were through the town. 🙂
So I am a little nervous about driving to Locarno. Over 1/2 the trip will be in the mountains. The map shows it is a highway, so I don’t think it will be that bad, but I going to make sure that Julie’s sleep mask and a couple hits of Benadryl will be in the car for the drive!
Strange banking thing
So we just finished supplying all our tax stuff so I have finance stuff on my mind right now. Side note. The Swiss Tax system is really good. With the exception of the wealth tax, which is not that big a deal, All of the tax stuff is taken care of on your paycheck. With the US we would sometimes have some issues if Julie got a larger than normal bonus, because the company never took enough money out of the check. Here that is NOT an issue. Taxes are mostly taken care of before we see the money. Personally, I like this a lot, but that is not what I found strange.
I think about a year ago I told you about the credit card we have, and that we need to find another credit card this spring, because in June the bank starts charging us multiple hundreds for simply using their credit card. So today I applied for a credit card through the Grocery Store we utilize the most. It is a rewards card, like the COSTCO card we had in the US. The difference being is that it is in store points vs money. Store points are fine, because they have a great points purchase program, and about four times per year you can use your points to pay the grocery bill; so it is almost like cash. In one way it is even better than the bank credit card, because we can use it with no fees when we go outside the country. SIDE NOTE: The international fee thing really surprised me about the current credit card. I figured that any card in Europe would be able to be used on the continent, because it seems like everyone here goes to other countries pretty regularly.
Applying for the card, initially, was just like any online application in the US. I filled out all the personal info. I gave them them the salary info. I had to go one step further and scan in our residency cards and upload them into the application. That wasn’t a surprise, I was kind of expecting that. So I completed the application, and the last page said to either print out the application, or save it electronically to your computer. I figured that was just a precaution they want you to take, you know, like saving your work. However, I looked at the page again. and there were two more steps that I had to do. I had to print out the form and then MAIL it to the company. Even though they had all the information for the credit application, it would NOT be processed until they got the paper form. For a country that is so digital, and security minded I was shocked that I had to provide paper documentation of all the information. The printed thing that really shocked me, is that the ID’s printed out with the rest of the credit app. The other thing that was a shock was the small credit line we could get. Looking ahead to next Christmas, I won’t even be able to use the Swiss card to book airfare for the four of us if the kids come back to Switzerland with us. Thank goodness I kept a USAA credit card; because it has a high enough limit for that one time a year I might need it.
Side note to USAA: I really wish you would get with current credit card technology. You need to get the contactless chip; so we don’t have to gum up the system by printing out multiple receipts. For those of you that do not know what I am talking about. With the contactless chip, you get one receipt. Not the three copies that get printed in the US. It is a MUCH faster system. When you go to pay, you simply pass the card over a reader, confirm the number, enter a tip if you want, then enter a pin number. The nicest thing is that in a restaurant the server brings the reader to your table. The card never leaves your hand!
Nothing new to report from here. It isn’t looking like borders are going to open up anytime before August or September at the earliest. I think inside the borders there will be some loosening of the restrictions, but I don’t think there will be much international travel until late summer or the fall.
I hope you have a GREAT weekend. I’ll see you next week.