I spent 16 years working IT in a school district. I started as the Network Administrator, and then for the last eight years was the Director of Technology.
When I was in business, I learned that to be successful you had to believe in the mission of the company. I also embraced that working for a school. Although I never spent time in front of a classroom, I was an educator. I loved working with the students, as well as working with the staff.
I am now living as an Ex Patriot in Switzerland. My wife's company was bought by a company Hardhearted in Zürich. She had the chance to work in Switzerland for a few years, so we both decided to say WHY THE HECK NOT.
One of the stranger rules about our move, is that I have to learn the basics of German. My wife for some reason does not. So until I can pass my German test, my full time job is studying. Once I am sure that I can stay I will be hopefully either working or volunteering for a school.
My wife and I have been married for over 30 years. We have two children we left back in the US. Both of our children are in University. Our oldest is in Law School in Indianapolis, IN. Our youngest is an undergraduate students at UW/Madison.
It was another quiet weekend her in Zürich. Saturday was a beautiful day; so I got up and went for a long run while Julie went to the hairdresser. We don’t talk much about that here, because I come very close to a coronary when I get the text message about how much was billed to the credit card. I can almost go to my barber for a year for what she has to spend for one trip to the hairdresser. 10 months is close to a year, right?
For Mother’s Day, Julie wanted to go for a hike. I convinced her to get on the bus and go to the foot of the lake, and hike down the other side. The hike really showed us the difference between the two sides. During the development around Zürich, one side became industrial, and the other residential. We live on the more industrial side. On the other side of the lake, the lake side trail stays next to the lake longer, and there are a lot more parks, and swim areas. We also learned that young people are jerks everywhere. There are trash receptacles every 20 – 30 meters yet, the kids that stay out partying all night, never throw the garbage away. It is simply left on the ground for someone to come and clean up. The worst place, we bypassed the trail completely. The idiots were not satisfied with simply leaving the garbage. They brought literally hundreds of glass bottles, and decided to break all of them before they left. It was a very sad display for a country that prides itself on being clean.
I learned, once again, this morning that weather people are no better here than anywhere else. I either run or ride my bike 6 mornings per week. I hate going out in the rain, though, so if the chance of rain is really high, and the radar shows rain coming, I default to riding my bike. This morning, the radar said the rain was coming at about the time I would have been 1/2 way through my run; so I decided to ride. Here we are 4 hours later, there are almost no clouds, and there has been zero rain. I write this because I am hoping the weather people continue being wrong for the next few days. They are predicting rain for the rest of the week.
Thursday is one of the few Holidays that Julie gets this year, so we are taking off for the city of Vevey. Vevey is in the South part of Switzerland near Geneva. The town is known for two things. Nestle is headquartered in the town, the town claims to be the place where Milk Chocolate was invented. The second thing the town is known for is that Carlie Chaplain lived here from 1952 until he died in 1977. Vevey is one of the cities that make up the “Swiss Riviera”. I had never heard of that term until I tried to find a hotel.
Speaking of the Riviera. Julie and I were going to be heading to the French Riviera in June. We decided against it though, because there have not been any firm dates as to when France might open to visitors. We were afraid of getting caught like we did with Portugal, and having to potentially lose a lot of money if we couldn’t go. So we have decided that in June, we are going to take one of her vacation weeks and travel back to Zermatt and the Matterhorn area. This was the last trip we took before things locked down; so we thought it might be fitting to go back right before things open up again. We are both convinced that Switzerland will open up to visitors at some point this summer. The Government did announce they have settled on a vaccine passport that will put them in line with the EU. The passport is supposed to be rolled out sometime towards the end of June, so I think they will open up sometime in July for people that have been vaccinated. I know I could be really wrong on this one, but I don’t see Europe opening up until sometime in 2022 to people that have chosen to NOT get the covid vaccine.
I just found out once again, that sometimes I am really so dumb, that I should not be breathing….. So George just messaged me this morning saying thanks for the $$$$$. It turns out for the last two weeks, I thought I had been transferring money from one of our bank accounts to the account tied into our taxes. When I make that transfer, I always have just looked at the line that says Unknown Balance. Well apparently after USAA upgraded something in their banking system George’s USAA account also shows up, and since I am not on that account, it too says Unknown Balance. So Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday George. Now send me the money back, so the IRS doesn’t come after your mother and I.
All of this has been complicated by moving here. The fee to transfer money directly from our swiss bank account to our credit union account in WI is astronomical. I can transfer money into our USAA account for next to nothing so I started being cheap and making one big transfer into USAA instead of splitting the money into different banks. The problem is that I can only transfer money OUT of USAA in small increments; so I have to schedule multiple transfers . After this, though, I might just have to eat the costs, because obviously I am too stupid to handle multiple steps. I should also look and see if I can edit account names in USAA so that I can more easily identify the accounts instead of trying to memorize account numbers.
That is enough of my mis-adventures for today. The next time I post I will have some pictures from Vevey, Switzerland. I hope this finds you well. Until next time..
So this week Julie and I applied to get our residency permit approved for another year. I still find this whole process easy, but silly. So here is a little bit of information about the different permits you can get for Switzerland. I am not going to talk about the process if you marry a Swiss citizen. That is something completely different. I am sure I am going to butcher some of this; so please do NOT take it as legal advice.
The first is the visitor permit. This is the standard permit you get when you show up at a Swiss port of entry with your US passport. It is a short term permit good for 90 days each year. This permit is granted to anyone visiting Switzerland that has a valid passport issued by another country. This is quite simply a permit that allows you to vacation here.
The next is the L permit. This permit allows you to work in Switzerland, but it is supposed to only be for a short time. The L permit lasts one year, and I believe it can be renewed once. This would be the type of permit you get if your company is sending you here to install some computer software, or something like that. The cynic in me says this is just so the government can get some tax revenue from you.
After this one comes the B permit. This is what Julie and I have. The B permit is the first of two levels for long term residents. The B permit lasts for 5 years, and I think it can be renewed only one time for another 5 years. This permit does come with some restrictions concerning the number that can be issued each year to Non EU citizens. It was granted because a company asked for the permit, and certified that there is no one in Switzerland or the EY that could be found to fulfill the job. These are similar to the H1-B visa in the US. These are limited to about 4500 per year for people not an EU citizen, but the number is higher, because the family members are also given this visa. For a Non EU citizen to be granted one of these permits here are the requirements that MUST be met:
Employees who do not originate from an EU/EFTA country can only work in Switzerland in senior management positions, as specialists or other qualified personnel. Permits are only granted in the overall economic interests of Switzerland.
A person with a degree from a university or institution of higher education plus several years of professional experience is deemed to be qualified. Depending on the profession or specialization, people with special training and several years of professional experience are also approved.
This is a pretty high bar to meet, and basically means that from outside the EU you are not going to be granted a long term residency permit unless you are sponsored by an organization.
The final level of residency permit is the C permit. You an apply for this after you have been here 5 years and there is no expiration date on this permit. This is for the people that have decided they want to make Switzerland their home, but do not want to try and fight through the headaches to get citizenship. This permit allows you basically all the rights, except voting, of a Swiss citizen.
The B permit is an annual permit, for people not from the EU. If you are from the EU it is a 5 year permit. Even for Non EU residents five years is still important. The B permit is valid for 5 years, even though it is renewed every year, and the permit can only be renewed one time. This gives you a total of 10 years on the permit, at which time you either leave, or try and get approved for the C permit. It is tied to employment. I believe the law states the permit is revoked if you have gone 12 months without employment.
I honestly do not know why this bothers me so much, but it does. Maybe I have a little OCD in me. If the permit is good for 5 years, then make it for 5 years. Otherwise, change the wording, and say it is a one year permit, and can be renewed up to 10 times as long as you are gainfully employed. I think the other reason I get annoyed with this, is that the terms of the permit are explained so much better on the non-government websites. On the main government website, the only place I can find where it talks about the B permit is in the section for EU citizens. So I guess the bottom line, is that just like the US Government, the Swiss Government makes things harder! That should probably be what I take away from the 48 hours I have sat and stewed over this whole thing!
These residency permits have been in the news a lot lately. Not so much because of the permits, but because the government has been in trade negotiations with the EU. The main sticking point is residency and ability to move for EU citizens. In the EU, there is full freedom of movement. You can move from country to country whenever you want. The reality is that only a small number of people actually do this. Switzerland though, has basically said anyone can come here provided they already have gainful employment, or are sufficiently wealthy to sustain their own livelihood and be able to purchase health care. The Swiss do not want to open up the borders completely, because they are are afraid people will come here, and then cause the social welfare net to explode. This is going to be interesting, because just like the UK is finding out. An individual country needs the EU a lot more than the EU needs the country. Almost 80% of the products on Swiss shelves originate in the EU. 45% of Swiss exports go to the EU.
Other than the B permit being an annual permit instead of a 5 year permit, the other thing I find irritating are the restrictions upon buying a house. In some areas the restrictions are not a burden, but in the larger cities this permit makes buying a home next to impossible. The restriction is that I can buy a primary residence. That sounds great, BUT… the permit holder can only buy a residence that their family and only their family lives in. In and around Zurich, there are almost no single family homes. It is simply too expensive to build a home for one family. I am itching to do some lawn work, or gardening, or anything other than mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms! I would start washing the windows, but it has rained for the last three days, and it is supposed to keep raining for the next three or four days. I hate to waste the time washing the windows when they will immediately get dirty because of the rain.
My final thoughts this morning concern how the rest of the world looks at the US each and every time a gun death makes the news over here. Believe it or not, it is pretty damn frequent. The US has a lot of problems and gun deaths are only one of them. Personally, I am more concerned about the fact that one of our political parties no longer believes in telling the truth. That to me is a bigger concern than gun control. However, at least to what I see here, the rest of world thinks our wild west infatuation with guns is our number one problem. To me the situation should be pretty darn easy. Put limits on how many rounds a gun can hold, start tracking all ammunition purchases, and hold the gun owner criminally and civilly responsible if their gun is the cause of an injury to someone else and self defense was not in play. None of those things goes against the constitution. Unfortunately our politicians do not have enough integrity to actually do anything to try and solve a problem.
I can already hear people saying, ” Cars kill more people than guns.” Those people are right. We also have put all kind of rules and regulations in place that govern the use of automobiles. This even though the constitution allows freedom of movement. I used to believe in the concept that the US could solve her own problems. I realize that our politicians do not really care about solving problems, they only care about the money trough to which they are attached. The older I get the more I think we are simply going to have to live with the devastation we cause each other until the whole system collapses on itself.
Pretty bleak thought to end this week’s post with, but I am in a place right now that I am honestly scared for the place I call home.
Sorry…. I am old enough to know better, but still too young to resist!!
CoSN and the CETL
Yesterday, I got an email verifying that my CETL certification was renewed for another three years.
CETL stands for Certified Education Technology Leader. The certification is offered by the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN). CoSN was founded and continues to be an advocacy group for technology in education. At the Federal level the main areas of focus are: Broadband Access, EdTech Funding, and Data Privacy. They offer a lot of wonderful training in Cyber Security and Data Protection. In April, I was able to spend four days working with CoSN and the State of Florida helping facilitate cyber security training. CoSN is a fantastic organization, and I would encourage any educator from the US to look at getting your district to join. It does not cost that much, and your district is able to take advantage and get some really good training opportunities.
The CETL is the only certification (that I am aware) that looks at all aspects of an EdTech (education technology) job. Certifications like the ISTE certification or Google or Apple, are wonderful, but they look only at classroom practices. This is important, don’t get me wrong, and we need a lot more educators learning how to implement technology in the classroom. The CETL looks beyond the classroom. The certification is based on the Framework of Essential Skills. This framework has three pillars: Leadership and Vision, Educational Environment, and Managing Technology. The Pillars are developed further in 10 specific skill areas:
Leadership and Vision Provide leadership while working with the executive team to develop a strategic plan that will support the organization’s mission, vision, and goals with technology.
Strategic Planning Possess a high-level view across the organization and work with teams to identify steps needed to transform the educational and operational technology vision into a strategic plan in alignment with the organization’s mission, vision and goals.
Ethics and Policies Manage the creation and implementation of policies and procedures relating to the social, legal, and ethical issues involving technology use throughout the organization and modeling responsible decision-making.
Instructional Focus and Professional Development Budget, plan, and coordinate ongoing, relevant professional learning for all staff using technologies; ensure or recommend a sufficient budget through the implementation and assessment process of emerging technologies.
Team Building and Staffing Create and support collaborative teams for decision-making, technology support and professional learning in support of the organization’s mission, vision, and goals.
Information Technology Management Lead the integration of technology into all appropriate areas of the organization.
Communication Systems Management Use technology to improve communication and collaboration with stakeholders.
Business Management Manage the budget and serve as strong business leader who guides purchasing decisions, and fosters mutually beneficial relationships with vendors, potential funders, and other key groups.
Data Management Implement and maintain systems and tools for gathering, mining, integrating, and reporting data.
Data Privacy and Security Implement practices and systems to ensure the privacy and security of organizational data.
The thing that impressed me most about the CETL is that it recognizes that it takes all different backgrounds to have success in technology for a school district. The district must have the leadership and vision to move forward with technology. A district needs to have excellence in education to be able to implement technology so it is more than just a gimmick. Finally, the district needs to have the 1’s and 0’s knowledge to keep things running, and keep the district’s information secure. CoSN realizes that people come to EdTech positions from all different paths. The school administrator that is simply made the CIO. The teacher that loves using technology to reach their student; so she is made a technology coach. Sometimes, it could even be the geek hired to keep the computers running that assumes a leadership role.
Enough of the commercials. Anyway, after posting a tweet yesterday about getting my re-certification, someone asked me to share my story.
MY CETL journey
I came into education through the backdoor. In the year 2000, I was an assistant manager with Target. I really liked working retail, but there was one problem. The company was growing so fast, that consistency in store management was non-existent. I would have a fabulous store manager, and then I would get a manager from HELL. Someone who thought the only way you could manage people was to make them fear you. The other problem with Target was that I was stuck. Their policy at that time was to make the most experienced assistant manager the logistics person, meaning I almost never left the stockroom. I was also unable to be promoted because my wife was making double my salary; so we were not going anywhere for my job, and to be promoted you had to be willing to move. I was the most miserable I had ever been. I do have the absolute GREATEST wife. She knew I was miserable, and supported me making a change. So I went back to school to earn another bachelor degree in Management Information Systems.
SIDE NOTE: One of the best days of my life was telling my boss on a Friday evening, that I was done. I normally would never encourage someone burning a bridge like that. It was the least professional thing I have ever done, but WOW did it feel good.
I spent the next two years going to school part time, and being a full time father to our son and daughter. After graduation, I ran into another little snag. You see most of the employers in our area were letting their IT staff go. They hired a lot of people for the Y2K problem, and two years later were still downsizing. No company wanted to hire someone who was pushing 40 and had no IT experience. So I approached the Hortonville, WI School District about volunteering two or three days per week. I figured I could count it like an internship. I could gain some experience and I could help our the local school at the same time. After a few months of volunteering the District Administrator told me about a job opening in another district and he would put in a good word for me if I was interested. 17 years later I cried when I left Winneconne for the move to Switzerland. We had accomplished a lot together, and the people I worked with made it a joy to go into work almost every single day.
My first couple of years at Winneconne, I really had to learn about IT before I could learn about education. My degree prepared me to be a programmer, or an analyst. My ideal job back then would have been to work in a development role, where I could have been the bridge between the programming team and the end users. Instead I found myself breaking the network during my second week on the job, because my boss wanted me to knock a hole in the firewall for an application the district had purchased. We were only down for about three hours, but it was the longest three hours, and I was sure I was going to be fired before I got my first paycheck. 🙂
After I became comfortable with the 1’s and 0’s of my job. I started working on the mission of the district. I was frustrated that here we were in the 21st Century, and we were using technology as a game. I started seeking out educators who were embracing technology in their districts. One of my mentors is Diane Doersch. I may be a little off on this timeline, but I believe Diane had been working as the CIO of Green Bay Schools when she earned her CETL. Diane is the one that introduced me to CoSN and the CETL. She knew I was looking for a way to continue meshing my IT role with the mission of education.
Working towards the certification helped me fully embrace what a school does. I started spending a lot more time in the classroom. Working with teachers, and helping to find ways to integrate technology into learning instead of simply using it as a gimmick. Another big way CoSN helped my district was teaching me about funding and budgeting. One problem that a lot of schools have is they look at technology as a cost center. When budgets get tight it is an easy place to find money. You know, why update the server farm? It is working, it has been working for 9 years. This cost could literally pay for a teacher. All of those things are true, but just let it ride, and what happens when the server farm dies, and you can’t write checks, or transfer money into the payroll account? The stuff gets real then! Working towards the certification led me to spend months working with our business manager to come up with a sustainable technology plan that allowed us to get computers into the hands of almost all our students K – 12th grade, as well as keep our VMWARE farm current, we also were able to start work on getting a 10GB backbone in place within and between school buildings. One of the things I am most proud of, is that when I left Winneconne, I knew that my replacement did not have to worry about figuring out how he was going to pay for upgrades, and that there was a really good plan in place to keep the district moving forward in regards to technology for at least the next five or six years.
The test was not easy. It took me over two years of study to pass the exam. In fact I failed it the first time I took it. The focus on the CETL is not that there is one right answer. The focus is on the process to get the right answer. The first year or so I studied, I looked at this like any other certification test. It was like beating my head against a brick wall. Once I was able to embrace the concepts that are preached all of the time in education.. You know what I mean Collaboration, Cooperation, Communication… Then I finally had the breakthrough and was able to pass the test.
My final anecdote about why every EdTech Leader should work towards this certification. It encourages and almost causes you to work with all the important people in the district. You learn to work with parents, teachers, administrators, and even students when you are rolling out new initiatives. When it comes to any new initiative if there is not enough acceptance for the change it will never get off the ground, and in technology change is the only constant. We all know the world kind of shut down last March and April. Last May I got an email out of the blue from one of the teachers in my old district. I am going to paraphrase the email she sent: I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you. When you were here, I used to think the training you wanted us to do was a giant inconvenience. I was wrong. I’ve been talking to my friends in other districts as they are struggling to do this remotely. I do not have those struggles. I would much rather be teaching in person, but you made sure we know how to use the tools, and that is paying off right now.
I have spent only a few days in front of a classroom as a substitute teacher. I am convinced, though, that I had a pretty big impact on the education of the students in the Village of Winneconne, WI for almost 20 years. I owe a lot of that to CoSN and the CETL. The certificate encouraged me to come out of my network closest and embrace using technology to help in the education of our students.
If you would like to learn more please visit Cosn.org. If you are in the US you can find out if your state has a chapter of CoSN by clicking here.
Tomorrow is 1 May, International Worker’s Day, or Labour Day. Here is a little history.
Labour Day was actually started in the US. It began in the 1800’s to celebrate workers and all their contributions to society. In Switzerland, and possibly all through Europe, at about the same time workers were really struggling with trying to set the hours for the work day. The eight hour day had not come into being yet, and the workday was 12 hours or even longer.
Labor Day, even in the US, was originally 1 May. It was set to honor the Haymarket Riots in Chicago. When the Labor movement in the US was strong enough to get recognition for a Federal Holiday, President Grover Cleveland decided it could not be 1 May, because he did not want the day to have any link at all to the Riots. From a brief web search, outside of Canada and the US, the rest of the world celebrates Labour Day on the 1st of May.
I will say, the one thing this holiday shows, at least here in Switzerland, is that business rules over the holidays. In the US, we are used to non-religious holidays, always being celebrated on a Monday or Friday so most people get a three day weekend. I can’t speak to the rest of Europe, because I have not checked, but here in Switzerland that practice doesn’t exist. For someone like Julie, the fact that there are eight or nine national holidays really doesn’t matter. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it falls on a weekend. There is no compensation. Julie was talking around Christmas time, that this year, she actually only gets 4 of the holidays because the other 5 all fall on weekends. She didn’t appreciate my comment that I get holidays almost every day of the year! One of these days I will remember to engage my brain before I open my mouth, but I haven’t learned that in 55 years yet, so it might be a while.
In one way it is a weekend like this where I am glad I have not found a job yet. If I was working, we really would have had to scramble to get the grocery shopping done. Sometimes it is very inconvenient that the rest of the world has not caught on with the 24/7/365 pace of the US. With the exception of some stores in the train station or airport, every store will be closed for the next two days. When you normally have groceries in the house for two days. It requires some extra planning to remember the third day. Small problem for sure, but if I forgot…. Someone would be very angry with me that she could not have dinner.
I just got an email from the US embassy telling us to stay away from Bern this weekend. May Day is traditionally a day of demonstrations and protests. There is apparently something going on around the Zytglogge that they want people to stay away from.
The Zytglogge is one of the most famous landmarks in Bern. It is basically the heart of the historic part of the city. I do have to say I find the warning a little silly. The only thing I think there is to worry about, would be catching COVID. I have not heard of any kind of violent protest in the entire time I have been here.
Next week we have to visit the town offices to renew our residency status. I do find it strange, that we have a 5 year visa yet we have to renew the visa every year. Having never lived out of the US before now, I do not know if this is normal. The only non-citizen immigrants I knew in the US was back when I was in HS, so I do not know if the same is true in the US, or not. I should probably ask Julie’s brother. He is an immigration judge. If anyone would know, it would be him. :).
I also find it strange that we have been here two years already. Well Julie has been here two. I’ve been here about 19 months. Since my visa is tied to hers though, as far as Switzerland is concerned I have been here two years as well. Looking back it does seem we were a little naive with moving. We had convinced ourselves that this would be a three year adventure at the longest. Julie was convinced that the company would want to part ways once the accounting stuff got all set. We really read the wrong tea leaves!! Switzerland does not feel like home, yet, and in many ways, I don’t think it ever will be “home” other than the simple fact that this is where we are living.
Well, it is time to go again. I have some floors that need mopped, and I need to finish the laundry. I hope you all have a wonderful Labour Day Weekend!
Another quiet week on the hill above Lake Zurich. Just in the last couple of days, the hill across the lake has gone from brown to green. The leaves have come out on the trees, so it at least looks like spring. It has gotten a little warmer so that is good as well.
Yesterday, I spent another fun afternoon with CoSN, and a bunch of really good EdTech people in Florida. It was the last of some Cyber Security training. It is always good working with people from other backgrounds and finding out the way they do things, and I always like learning from new people. The highlight of the training was doing some table top exercises in reacting to a cyber security incident in your building. It was really hard to get some of them to think in real life terms. As soon as the first scenario was brought up, some people immediately jumped into shut everything off, segregate the network, start trying to clean everything up. I was like wait a second. The scenario says the person is unable to open a file. Doesn’t that happen at least once a week? If you immediately jump to the conclusion that everything is a virus, or an attack, how do you get anything done? I then asked the group to talk about the last time someone couldn’t open a file and walk us through that. This allowed us to look at the scenario a little more realistically. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon.
On another front, the vaccination saga took another turn this week. At the beginning of the week, we were reading about cantons having to cancel vaccination appointments because the promised deliveries did not take place. Then this morning, Julie called and said, ” The Canton of Zürich opened up appointments to people over the age of 50.” I logged in and got us appointments in a couple of weeks. There must be a high demand, because I had to log in once for Julie, and once for me. In the 2 minutes it took me to save Julie’s appointment, and get logged in as me, the center was booked for the day. So now it looks like I will have to go the vaccine center 4 times. Two to get Julie there, and twice for me! The vaccination center is only a couple miles down the road, though, so that is good. Assuming the delivery schedule stays intact. We will have our vaccines done before the end of June. That is about two months earlier than I was predicting. Germany seems to be the country struggling the most in this part of Europe. Although there are not literal travel bans in place, there are effective travel bans. Hotels in Germany are only open for “essential” travel. I do not know how the hotels are identifying essential, but from the German people I talk to online it is a pretty strict definition.
I was chatting with a woman who lives in Munich last night, and she basically has to have a COVID test every 48 hours. Many of the businesses are requiring a negative test before a customer can enter. There has not been any talk like that here, but I am sure once the COVID passport gets approved the requirements to show a negative test will be put in place for at least some businesses. I am pretty sure the restaurant, bar, and theatre business groups would love to get something like this in place.
It seems kind of funny, but right now I would predict that travel will open for people outside Europe to travel in Europe before it opens up for Europeans to travel. Everyone wants to open travel to North American soon. I think it is because people from the US spend a lot more money when they visit.
Somedays I wished I had studied economics more heavily; or maybe that I understood country wide finance better. Back in 2015 Switzerland implemented negative interest rates. I do not know what the economic catastrophe then was, but for whatever reason the Swiss National Bank decided this step needed to be taken to weaken the Swiss Franc. So for the last 7 years banks have had to pay the national bank for any cash in excess of the minimum reserves they are required to keep. The banks turn right around and charge their customers higher fees, and in some cases actually charge their customers for keeping money in a bank account. This seems strange to me, but now three or four times per year. Julie and I are forced to transfer money back to the US. Honestly we would do some of that anyway, but now we have to do it to keep from paying for the simple pleasure of being able to deposit Julie’s pay check. It is a strange system, and some day, I really look forward to sitting down with someone that understands finance a lot more than I so they can explain it to me.
On a work related note: I am going to end with something I learned this week about my job search. It started out, by me applying for a job with Accenture here in Zürich. I got another rejection letter, but it was actually the BEST rejection letter I have ever seen. It was complimentary, and even hope filled that a job would open up soon where I would be a better fit. Now I am smart enough to know it is a boilerplate auto response type email, but it was a masterpiece, and whomever Accenture had draft that letter should be highly rewarded! The only problem was the “This is an automated email.” line at the bottom of the email. So being kind of silly. I got on Tik Tok and made a quick video about the email. With a tag line at the end of the video showing my email address, and a plug for Accenture to reach out. Well, they haven’t reached out yet, nor do I expect them to. I did learn much more about employment here. For example, I learned that age discrimination is 100% a thing here. Companies have to pay more to the government in retirement plans for any person over age 50. So now, I just need to figure out how to make myself look about 20 years younger on my resume picture, and I need to go back through and get rid of all the dates on the resume. Of course if I do that, no one will EVER look at the resume, because dates are expected. Oh well, I knew it was going to take a while to find something if I started looking anyway. This just makes it a little harder. The thing that was a little depressing were the people that commented that they have been looking for jobs for literally years. The longest was four years in one case. That would make me miserable.
Well, I am going to sign off now. I need to run to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner before Julie gets home. I hope this finds you well, and I will talk to you later.
It has been another quiet week in Rüschlikon. Julie is trying to finish up Amcor’s quarterly finance reports; so she has been working long hours. The reports have to be turned in for approval this week, so then she gets a bit of a breather. She did go into the office for two days last week; so that seemed like a life altering change. I think I finally convinced her to upgrade her train pass to fist class. In some ways this seems silly. I mean you are talking a local commuter train. It isn’t like she is sitting on the train for hours to and from work. However, I see a couple of advantages. The first being the first class coaches are never full. She will always be able to get a seat. That also means that as long as we are still under the throngs of COVID, she is not going to be shoulder to shoulder with other people. Many of these people “follow” the mask requirements to the letter. By that I mean, just like on an airplane, you do not have to wear your mask while eating or drinking; so many of the riders choose to have a bottle of water or beer with them the entire ride. Honestly, I think the bottles are empty, because I almost never see anyone drinking from them, but simply holding them in your hands, the police will never make you put a mask on.
We did eat dinner in a restaurant for the first time in many months. We were trying to think when the last time was, and we think it was before Christmas. We were sure Switzerland was going to go back in lockdown before the Holiday. It turns out we were a few weeks early in our prediction. We did have a really nice conversation with the owner. He was describing how hard it was to stay in business. Before the lockdowns he was describing about 30 – 40 on an average evening. Now he is lucky to do 10 diners per night. The rules changed about a week ago where restaurants could serve people outside, but his outside dining area is very limited. Even worse, is that it is supposed to rain pretty much every day next week. Two restaurants that we visit occasionally have shut down. I am surprised more have not gone under.
Those of you that lived somewhere that speaks a different language than your mother tongue can relate with this. Speaking on the telephone is one of the most anxiety producing activities when you live overseas. When you are not fluent in the language it is hard enough getting by in face to face conversations. I don’t know what it is, but the conservation through the speaker of a phone leaves me almost completely clueless. I called the restaurant to make a reservation. I got through setting up the day and time, and then it happened. He asked a question, and I could not understand a word he said. How many in German is Wie viele. (It sounds like Vee Feela). I can normally hear those words, so I know the answer. This time all I heard was gibberish. so after making him repeat the question three times, I finally just asked him to speak English; so we could finish up the reservation. He had a good laugh with me while we were eating; so that is good! I know I am getting better at speaking, but it is still hard.
Yesterday also started our spring cleaning. We mopped and scrubbed the balconies. I realized after I was almost done, that I had made a huge mistake. Sometime in May the pollen is coming back. Last year it was almost like we lived in a pine forest. There was a thick covering of bright yellow pollen over everything; so I will wind up scrubbing them again very soon. The second patio in the house, will soon become my bike riding patio. It has gotten warm enough, that I can bring my bike up out of the basement. Riding on the balcony is only slightly better than riding in the basement, but both options beat the heck out of riding or running in the rain. I did break down last week and do something kind of silly. I bought a 2nd rear wheel for my road bike. It is such a pain switching out the road tire for the trainer tire each time I go from a real ride to the trainer that I decided to spend some of our travel budget that isn’t being used and make it easy on me. 🙂
In older posts I have talked about the health care / insurance system over here. Basically, the country runs on the same principal as the Affordable Health Care Act in the US. Everyone here is required to buy insurance, but the government will help you if you cannot afford to pay. I have learned that the insurance companies are not very responsive. When we moved, I made the mistake of telling the insurance company that I had visited a chiropractor within the last few years. With this bad mark on my record, I was only able to get the basic insurance. This is the level that every company is required by law to offer. The insurance itself wasn’t that bad. It has a 2500CHF deductible, and then it is an 80/20 split up to 15000 CHF per year. Since I am pretty healthy, and rarely go see a Dr. I could live with it. The only real problem is that it did not cover anything else. No dental coverage. No eye coverage. Nor does it offer coverage outside of Switzerland. So the two times I have gone back to the US I took out temporary health insurance. This is VERY expensive, but if I got into an accident, it was much better than having no insurance.
In November, I wrote the company requesting a quote for a step up in the Insurance. I figured I had been here a year with no claims maybe they would give me the upgrade. It took them 6 weeks to get back with a quote. So in January I turned in the request, and asked that go into effect on 1 March. So here we are at the end of April, and I have just submitted my third request to see if it was approved. The thing that irritates me, is that the only upgrade I have asked for is to be covered when I leave Switzerland. Everything else would remain the same. Assuming that my health stays the same, the company is going to make a lot more money off me. The upgrade costs 150 CHF per month; with one Dr Visit a year that costs almost nothing. You would think they would jump at this. For me, it even costs me more money, but assuming we can travel outside of Switzerland this year, I do not want to have to go through the headache of remembering to buy short term insurance every time we cross a border.
Since Sunday is truly a day of rest. Julie and I enjoyed the sunshine and took a long hike over the hill. The Sihl River runs through the valley on the other side of the hill. There is a wonderful hiking/biking trail that goes along the river, so we hiked along watching the fish, and other wildlife. I really need to go buy a fly fishing rod. Hey Rick Tardy. Come visit, bring your poles, and teach me to fly fish! The highlight of the hike was watching the mallard mating dances that were happening. Unfortunately, I was so engrossed watching, that I forgot to pull out my camera and make some video. I have to admit, these relaxing Sundays are one of my favorite things about living here.
This is one of the months that it is hardest being away from the kids. Finals week is approaching fast; and if nothing else it is easier to call and check on the kids when you are within a time zone or two. :). George’s finals start tomorrow. I wonder if year 2 finals are harder than year 1 for law school. Kaylee has a week of midterms, then the MCAT, and then her finals start. I think I would rather be George at this point. 🙂 So if you would, please keep both of my children in your thoughts, they have a couple of hard weeks ahead. Oh and Happy Birthday Gabby! Julie and I hope you are having a wonderful weekend with your parents.
Well, that is about all for this week. I have the Prosecco chilled, so I think it is time to make up some Aperol Spritzes and sit on the balcony watching the sailboats on Zürichsee.
Zürich celebrated their version of Groundhog Day yesterday. The day used to always happen around the Vernal Equinox, which is the first day of Spring. However, around 1950 the celebration was moved to the third weekend of April. The entire celebration is called Sechseläuten. This is translated as the ringing of bells. Back in the “days” the trade guilds of Zürich worked 6 days a week. They had winter hours and summer hours. The winter hours were dawn to dark, the summer hours started at dawn, but ended at 6:00 PM when the Fraumünster bells rang. I find it kind of funny that they celebrated working longer hours, because they got paid a daily rate, which meant they worked more for the same money, but the longer days meant the workers actually got to spend some daylight with their families. Sometime around 1900 the festival included the burning of the snowman.
No one really knows when the tradition of the Böögg started. However, it was commonplace in the late 1600’s. Boys in one of the sections of town started burning snowmen, to celebrate the coming of spring. You know boys, fireworks, flames. What a fantastic combination… Back then there were multiple Bööggen. There were probably contests to see who could build the biggest, or have the biggest explosion. It is thought that Böögg is short hand for the boogeyman, but again, this is something that no one really knows for sure.
Over the years the tradition has become the faster the Böög burns, the better the summer will be. Of course the prediction comes true every year, because it is completely relative, and there is never a definition of what makes a good summer.
Last year the entire festival was cancelled due to Covid. This year, the festival was cancelled, but they still burned the snowman. The burning took place near Andermatt, on the Devil’s Bridge. A place I want to visit this summer. I recorded video of the celebration, but figured no one would like to listen to 6 minutes of German, so I did a little voice over with the history, and then added some music. I hope you enjoy it!
It is another quiet week, so I will have one more post this week, about something. No idea, yet, what I will write about.
Happy Almost Tax Day for the US. Well, traditionally happy Tax Day, I guess that has moved back until May this year. I don’t understand the rationale for this move. Last year it made sense. The whole world was discombobulated with the virus and the lockdowns. This year, we are are now adjusted, and based what everyone is telling me about life in the US… everything is back to normal with the exception of international travel.
I know I have told you before that one benefit that Julie’s company provides is a company that does our taxes. We just have to provide the info, and they take it from there. Swiss taxes were actually due last month, but the accountants filed an extension for us. This kind of irritates me. I have always been a person that liked to file early. What irritates me the most is that the SWISS taxes should be really easy. The only thing that really has to be figured out is the amount of the “wealth tax”. Unfortunately, we cannot go forward with the US taxes until the SWISS taxes are completed. We don’t have to pay double, but taxes are higher in the US than here, so we pay the difference between the US total, and what we already paid in Switzerland. The only savings by living overseas come from not having to pay State Taxes.
The only thing going on this week is anxiously waiting to find out if the Government is going to lift the work from home orders. I don’t see how they can the order. The COVID numbers keep going up. The numbers are not spiking, but it is just a consistent rise every week. Part of me thinks they should just go ahead and open everything back up. Keep the mask mandates in place, but go ahead and open. The problem is that hospitals are still overwhelmed, and opening back up will cause that situation to be worse.
The advertisements have started for the June referendum. From what I can tell there is only one thing on the ballot, taking away the emergency powers from the federal government in regards to COVID. Honestly I do not have any clue which way the people will vote. My gut tells me the powers will be taken away but that is just a wild guess. There is a significant minority that thinks the government should never have put any restrictions in place. The feeling is that individual liberties outweighs the risk. This argument should sound really familiar to my friends back home in the US. It is the exact same argument. I think there is also a significant minority that believes the government should be able to make rules in a pandemic, but also feel the government has bungled the response to this emergency.
Bungled might be strong, but we had our strongest lockdown in March and April 2019 when the country was getting about 1100 – 1500 new cases per day. Since October, the numbers have been higher than back then, yet the lockdowns have not been as strict. I think the one decision that caused most people to question the government was to allow the ski resorts to stay open all winter. I think the slow vaccine rollout will also cause people to think the federal government should have some of the powers taken away.
Last week I posted that our vaccine rollout was comparable to the US in regards to percentage vaccinated, well it turns out I was looking at a poorly worded website, or (and probably the most likely) I translated the web site incorrectly. I had seen a site that reported over 1.6 million “Vaccinations” had already taken place. It turns out, that was the number of doses that had been administered, so the total number of vaccinations is not even half that. Switzerland has never used the J and J vaccine, so it takes two doses to be vaccinated. So I thought we had vaccinated about 20% of the population. It turns out that we have only fully vaccinated about 7% of the population. That is a big difference!!
Julie is anxiously awaiting news about returning to work. Honestly, I think she would rather work from home right now, though. She likes going into the office, but until she can get a vaccine, she doesn’t want to ride the train. I can’t say I blame her. Being on the train is probably the most risky thing (in regards to covid) that we ever do. Being this close to the end, it would be a huge bummer if one of us caught the bug now.
It looks like she will be working from home a while longer, though. The Government just announced they are loosening restrictions, but they did not mention the work from home requirement. Starting Monday restaurants will be able to serve outside, and everything else will open. I do find it funny that there was no announcement regarding the work rules, though. What I find the most funny is this was the one restriction, that studies have shown to not be effective, yet, it is still one of only two restrictions left in place. I am not counting international travel, when I talk restrictions. Each country has their own travel rules, and actually the rules coming back into Switzerland are less onerous than the rules if we went somewhere else!
I do not know the right word to describe my emotion after reading the announcement. Amusement is not quite the right word. It wasn’t like I laughed, but I did chuckle a little when I read the line, “The risks associated with the easing are acceptable…” I read that as “We know everyone will start acting like idiots on Monday, but we think there is enough room in the hospitals to account for the increased cases of the virus.” The announcement did go on to say:
“Berset cautioned that the easing of restrictions should not be seen as a signal that the danger is over and the population can let down its guard. “That is not at all the case,” he said. “We need to continue being careful.
Virtually all the activities again permitted from Monday should be practiced only while wearing a face mask and with appropriate physical distancing, the government said.
And as far as possible, activities should take place outdoors, where the risk of infection is far lower.“
I am glad to see the restrictions easing. I do find it crazy that more strict restrictions were put in place when the numbers were lower and now that the numbers are starting to trend up again the restrictions are loosened. If the vaccines were being given with a greater pace maybe it would make more sense.
Anyway, that is enough rambling for today. I hope this finds you well. Talk to you next week.
There have been a couple things I like about not working. Due to some of the strange noise requirements of our apartment building; I am able to practice my guitar almost every day. If I were working, the only day I could practice the guitar is on Saturday. I am not allowed to practice musical instruments on Sunday, nor after 7:00 PM. This is not an uncommon practice for Swiss Apartments, just go back and look at some of the strange laws I have talked about in earlier posts! The other advantage is being to exercise 5 or 6 days per week. It is much easier to carve out an hour and a half or two hours to exercise, when you are not getting up before sunrise to get to work, and you are exhausted when you get home. I have not been able to exercise this consistently since I was in college.
Now, I also know that staying in shape is A LOT HARDER the older you get. Back when I was in my 20’s I could not run for 6 months, and still go out and pass the APFT for the Army. I think I had to run the 2 miles in under 22 minutes. Now, if I don’t exercise for a couple of weeks, I can’t even run one mile without walking.
This winter the weather was so bad, I spent a lot of time in the basement on my bike. I would ride 40 – 50 kilometers 5 days a week. Once the weather started getting a little warmer, I started running again, but have still been struggling. Last week the weather was only nice enough to go outside one morning, so Saturday I went on a 4 1/2 mile run. It was exhausting. I know you use your leg muscles differently on a bike vs running, but still… Anyway, I survived, and then Julie and I went on another 4 – 5 mile walk that afternoon. So Sunday morning I was pretty stiff and sore.
I was in the shower just thinking to myself, that I really need to look into YOGA, or some kind of stretching regimen i just feel “tight” most of the time. I was reaching down to squeegee the glass and I felt a terrible burning pain in my lower back. It took everything I had to stand back up. Needless to say, I spent the rest of Sunday in bed (and not the good kind of in bed) or sitting in a straight backed chair to keep the pain manageable.
The good news, is that I am in good enough shape, it only knocked me off my feet for a day. I woke up this morning, still a little sore and stiff, but able to walk. I am thinking, I will even be able to walk to the store this morning. I will probably still drive, because the weather sucks, but I think I could make it on my feet! 🙂 So anyone reading this: If you have a good YOGA program, or stretching program that you like, please make a comment or reach out and let me know. I am very interested in hearing about something that works.
The financial reports for Switzerland keep saying that the rental market is a sellers dream. Especially in the biggest cities and surrounding areas. There is simply a lot more demand than there is supply. I was reading one article that said in the canton of Zürich over 80% of the residents rent. Based off of the number of apartment buildings being built, there are a lot of people that believe the things I am reading. There are buildings going up seemingly everywhere. I can still see almost a dozen cranes from our apartment, and that is not counting the other side of the lake!
All of this being said, I am starting to have my doubts the market is as strong as everyone says it is. There is one apartment, on our way to the train station, that has been vacant for a year now. Granted it probably isn’t the nicest place in the city of Rüschlikon. It is on two levels, but no view, and the building is extremely narrow. However, in the two buildings that are now finished on either side of us. Only one apartment is occupied. Between the two buildings there are 7 apartments, so only having one occupied seems to go against what the experts are saying. I am sure there is something going on that I do not know about. One of the buildings has never shown up in the apartment listings. One was there when the building was just a shell. The listings showed pictures of what it was supposed to look like, but I have not seen any listings for that building in the last two months.
When we were moving we learned that most people in Switzerland move in either March or September. That was one reason we had a harder time finding an apartment. We were stuck with looking at vacant places, or in our case, just lucked out in finding a family that was moving back to the US at the same time we were moving here. My observations since being here do seem to confirm that. September was when everyone was moving around us. There were moving trucks here every day, the last two weeks of September. And this March again, was when all the buildings filled up. On our walk to the grocery store there is a 4 building complex that was completed this spring. Each building has at least 4 apartments. In March, 15 of 16 units filled. The one that didn’t really kind of sucks. You do have a very small yard, but only one room is able to have a window or door to the outside, everything else in the apartment would be below ground!
I will admit these apartments have to be on the extreme end of affordability. Based on what we pay, and what the listings show for 3 bedroom places, the apartments down the hill (and you can see the corner of in the picture). Probably start at 7,000 per month, and the top floor apartment has to be over 10,000 per month. The top floor apartment is almost double the size of our place, it has two levels, no obstructed views, and lots of balcony space. If I remember correctly, the apartment up the hill from us started at 5,500 per month and the high was 7,500. So yes, rent is expensive here. A 300 sq foot studio has an asking price of 800 per month. The cheapest place in the area is 450 per month. For that you are renting a bedroom, and you share everything else with the family living in the house.
I do have to admit that even on a gloomy day it very pretty here. It has been overcast and raining/snowing all morning, but the view across the lake is still mesmerizing. Yes, that is snow towards the top of the hill! Spring is literally trying to stay away.
Hope you have a great week. I’ll talk to you later.
I have found shopping here, to be quite a pain in the behind. Wait, let me rephrase that. I have always found shopping to be a pain in the behind, but in Switzerland I find it even more onerous. The exception to the shopping rule is if I am looking at tools, or anything hunting/fishing related. My favorite store back in the US was Fleet Farm (If they don’t have it….. You don’t need it…..). I could buy practically anything I wanted there. In fact, Julie would get very angry, because that is where about 80% of my clothing came from. Yes, you are right, I have absolutely zero style. The only thing I couldn’t buy there were shoes, but there was Rogan’s for that. During our trip to Locarno, I realized that both pair of my casual everyday shoes bit the dust. I had a pair of Nike Tennis shoes, and some (it turned out real cheap) cheapo shoes I bought in December. So for the last two weeks I have been trying to buy shoes.
Normally I know my size. My problem, is that it is impossible to find a wide shoe. Over the last three weeks, I have spent over 4 days shopping. I spent two days going from store to store, and another two searching online. I had to go to the stores, to actually try on shoes. It turned out I needed a spreadsheet. Some makes I had to wear a 44 before my feet would go in, other brands a 44.5 or 45.
In the US I am always either a 9 or 9.5 wide. I finally broke down and bought some shoes online yesterday. The nice thing is that shipping and mail actually work here; so some time today, Die Post (The Post) will deliver my new shoes.
Don’t even get me going on clothes shopping. I have pretty much decided that I will only be buying clothes when I return to the US. I am not morbidly obese, but over here I have to wear either a 2X or 3X in any shirt or jacket. No one carries those sizes. Even ordering online they are next to impossible to get. Pants, I have simply given up. I can find pants that fit my waist, but they feel like constrictors around my thighs. I have not yet, found a pair of pants that feel comfortable. I have made two trips across the border to Germany. There is a town named Konstanz that sits right on the border. The entire town is like one giant shopping mall, because everyone from Switzerland visits as the prices and taxes are lower in Germany than here. With Covid rules, I am not even sure that is an option right now, anyway. So I have simply decided that whenever I am able to visit the US again, I will bring an empty suitcase with me, and while there I will fill it full with clothes to bring back here.
I just realized what is amusing to me about talking about shopping, is that while I am writing this, I am also waiting on a delivery from the Grocery store. Even though we have a car now, I try not to drive to the grocery. I have learned that it is really a lot nicer, to pay the store one time per month to deliver all of the heavy and or bulky items, instead of having to make multiple car trips to the store. We go through about 5 gallons of distilled water every week. The distilled water is for the coffee maker and the ice maker. Dragging bottles of wine and water up these hills is hard work. So the lazy man residing inside my body says pay the Grocery store $3 once per month to deliver that stuff. It is surely cheaper than driving the car to the grocery store a couple of times per week.
Yesterday, Julie went back to the office for the day. I know she went to the office for some time during December, but it feels like she has worked out of the apartment for the last year. I know I have told you before, that I made her a promise that I would walk her to the station, and pick her up from the station every day(as long as I am not working). Well I learned yesterday, that we have completely forgotten how to communicate about her work schedule. I asked her in the morning what time she would be home. She said no later than 6:30; so I had dinner ready, and was down at the station for the 6:25 train. The train came, and NO JULIE. She finally texted me that she had just left the office and would be catching the 6:35 train in Oerlikon. :(. That is what she meant to say, that she would be leaving the office no later than 6:30. So I had a nice leisurely sit at the train station last night. Thank goodness it had warmed up to about 8 degrees, otherwise it would have been very cold.
Julie’s boss seems to think that Switzerland will announce the end of work from home next week. I think they might announce an end date, but I don’t see it happening until sometime in May at the earliest. Switzerland went into their modified lockdown almost four months ago now. The number of new cases fell the first month, but they have been on a pretty consistent rise since early February. The Government says about 20% of the population has been vaccinated. Which seems really strange to me, because that is about the same population as the US. Everything I read here is very negative about the Swiss vaccination plan and schedule, yet if those numbers are accurate we are doing just as well as the US. What seems strange to me, is that most places in the US have opened up vaccinations for every adult. Here, we are still in the over 70 age group or other people with comorbidities. I was just reading this morning where almost 20,000 appointment slots in the city of Zurich are still open for April, yet the government will not open up the vaccination guidelines to allow more people to fill these slots. I have a hard time seeing the government opening things up more, when the numbers are going the wrong way. Of course I would not have thought that US Governors would start lifting the mask mandates before the numbers start going down either; so obviously I do not know anything!!!!
Swiss history (not so good)
I have talked on my blog about me following TikTok. As an educator I think an app like TikTok can have a pretty big impact on individual students. I am not saying that every teacher should start using TikTok in their classroom, but I am amazed by the amount of really good content that is being created on this app. A lot of knowledge is being shared as well as a lot of scantily clad teenagers that will probably regret those videos in another 10 – 20 years.
Anyway, I am following a young lady who is getting her PHD in History at a University here in Switzerland. She posted something last week about the Verdingkinder (discarded children) so I have been doing a little investigation.
This sad chapter of Swiss History is even more embarrassing for the Swiss as the Japanese/American internment during World War 2 is for the US. Basically until the 1950’s Switzerland practiced child slavery. Of course it wasn’t called slavery. The practice began in the early 1800’s. If a woman had a child out of wedlock, or a family was poor and could not feed another mouth, the young child was handed over to the local government authorities. The Government would in turn give these children to factory owners or farmers. The theory was the benefactor would feed, clothe, and care for the child in return for the child working. Of course the practice turned into indentured servitude for these children, until they were old enough to escape, or aged out of the system. Until the 1930’s there were even markets established for the sale of the children. Some of the stories are sickening. It is hard to imagine that practices like this could happen in an enlightened country.
During our recent weekend in Schaffhausen, Julie and I took a hike to the Reinfall. Reinfall is basically the Niagara falls of Europe. The Rhine Falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe. I am sure there are some waterfalls that are considered more beautiful. Heck, Julie and I have seen many here in Switzerland, but Niagara are the only other falls we have seen with more water flowing per second. I hope the kids are able to come over sometime this summer or next.
The Rhine Falls have their own Maid of the Mist boats, and these boats actually drop you off on a rock formation right in the center of the falls, and you can climb a stairway right in the middle of the falls. Look at the picture below. See the flag in the middle? That flag sits at the top of the rock right in the middle of the water fall.
I want to climb those stairs with the kids and get some pictures!
It was a gorgeous day for a hike. The sun was shining, and the temperature was near 10 degrees. One thing I really do like about living here is the amount of walking/biking trails. We were able to hike to and from the falls on both sides of the river. Even though people own the property up to the river they have to allow an easement for the walking trail. Now based on the fences along the trail, and the amount of garbage you sometimes come across; Swiss people are no better than anyone else in regards to being a good steward of the public resource. Some of the fences are pretty darn severe; so you know the home owners have had problems with people trespassing and causing issues. I do find it fascinating that we could walk the three miles from the hotel to the the falls and back again on one path, and not have to worry about cars. In all the places I have travelled in the US, I have never found another place that takes such a serious interest in ensuring that pedestrians can get around as easy as here. They even go so far as to have road signs on all the trails so you never get lost.
We were also able to find a nice little abandoned island to have a picnic lunch during our hike.
Another thing that impressed me on our hike is the water quality of the river. I am sure a big part of that is due to having rock instead of a mud bottom, but every time we crossed the river you could still see the bottom even in the deepest areas. This is not unique to the Rhine. Everytime we go near a lake or stream Julie gets mad at me because I stop and look for fish. I do think it has more to do with the beds of the rivers and streams than anything else. The only other place I remember seeing water this clear was in Yellowstone Park and that is another place where the bottom of the waterbodies are made of rock and not mud. I would never drink the water with out a lot of filtering and decontamination, but the clarity of the water almost is enough to think you could stick your head in take a drink, and not get sick.
I think this is our last bigger trip for a while. Amcor has quarterly filings coming up so Julie will be pretty busy the rest of April and May. We will probably take some day trips, but the next big trip I am planning is down to a town named Vevey for late May. Vevey is in the French section of Switzerland near Geneva. I don’t think there will be much a resemblance to Vevay, Indiana, but you never know. Vevay, Indiana sits in Switzerland County and is named after Vevey, CH so maybe there will be some similarities. 🙂
I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Falls and our hike. Talk to you next week.