First off, Happy Birthday to my Father. He is 84 years young this week. He certainly is not as spry as he was 30 years ago, but he still loves getting out and doing things. He walks every morning, and spends time in the garden or other maintenance tasks on the farm. If it were not for computers he would probably still be practicing medicine as well. He still gets excited about travel, and he and my mother are already making their plans to come back to Europe next year. Anyway, Happy Birthday Dad! Glad we got to talk. I hope you like your gift, and I am looking forward to seeing you again in about a week and a half.
I had one of those “Oh Crap! Life is a little bit different here moments yesterday.” I had to visit the Apotheke (Pharmacy) and get something filled for Julie. We have visited this store multiple times. Of course I had never picked a prescription up before. I thought it would be like the US. Show up with the order, give your wife’s name, date of birth, and some other information, and you would get the medicine. Not here. I am sure they keep records that Julie has gotten medicine there in the past, but I could not get the order filled, because I did not have her insurance card. Honestly, I do not see how that matters. The way the insurance works here, is that I am the middle man. I pay for the drug, and then I ask the insurance company for the payment. I am sure it has something to do with the fact, that some drugs are no cost to the user, and then there is an arrangement made for payment, but I do not know for sure how it works. I do know that because of data privacy rules stores do not keep all the information they have about people in their data files. I am guessing that insurance information is one of those things they choose to not keep.
Technology did come through for us this past weekend. My son was in the “Moot Court” competition for his law school, He made it to the final round last Saturday. My parents, and some other relatives and friends were able to be there in person, but not so much Julie and I. His school, though, was very accommodating for us. They set up a zoom meeting; so we could watch him compete. The time difference was a little inconvenient for us. We wound up eating a really FAST dinner, and then sitting outside the restaurant watching his arguments. Julie and I were given a LOT of strange looks by the passerby’s but it was worth it.
Before I tell you a little about the town we visited. I got a lesson that my language skills are NOT nearly as good as I think they are. We show up to a restaurant, and exchange greetings with the server. This was done in German. So after the greetings in German I say: “Wir haven eiene Reservierung um seben uhr dreissig. Der Name ist Julie Sorrells.” Translated to We have a reservation at 7:30. The name is Julie Sorrells. Pretty simple and I thought I said everything right. However, she gives me a BLANK state. She had no clue what I said. So I tried it again. Still nothing. So I tried using the word for appointment (termin) thinking I butchered reservation so badly. Still just giving us blank stares, but then starts saying something that I cannot understand at all. Julie adds in, from behind me in English, We have a reservation…… The server immediately starts smiling, and shows us to our seats. The rest of the evening we conversed back and forth in German and English both.
I am really not sure what happened. I am convinced I said everything correctly. I did ask online, if I said something wrong. Here was the feedback I got:
1) Most said there was nothing wrong. She was just surprised to hear German. Julie made the reservation online and in English; so she was probably expecting an english speaker.
2) Like many Swiss people she speaks multiple languages. She was conversing with almost all the other customers in French. So the thought is that she is probably learning German just like I am. Since I do not speak German like a Swiss person, she probably did not understand my accent.
3) I did not use the common form for time. In German the normal way to say 7:30 is halb acht or 1/2 8. Honestly I struggle with this one, because in the US you would never say “It is 1/2 to 8.” You would always say, ” It is 1/2 past 7.” I always forget with the half, and think past instead of to the hour. I do need to get better at that.
The online feedback seemed to agree on number 3 the most, but I struggle to buy that one. What I said was not wrong, just not the preferred way of saying it. I think number 2 is probably the most likely explanation, but we will probably never know.
So our trip this weekend was to the village of Murten. Murten is about 150 KM from our house, so about a two hour drive. Murten is located in the canton of Fribourg. It is pretty close to the French Border. Friburg is the start of the French speaking area of Switzerland; so Murten is truly a bilingual village. Below is a picture from the church bulletin. You will notice that not only the mass order is written in two languages. Look at the song. The verses switch back and forth between French and German. This certainly made the Mass harder to follow. In German, I can usually follow about 50% of the service, and 30% of the homily. Last weekend those percentages were cut in half. Even during the homily, the priest did some in German, and then some in French!
Murten is a VERY old settlement. Archeological finds around the city are from 8000 – 5000 BC. Unfortunately, the provenance of those finds cannot be proven because the records have all been lost, but in the 1970’s during some road construction some additional finds were made that dale from 5000- 2500 BC. That is still pretty darn old! In Swiss History, the town is first mentioned in 515 AD. It was mentioned as a defensive site. The lake on one side, and the shape of the hills around the lake made Murten a natural defense. Murten is one of the few places that have maintained the old city wall. Parts of the wall date back to the 1100’s. The wall was made bigger for the next few hundred years, and in 1476, the city was under siege for two weeks. You can still see some of the bullet and cannon ball marks to this day! Starting around 1500 the town had really started to outgrow the walls; so parts of the wall were torn down, and as is common here were replaced with houses like pictured below. However, what makes this place unique, is that the majority of wall was preserved as it was originally built.
There are still a couple of spots where you can climb up to the battlements and look over the town, and the countryside like you could almost a thousand years ago! I will be putting up a video that we made walking along the old part of the wall; so you can really see what it looks like. The picture below is a panaramic photo I took from near the center of the wall,. You can see from the White tower on the left all the way along the wall to the tall tower on the right
The name of the town comes from the Celtic word for “Lakeside Fortress” One of those examples where the name describes the thing exactly.
Murten is an example of the thinking that lack of transportation can make or break a town, Back in the 1800’s Murten’s future looked very bleak. The government was putting in a rail line on the west side of the country that would go from North to South. The line was originally planned to go through the town, but it was rerouted through the Canton Seat of Fribourg. For the next 20 years the town struggled to survive because there was no transportation. Around 1875 a rail line was finally installed from Fribourg. That allowed tourism to become one of the driving forces for the village.
My final thoughts on Murten. I was very surprised by the number of homes in the old part of town. In most villages I have seen the old part of town has been preserved for business. Sure there are homes above the store fronts. Murten is a little different. The old part of town is about 4 blocks wide by about 6 blocks long. About 2/3 of the buildings are primarily business. However the section of the town closest the wall is primarily homes. There is an occasional storefront, but the majority of the buildings seemed to be homes. It looked like a really nice place to live. The other big shock was to find the grocery stores and some of the other retail establishments open on Sunday morning, Outside of the larger train stations or the airports, this was the first time in two years I have seen a grocery store open on Sunday. I think that is a sign that Murten’s number one industry is now tourism.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will have two videos and some pictures on Saturday or Sunday to post.