20 Januar.2021

Today’s blog post is going to seem like a complaint fest. It is not meant as a complaint so much as to simply show you that the grass is not always greener. That Governments in all countries are a little messed up. Some more so than others, but all are messed up to one degree or another.

The first one is local. We got hit with a major snow storm last Friday and Saturday. Before I moved here, I thought of Switzerland as a winter paradise. I figured there was snow everywhere, in the winter. The reality is that outside of the mountain areas the climate is very mild, and yes, it does drop below freezing, the amount of precipitation in the winter is usually very small. Last year, we saw a little bit of snow, I think we had one where it snowed about two inches, but it was melted within 36 hours. This time we got about a foot of snow. It was one of those wet heavy snows. If we had kids here, they would have been out building snowmen. There are a lot of branches down, and everything is just generally a mess. As the snow started I had high hopes, the town was out spreading salt on the roads, and plowing. I thought it was going to be like living in Wisconsin. I was wrong, it is more like living in Southern Indiana, when we had the blizzard in the 70’s. In some ways worse, because I have not seen any evidence the town is even trying to clean things up.

The highways are clean, but even the major streets in my town are still basically one lane roads. I think the town is simply waiting for the snow to melt and take care of itself. I have not seen one truck out picking up branches, or clearing the snow.

The homeowners have not cleaned the sidewalks. I think part of this is the simple fact there is no place to put the snow. You can’t throw it back in the street, and all of the homes either have full hedgerows or fences toward the street. Most of these are over 10 feet tall. So it is next to impossible to throw the snow into the yard. At the bottom of the hill, the sidewalks are kind of passable, but I really wish I had my ice cleats but those are back in the storage locker. :), enough people have walked on the sidewalks that the snow has been compacted into ice. Up on our section of the hill, no one is even using the sidewalks, they are just walking in the road.

The good news is that drivers are incredibly courteous. If you are walking in a narrow area the cars stop and let you come by. If you are driving, people simply pull over and let you pass. When you do that, the the other drivers all smile and wave. I have to admit, the smiling and waving seems strange. I have not seen a lot of that in the last 18 months.

CoVID Update

I believe, in my last post, I told you that we were going to be entering another lockdown this week. The lockdown basically started Saturday evening at 7:00 PM. I say basically, because everything is shutdown on Sundays, and the COVID restrictions already had everything closing at 7:00 each evening.

This lockdown is really strange. No one really seems to understand what is closed or what is open. About the only thing I know for sure that are closed are dining in restaurants, bars, clothing stores, and electronics stores. However, even the stores, are kind of iffy. I can’t go into InterDiscount (Think a small Best Buy.), but I can call them and tell them what I want. They will let me pay over the phone, and I can go pick it up. Apparently, that is the same thing with clothing stores. I have copied a couple of lines out of one of the newspapers. Read through it, and I think you will see how confusing it really is.

In order to avoid confusion – or perhaps to add to it – the government has given a list of the types of goods which are considered to be everyday goods or daily needs. These include: food, cooking and eating utensils including cutlery, pharmacy items and cosmetics, cleaning and care products, house plants and flowers, garden items, underwear, clothing for babies, tools and building materials, pet food and animal goods, spare electronic parts like batteries, and newspapers and magazines. “

So when I go into a hardware store. I can buy a new cordless drill, or a board, but I can’t buy a lightbulb. A lightbulb is not considered a spare electronic part nor is it considered a building material. Most grocery stores have a small clothing area. So I can buy a package of underwear, but I can’t buy the shirt that is two feet away. Barbers and Tattoo Parlors are still open; so I can go get a hair cut and have ink put on my arm, but I can’t go to a gym and lift weights (as if I would actually do the latter anyway).

There is a mandatory work from home order “where possible”. So I assume Zürich is a ghost town. All of the office buildings are empty. Schools are still in session, though, and skiing is still allowed. In fact, this past weekend one of the ski towns near St Gallen had to mobilize their police reserves, and call out the fire brigades to help with crowd control. The only good news about the crowds, is there is mandatory mask wearing. The rules are that you have to wear a mask whenever on a chairlift, gondola, or in a queue. These lockdown rules are in place through the end of February. The Government has said the reason they are putting restrictions in place now is concern about the new strains of the virus that have been found. That does kind of make sense to me. I just don’t understand the seemingly haphazard way they are trying to enforce the restrictions.

Speaking of strange rules. For the new year, one of the papers published some of the strangest laws in Switzerland; so I thought I would share them with you.

1) It is illegal to eat dog or cat meat. UNLESS, it is your cat or dog, then you can eat all you want.

2) It is illegal to name your child something that may damage their well being.

3) In Zürich it is illegal to take a picture with a legal sized fish you have caught. You cannot release a legal fish either. You are supposed to take it home and eat it. (The last part of that law makes perfect sense to me. I don’t understand fishing without eating the catch anyway.)

4) It is illegal to wash your car at home, using a hose. The work around at least in my neighborhood is to wash your car with buckets.

5) It is illegal to urinate while standing after 10 PM in an apartment building. Some buildings have rules against flushing the toilet after 10 as well.

6) On Sunday it is illegal to: recycle, mow the lawn, hang out your laundry, hammer, or drill. Basically if it is noisy, or could a visual affront to someone, it is probably illegal to do on Sunday. :).

7) Hiking in the nude is illegal. Apparently, it is legal in Germany.

8) In Aargau, Glarus, Uri, Obwalden, Solothurn, Thurgau and Appenzell Innerrhoden, dancing is banned on certain Christian holidays.

9) Guinea Pigs and Goldfish are not allowed to be kept alone, you must have at least two because they are considered social animals. Nor can they be kept in small enclosures (Which in my mind makes it really hard to have a goldfish as a pet!)

10) It is illegal for a house NOT to have access to a nuclear fall out shelter. ( though I admit, I do not know where my shelter is. I keep waiting for someone to tell me.)

Finally here are the pictures I took this past week. We didn’t go anywhere, or do anything, so not a lot of pictures:

13 Januar. 2021

Well so far, January has not turned out to be much different than 2020. I loved the meme that was going around: My 7 day free trial of 2021 is over now I would like to cancel my subscription.

It has been a fascinating/distrubing time. The time difference makes watching what is happening in the US very strange. Like many of you, Julie and I were watching live when the Trump supporters broke into the Capitol to try and stop the electoral college certification. We then missed how it all ended, but when Congress finally did certify it was the middle of the morning for us. This morning at 2:00 AM I found myself up, so I was able to log into a zoom meeting where a group of talking heads I follow were discussing impeachment.

I have also been kicked out of my office once again. Switzerland announced that on Monday, they are going into Lockdown phase II, but since we are also getting blitzed with snow today, Julie is working from home starting now.

View from my kitchen window

I am going to call this lockdown: “lockdown light”. From what I can tell, the only thing closing are retail establishments. We have already been under some COVID restrictions. Restaurants are open for take out, unless the restaurant is in a hotel, then it can stay open. Bars, museums, theaters, and large events are closed.

This morning I walked to the town of Thalwil. I went into my barber and asked if he was going to still be open next week. I think he told he said that he would remain open during the lockdown. (I tried to hold the conversation all in German, so I know he is open for sure next week, because I got an appointment for a hair cut. 🙂 ) I then walked down the block to Starbucks. Julie and I drink a combination of their Kenyan and Espresso beans. We mix them together for the Jura, and it has been our favorite coffee. Anyway, they also informed me that they were staying open during the lockdown as well. So it looks like lockdown light, is a mandatory work from home order for office staffs, and a shut down of all retail establishments except for grocery and pharmacies. Everything else stays the same status as the week after Christmas. What does seem strange to me, is that the COVID numbers from Switzerland have been pretty steady since early November. In fact for about the last month, they have even fallen slightly. I know the hospitals are still at capacity, so maybe that is what prompted the lockdown now. Julie and I were both really expecting the lockdown to happen in November when the numbers peaked. We already had our first lockdown argument. She asked me why I hadn’t shaved this morning, and I told her I was growing my lockdown beard. I’ll probably wind up shaving tomorrow. :).

Our new car

We did get our car last night. I have not driven much for the last 18 months, so it was a little hairy at times. It is going to take some time to get used to the navigation system. I have to figure out what a half left turn or half right turn is. I am not going to be surprised if I get a little surprise ticket in the mail next week, because I am sure I broke some driving laws as we we were coming home. We made the mistake of driving home after dark, and because I didn’t know what a half left turn was. We wound up having to drive through the city the entire way from Julie’s office. Zürich has cameras seemingly everywhere looking for traffic violations, and between going 2 KM’s over the speed limit, and changing lanes too close to an intersection, I am sure they got my picture more than once.

Until now, the nicest car I had ever driven was probably my F-150. It is just A LITTLE different driving my pickup vs driving this. Thank goodness the owner’s manual is in English. I’ll be doing some reading over the next day or two. Especially since I am NOT going to be taking the car out until the snow melts. 🙂

Other thoughts: I brought over my guitar. It has been sitting under a bed, and I had picked it up exactly one time in the last 18 months. My goal for this year is to practice every day I am at home for at least 30 min. My fingers were sore for a couple of days, but it has been fun playing again. I think I will wind up having to change the name for my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

I have come to grips that I am really not an ExPat Educator. I was turned down by another private school last week. I am apparently not qualified to work in the IT field over here, even as an entry level network administrator. Add that to the fact that I cannot even convince one of the public schools to let me volunteer, and I am officially giving up being able to do anything in education while I am here. In the private sector, I have learned very quickly that my IT background is not nearly as important as not having enough German to work in the IT field. I do not know where I will find employment, but I figure I will wind up having to wait until the lockdowns are over, and then start trying to look at retail, or something else. I have learned that I am simply too young to be a “kept” man. :). Not meaning to end this on a down note. Things are good here! Just a little disappointed about being turned down for an entry level job with a school that SPEAKS ENGLISH.

I don’t want to end on a bad note, so I’ll end talking about food. My family was really torn about what to get Julie and I for Christmas. Shipping things over here is very expensive, and if you (for example) buy a sweater and ship it here we get charged for VAT before we can get it. It simply just makes things a lot more expensive to buy in the US and then ship here. So we asked the family to buy some spices, and that kind of stuff that we just can’t find. Two of our favorite spices are: Taco Mix from Costco, and Penzy’s Revolution. Last week we wound up getting two boxes of spices one from my Mom and Dad, the other from the kids. It really made our week! We made tacos twice, and then we used the Penzy’s to roast a chicken. We are good to go for the next year, now! It kind of surprised me how those small tastes from home could impact the happiness level! We also finally ate the chocolate box! It was hard eating the face of the angel, but it was delicious when we got our nerve!

I don’t have many pictures from this week. But here are the ones I took

6 Januar. 2021

Andermatt Part 2

If you remember from my last post, I gave a little history of Andermatt, and explained that the high point was in the 1800’s. This was due to being at the head of the Gotthard pass; which is one of two North/South routes through the Alps. Well, the pass itself is relatively easy to cross, but getting to the pass from Zurich or Luzern was an undertaking. The Ruess river flows down from Andermatt, and through the centuries it had carved out some very challenging gorges that had to be crossed. One of the most challenging is at the site of the Devil’s Bridge. The original bridge was made with wood and it was built sometime in the 13th Century. The wooden bridge stood for around 200 years. It was replaced with a stone bridge in 1585. Here is the story. (I blatantly plagiarized from

The legend of the Devil’s Bridge (Teufelsbrücke)

The narrow rock bar above Göschenen had always blocked access to the Gotthard and thus the transition to the South as it proved to be extremely difficult to build a bridge there.

The legend, which tells of the futile efforts of the people of Uri to build a mule track through the narrow Schöllenen Gorge and a stone bridge at the point where the young Reuss river pushes through vertical rock walls, shows how difficult the situation was. In his despair, the “Landammann” shouted: “Shall the Devil build a bridge”. Then the Devil appeared and said, “I will build a bridge for you. But the first soul to go over it shall be mine”.

The people of Uri agreed to the trade and after three days a bridge arched over the Reuss. On the other side the Devil sat and waited for his reward. Instead of a human, however, the people of Uri sent a billy goat over. “You may keep it” they shouted, “here you have the first soul that crosses the bridge!”.

Full of anger the Devil tore the billy goat apart and found a huge stone to destroy the bridge again. However an elderly women passed by, recognized him and carved a cross into the stone. When the Devil saw this he missed his target and the stone landed in the valley below, not far from Göschenen where it has been lying ever since. For the construction of the motorway the “Devil’s Stone”, as it is called, was simply moved to a new location.

The Devil’s Bridge

Another note about the picture. What looks like a cave or tunnel at the bottom of the picture, is actually an ice flow, that has been hollowed out by the rushing water. I really want to come back here in the summer and hike to the bridge, and see the rock. It would be an absolutely gorgeous hike from the town.

Goldfinger chase into Realp

One of the towns near Andermatt is Realp. The town was featured for a few minutes in the movie Goldfinger. Julie and I went snow showing and then hiking on the road the movie was filmed. Julie was a little freaked out, because the guardrails have been removed, and and the little stone towers seen in the video above, really wouldn’t keep anyone from going over the edge. Julie makes it seem like it was a sheer cliff, and yes in parts of the trail it was, but for the most part it was just a really steep hill. Deadly in a car, but walking, if you went over the edge, you might slide down 20 feet or so, but it was not deadly. :).

Sign on the side of the mountain above Realp.

There were three Bond movies filmed partially in Switzerland. They were: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “Goldfinger”, and “Goldeneye”. Another piece of Bond Trivia; the first Bond Girl was Swiss. Ursula Andress was from Ostermundingen.

I made one video while we were in the mountains. You have to excuse the last part of the video, though, On our hike in Realp, I forgot my GoPro, so I just used my iphone.

Not much else to talk about today. Julie’s office is forcing everyone to stay away for another week right now. She has kicked me out of my office; so I am typing at the kitchen table. It is not as comfortable. Her office decided to close for this week, because they figured everyone would be getting together with family and friends over Christmas, so this way it forced a pseudo quarantine, before everyone got back together to work on year end stuff.

Here are the rest of the pictures from Andermatt. I hope you enjoy them. Talk to you soon.

3 Januar. 2021

Have a couple of things to get off my chest before I write about Andermatt; so you may want to skip the first part of today’s post. 🙂

It feels pretty good to write 2021 instead of 2020. That being said after the first two days of the year, I am not sure that 2021 is going to be much different than 2020.

Parts of the United States Government are showing that they no longer want to live under the form of government that has served the country pretty well for over 200 years. Many on the Republican side of the aisle are proving that they would rather live under a form of Dictatorship rather than the Representative Democracy we have. I am saddened that so many of our elected leaders would follow unproven conspiracy theories rather than facts. To me the simple fact that over 100 Representatives and over a dozen Senators are going to contest the election results leads me to the conclusion that the United States of America is at the beginning of the end. The fact that about 1/2 the people reading this will now label me as a communist and hater of America, to me, kind of proves my point. I get being upset that your candidate lost. I cannot understand being unwilling to accept the fact that after nearly 60 court cases have stated there was no fraud; so many people still believe the election was stolen by the Democrats. These same people that believe President Elect Biden was smart enough to pull this off, with their next words call him senile and an idiot. I hope that the US wakes up and rights itself before Julie and I come back. I don’t hold out much hope though.

If you would like to debate about this please feel free to contact me via email. All I would ask, is that there be no name calling, and that when you try and tell me there was fraud, back that up with proof, not just “We all know there was fraud; all you need to do is look.” That didn’t work for the judges so it isn’t going to work for me either.

The second reason I am feeling that 2021 is just an extension of 2020 is IU Football. Sure, by most measures, IU had a fantastic season. They came within 15 points of being undefeated. I have been a fan of IU since the Lee Corso days. One of my favorite memories as a lad was being out in the woods cutting firewood with Dad; if there was a football game playing, he would bring along a transistor radio, and we would listen while we were splitting the logs. Honestly, I still don’t know why those memories are so vivid. After all this time, the only thing I can think of is that it happened a lot. In my mind, I can picture the dents and rust on the trailer. I can even “see” the woods. That being said; I have been a fan of IU football for a long time. Since the 70’s there has been very little success, and a whole lot of failure. Every year, there was a point that I knew the season was over. It was just a lump sitting in my stomach, and a feeling of “Here we go again.” I think what has me so worked up today, is that feeling didn’t come until the last game of the season.

Like most fans, I was dismayed about the slight given Indiana by the bowl committee. After arguably finishing 2nd in the conference we should have gotten one of the New Years Day bowl games. I was proud of the coach and the team for how they handled the slight. I laughed at the fact that IU was removing conference patch from their uniforms. That being said, if you are going to make those kind of waves, you had better back it up on the field. Last night’s game was awful. I knew from the end of the first quarter that IU just didn’t show up to play. It was like we watched a completely different team than was on the field for the other eight games. IU was on path to have a HISTORIC season. Instead they wind up with a simple GOOD season. There are a lot of things to look forward to with IU football, I am sad that my mantra of “wait until next year” is tinged with sadness over what could have been vs the joy of what was.

On to Andermatt

Andermatt is a small town in South-Central Switzerland. The permanent population is about 1500 people. Andermatt became one of the principal villages in that part of Switzerland in the early 1800’s. It sits at the start of the St Gotthard Pass. The pass is one of only two north-south routes through the Alps. In the past it was arguably the most important pass, because it was the easiest route to Italy from Zürich, Basel, and Luzern. By the end of the century, though, Andermatt was in decline. The Swiss built a tunnel through the alps making the pass less important. Andermatt is now seeing a resurgence, though, at least based on the number of cranes in the town. Andermatt has become popular as a less expensive ski area.

Looking over Andermatt from the Snowshoe trail

We have decided we want to go back for a long weekend in the summer. There are a lot of hiking trails we want to try. We were impressed with the number of winter hiking trails they have groomed.

Winter hiking trail.

You could literally hike from town to town. In my next post I will tell you the history of the Devil’s Bridge. We were able to see the bridge from the train, but the trail is closed in the winter.

New Years Fireworks

We tried to make this little excursion as safe as possible. We got a 1 bedroom apartment, so we could cook all our meals. We stayed away from people as much as possible. We brought our snow shoes and decided to NOT go skiing. All of restaurants in Switzerland are closed for dining in, except if the restaurant is in a hotel. We did eat in the hotel the first night; I wanted to make sure we could find the grocery store; and it was more relaxing to not have to worry about cooking as soon as we arrived. The most risky thing we did was take the train, and even there we tried to be safe. We actually scoped out the cars before boarding to make sure we were in the cars with the least number of people. We probably should have just stayed home, but we really wanted to see some sunshine. 🙂

One thing I learned is that I really need to check the weather more before we go somewhere. Also I need to look at what the average temperatures have been for the area. Before we went it made sense to us, that we were going up to the mountains, so it would be COOOOLD! It was only a few degrees colder up in the mountains vs Zürich. In Fahrenheit, the temperature was always in the high 20’s during the day, and low 20’s at night. In Zurich, the temperature is low to mid 30’s during the day, and it really doesn’t change much at night. I think we have only had two nights that dropped below freezing this winter. Anyway, I brought clothes like I was going ice fishing in the boundary waters! Multiple layers of long underwear etc… So needless to say, I brought a lot of stuff I just didn’t need. I did wear my fur hat one day. Not because I really needed it, but I JUST wanted to wear it!

Me in my fur hat

One thing that surprised me, is the lack of snow. Last year was a really bad year for snow, and it is shaping up to not be any better this year. We only got snow one night while we were there, and it snowed maybe 1/2 an inch. The snow shoe trails were not that good, due to the lack of snow. In fact, we really only needed snow shoes on part of one trail. I am still glad we brought the shoes, though. There was almost no one else on the trails, so we were able to social distance.

The main ski slope in Andermatt was closed, but we came across this sign on our first snow shoe hike, and it literally made me laugh out loud. Just look at what the skier has to cross about 10 feet past the sign.

End of ski run

That is about it for today. I’ll write one more time this week about the trip. I hope you all had a wonderful New year, and I really hope that 2021 doesn’t turn out to be 2020 and 1..

See you soon! Enjoy the pictures.

17 Dezember. 2020

SWiss Christmas Traditions

I decided to make today’s blog post a lesson on Switzerland. Since Christmas is a week away, I figured I would devote today’s blog to Christmas.

Merry Christmas

Everyone ( I think) that celebrates Christmas also celebrates Advent; the season of preparation for Christmas. Most religious houses probably have an advent wreath consisting of either 4 or 5 candles. Side note: Growing up, I never knew there was such a thing as an advent wreath that did not have 5 candles. I never experienced this until after I got married and I started going to a Catholic Church. I remember being really surprised that the wreath didn’t have a candle for Christmas Day. Anyway, growing up we also had an Advent Calendar, where each day we would get a small treat like a Hershey’s Kiss. Some small towns in Switzerland take the Advent Calendar one step further. 24 residents in the town are selected to decorate a window during the season. One window is un-shuttered each evening. The villagers gather around the house until the shutters are opened revealing the window. Once the shutter is opened, it remains open until Christmas Eve.

Advent Window in Luzern

Another tradition that comes from Europe is St Nicholas Day. This was another thing I had never heard of until we had kids. In fact. I remember George being very upset in Kindergarten because all his friends were visited by St Nick, but he had not been. That was one of my gigantic failures as a parent. 🙂 I am a little ashamed to admit it, but because Julie and I didn’t grow celebrating St Nick. There was actually more than one time this was forgotten in our house. Thank goodness when the kids were little we were able to convince them it was because they didn’t put their shoes outside their room! Samichlaus (German areas) Saint-Nicolas (French and Italian areas) travels the country with sidekick Schmutzli. They travel with a donkey which is carrying chocolate, peanuts, and oranges. Samichlaus is not dressed like the US traditional version of Santa Claus. Samichalus is dressed more like a catholic priest. He wears bishop’s robes, a mitre on his head, and also carries a staff. The children are encouraged to recite a poem or sing a song, and Samichlaus gives them a treat. Schmutzli carries twigs for whipping the naughty children. This is the line that cracked me up as I was learning about this: “Just for the record, Schmutzli never actually whips the children — that would of course be illegal

Samichlaus and Schmutzli

This tradition is in the town of Basel. It will certainly make all my Wisconsin friends smile. This tradition started about 40 years ago. I already mentioned that traditionally Samichlaus travels with a donkey. In Basel, he travels by Harley. He is accompanied by approximately 50 of his helpers, and they ride into town to the Christmas Marktplatz. Once at the markt the “gang” hands out presents, and snacks to the kids. The group also uses this as a fundraiser and donates the profits to help entertain children stuck in the hospital during Christmas time.

Harley Sleigh

In the Italian area of Switzerland. Christmas is celebrated with a traditional big lunch. The panettone is the most part of the meal. The panettone is a type of fruit cake, but not the dense brick like thing the US associates with fruit cake. It is a light airy cake made with raisins, lemon zest, and candied oranges. The article I read about this emphasized that once the cake is on the table, no one is allowed to touch it, until the meal is finished. There is a saying a Christmas which is translated as “what you just said makes the panettone vomit.” It is used when someone gets annoying, boring or inappropriate around the table.

In Luzern one of the traditions is the Klausjagen or Santa Hunt. Klausjagen officially begins at 8:15pm, where the entire city shuts off its lights and plunges itself into darkness.  From there, local farmers herd the parade through the streets with whips, cracked in perfect unison. Following the whips, other participants wear stained glass hats and walk through the streets clearing the say for Samichlaus. Samichlaus and Schmutzli hand out treats to the children along the parade route. Next are three waves of sound to chase out bad spirits. A band that plays a very short refrain, a group ringing cowbells, and then a group blowing on cow horns. After the parade comes a city wide party!

The final Christmas tradition takes place down in Geneva called the Coupe de Noël. In the US, we usually do this more on New Years Day, but here the last weekend of Advent is celebrated with an open water swimming race on Lake Geneva. The temperate of the lake is usually about 41 degrees (F). It isn’t so much a race, as it is a contest to see who can have the strangest outfit. It is touted as the biggest cold water race in the world and it literally attracts swimmers from all over the world. This race has been happening every year since 1934. Seems like a very chilly way to celebrate Christmas.

Coupe de Noël

I hope you enjoyed learning about some of the strange things that happen here in Switzerland. I have to admit, this year, with all the health related scares, Christmas is a much more subdued atmosphere. I have really missed the singing tree in Zürich, as well as traveling around to the different Markets. Julie and I are keeping our fingers crossed for a return to normalcy next year.

I probably won’t write again until after Christmas. On the 28th Julie and I are taking off to the village of Andermatt for a couple of days, so my next post, should have all kinds of mountain pictures to ooooh and aaaaah over. I hope you all have a blessed and safe Christmas, and a joyous New Year.

Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr!

12 Dezember. 2020

I have started and thrown away this post four times this week. I am so angry with what is happening with the leadership in the US right now, that all I have been able to write has been political stuff, and I know no one wants to read about that. It is all around us every day. Even over here, I can’t stop reading about what is happening in the USA. All of Europe seems to be concerned. I get a lot of “Bad American” vibes here. The population seems to think that Americans as a whole are uncultured slobs, who think the whole world should revolve around the US. But, they also really seem to admire “America.” It is no secret that there is no love lost for President Trump. There is widespread relief that he will no longer be in office. There also seems to be widespread amusement about how buffoonish the entire transition process has been. Oh well, enough of that, or I will write nothing but bile for the next few minutes!

Julie is excited. One of the things she has missed the most over here is Italian Sausage. It turns out that Italian Sausage is just another American concoction that doesn’t seem to exist outside the US. She did however, find a recipe to try and make Italian sausage; so in normal Julie fashion (those that travel with her have experienced this effect many times) she bought enough fennel seeds to flavor a couple hundred pounds of pork sausage. I laughed when the first shipment came in. I figured one package would be enough, but then I remembered who I married. I laughed even harder when I was putting away the packages of fennel seeds and I came across a bottle of Fenchelsamen. Fenchel = Fennel. samen = seed. However, it was the next shipment three days later, that pushed me over the top. :). Something tells me that when we move back to the US we will be moving with multiple packages of fennel seeds! So tonight we are having calzones with italian sausage for dinner, and i’ll probably be eating italian sausage for the next week or two.

Last year we discovered Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets). We had a blast last year going to a couple of different markets, and had big plans this year. Unfortunately, almost all have been canceled. Even though they are outside, the markets would be a fantastic vector to help spread the virus. Thousands of people in tight spaces all drinking Glüwein, or the local holiday drink, would lead to Trump level super spreader events (sorry I couldn’t resist). We are going to be visiting Rapperswil-Jona either this weekend or next, as they have decided to have a small market set up, and tonight, we are heading down to Zürich just to see the christmas lights (assuming the rain holds off). I have my list of 10 Christmas markets, that we will start whittling down next year. My list is multi country: we want to visit markets in Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Croatia, as well as here in Switzerland.

It has been another slow week. About the only thing done besides house work, is put about 150 kilometers on my bike. After the 1/2 marathon, I decided to give my knees a break this month; so instead of running, I am doing a lot more biking. I am trying to do five times a week, and at least 30 kilometers. 30 kilometers is about 18.5 miles. Most of my rides, though, are either 35 or 40 kilometers. It did get cold, though, so I moved the bike from the balcony into the basement storage area. I download some shows on Netflix to my ipad, and watch while I am riding. Here is the thing, that doesn’t make sense to me, though. When I run for an hour and a half. My garmin watch tells me I burned about 900 calories. When I ride my bike for an hour and a half, the calorie count is almost doubled. Yet I feel a lot more tired after running than I do riding. Why is that? My head tells me that if I expend more effort running, I would burn more calories than riding. Any one know the answers?

Julie and I got all the kids Christmas presents bought and shipped. Amazon does make the distance pretty easy in that regard. Last year one of the gifts was air fare over here. Which seems pretty lousy, because we would pay for that anyway, but they don’t need to know that. I am thinking that will be another gift this year. Maybe they can come twice. 🙂 I did book Julie and I couple of nights in a town called Andermatt.

Andermatt is a mountain town. Switzerland is the only country in Europe that is allowing skiing this year; so I was a little worried about finding a place, but we found a nice one bedroom apartment. That way we can cook our own meals, and not have to worry about restaurants. Even though the ski slopes are open, Andermatt limits the number that can be on the mountain. You actually have to make a reservation for the gondola ride up the mountain. We don’t plan on doing any skiing, but we are going to bring our Schneeshuhe (Snow shoes). We figure that hiking will not be very crowded. We both know we need should probably just stay home due to the virus, but we also know we have to do something to keep our spirits up. Switzerland has said the vaccine, will probably not be available until summer. The one thing I am looking forward to, is that we get a car in mid January. We are getting an Audi A-7 so we can take some long drives and explore Switzerland by auto until we can resume travel again.

Take care and stay healthy!

3 Dezember. 2020

Tired Legs

Well, a few hours ago, I just finished running the St Jude 1/2 Marathon. Yep, it was an easy trip from Rüschlikon to Memphis. I just downloaded an app, and started running. Well, running might be a little strong of a word. I jogged and plodded through the 13 miles.

My St Jude’s 1/2 Marathon

I think I probably could have run 10 – 15 minutes faster, but I decided to bring my GoPro with me. I stopped and walked about every two miles to record for a minute or two. I also learned that running on the major roads during the week, is a lot different than on weekends. I wound up having to stop at a lot of cross walks. When I run on Saturday or Sunday there is not much traffic. That wasn’t the case on a Thursday morning.

So my running is pretty much done for 2020. I’ll go for some runs during the week, but now that the weather is getting colder, I will spend more time on my bike in the basement. It is probably just the high of finishing, but I am seriously thinking about the Zürich 1/2 marathon this spring. The only problem with that is the way they set out the course. They literally have the starting line at the 1/2 way point of the full marathon. That means about a 45 minute trip to get to the starting line, because it is on the opposite side of the lake from our apartment. Of course if I can get one of my friends to come run it with me, it would be worth the effort! Any Takers?

Zürich 1/2 Marathon Course

The sad thing, is that I have the time to devote to train for a full marathon. Not working gives me a lot of extra time each day. I am just not sure I have the desire to run another one. The one and only full marathon was in 1986. That was a long time ago.

Enough about the running 🙂

I have not gone and done any kind of statistical look up, but it sure feels colder this year than it did last year. Last year, I do not remember wearing gloves at all when I was out and about. This year, I’ve been wearing gloves every trip out of the house for the last week and a half. So either I am becoming Swiss (because these people CANNOT handle cold) or there is a temperature difference this year vs last. I know I commented on this last year, but I still laugh. When the temperature drops below 10 degrees (50 for my US followers) the winter coats come out, complete with wool hats and gloves. I think the high temperature for the last two weeks has been 2 or maybe 3 degrees (35 – 38). Once again, I have to say Fahrenheit is the superior temperature scale when it comes to comfort. Maybe it is because I am just not completely adjusted to the metric system.

Julie and I commented this morning, that we have already had more snow this year than all of last year. I think last year, we had snow three, maybe four, times, but it was just a dusting each time. The snow never accumulated, and it was gone by that afternoon. This week we actually got a real snow. We got about three inches, but it was enough that I learned why there are boxes of salt at the top of the hills. The street crews came out and plowed, and on the more heavily traveled hills actually used the salt on the roads. I don’t think, the Swiss have the same expectations as in the US about clearing your sidewalk, though. Very few people had cleaned their sidewalk by the next morning. So we had to wait for two days until the snow melted.

View from our balcony after the Schneesturm

That’s about all I have to say this week, except for: If you ever get the chance to try some rhubarb beer; take it. I was pleasantly surprised. It was much better than I thought it would be.

Talk to you next week!

26 November. 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well it is Thanksgiving Day in the US. In years past, the family would all be gathered in Mitchell, Indiana. I would start my day out in a hunting blind on one of our farms waiting for a deer to walk by. Some years I was successful, but many years, I had the simple pleasure of being alone with my thoughts watching the sun come up being thankful for the many blessings I had over the past year.

Picture from my last Indiana Hunt in 2018

The Swiss do not have a “Thanksgiving Day”. So Julie is at work. After I get done writing this post, I have some laundry to do, and I really need to mop the floors. (I have been really bad about that this week.). I have a zoom call set up with the Sorrells Family at 4 PM. My Mother and Father are recovering from Corona right now, so they are in quarantine. This will be the only way to get together this year. Then we have another video call at 9 PM with Julie’s family.

I spent the last week looking for a turkey breast to make for dinner tonight, but I had no luck. I told you the story already about the really expensive turkey, well I did find a frozen turkey. It was maybe a 10 pound bird. More than big enough for Julie and I. I decided to pass on that one as well. That one cost about $50. I decided that a chicken would be a better idea. Partly because I didn’t want to be eating leftovers for the next two weeks.

As I finish this short post, I am thinking how much I have to be Thankful for. My parents have gotten past COVID. I was a little worried last week. I honestly do not remember the last time my Father was laid up. I had a suitcase all ready to head back to the US; so I am thankful I didn’t need it. The kids seem to be doing well. It stinks that they won’t be able to come over during their semester break, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed for this summer. Julie’s parents seem to have recovered from their health scares this summer; so another thing to be thankful for. Julie likes the new company, her new boss, and her new job. While everything hasn’t gone according to our dreams; we are very thankful for the opportunities we have been given over the past year.

Julie and I did not get to travel like we thought we would. The virus has put travel on the back burner, but we still did some amazing things this year. Skiing near the Matterhorn, a train ride to the top of Jungfraujoch, and walking around Lisbon, Portugal, to name a few. I hope that next year brings many new adventures as well.

So as all of you in the US are sitting down to your large Thanksgiving Feast, or your socially distanced small meal, please remember what you are thankful for this year.

21 November. 2020

It has been a while since I wrote anything. The only big thing happening is and has been the election in the US. I have a lot I would like to say about what is happening back in my home country, but there are a couple of things I know: 1) People reading this blog are not reading it for my political views. 2) No matter what I would say 1/2 the people back in the US would agree and the other 1/2 would disagree; so better to just keep my views to myself, and my close friends! So the only political thing I will say, is that I hope the US people get themselves figured out soon; so our political leaders can start trying to solve problems instead of fighting with each other.

Yesterday, as I was putting my mask on to enter the grocery store, a young man came up and asked if I spoke English. It turned out he is a musician from Iceland. He and his band were on a European tour when COVID hit. Once the second wave of the virus started shutting down venues around Europe, they came to Switzerland, because the Government has ruled out a second shutdown for now. The band has been playing some bars in and around Zürich and Geneva. During the day, they are out trying to sell CD’s and get some living money. I told him I wouldn’t buy anything unless I could hear a sample. He pulled out his phone and started playing some. The music is a little darker than I am used to, but he agreed to sell me three CD’s for 30 CHf. I figured, “what the heck?” He is a young kid out beating the street trying to make a living, and I have heard a lot worse that counts as music. :). The band’s name is Illumenium. You can find a few singles on iTunes or You Tube Music.

Illumenium CD Covers

A high point of my day today was getting a package in the mail. I ordered some “ice socks” a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I actually clicked on a facebook ad. :).

Ice socks

I don’t think the socks are anything special. I just liked the designs. Another high point of the day was buying a new shopping trolley. Julie bought one right before we moved. She knew that we would need something to help carry groceries from the store to home since we wouldn’t have a car. The one she bought in the US, just wasn’t very strong. It actually began falling apart about 6 months ago, but I had been keeping it together literally with soda bottle tops, duct tape, and wire. The wheels on the old one finally started to break; so we needed another one. We went to a home goods store in Thalwil this morning, but what they had was over $400, and other than looking fancy, they didn’t appear any stronger than what we had. So we went downtown to some bigger stores. I found a new trolley that hopefully will last longer than 15 months.

Shopping Trolley

In earlier posts, I have complained about the hills, and talked about how hard running is. I reached another milestone this past week. I knew I was getting in better shape, when I was able to jog from my house to the top of the hill. It is 1/2 a mile from my house to the top of the hill. 1/4 of a mile is relatively flat, then I hit the hill for another 1/4 mile, but it took most of a year before I could jog the whole way up. Well, the train station is closer to the bottom of the hill. It is still about 1/2 a mile to the top of the hill, but it is going up the entire way. Last week, I was able to jog to the top of the hill from the train station. I was still slow, but I didn’t have to walk once. This is my lead in to my last plea for the St Judes Marathon.

This is the link to a fund raising page. If you have something to spare, the patients of St Jude thank you for any donation. Tomorrow I plan on going for a final long run before I run the 1/2 marathon. This year the race is virtual; so I won’t be running with my friends in Memphis. I am going to do an easier course. Run from my house to the Zürich Opera House and back. I am also thinking about signing up for the Zürich Half Marathon next April, but I haven’t made up my mind on that one.

Today, I am missing one of the best sports days of the year. Opening gun deer season in WI. I had promised myself, that I was only going to miss one year, and that was last year, but I just couldn’t risk putting myself on an airplane and potentially giving Covid to all my hunting friends. I really miss hunting, ALMOST as much as I miss seeing all my friends. I am hoping like heck that the world goes back to normal for 2021; so I can make a return trip to WI for some fresh venison and camaraderie.

I wish I had more pictures for you. We just simply haven’t really gone anyplace the last couple of weeks. Last weekend we did take a long hike from our house to the top of Uetliberg.

Route from our house to Uetliberg

So I have some pictures from the hike, but that is about it. I see from my clock that I have about an hour to get the Glüwein going for the IU football game; so I will be going for now. Talk to you soon.

5 November.2020

weekday ramblings

I have to hit the most pressing thing first. No, it is not the US Election. No, it is not COVID. The most pressing thing on my chin this morning is the toilet paper, after I cut myself shaving again. Why are razor blades made differently in Europe vs the US?

Way back in July and August, I had to make my return trip to the US. I knew I was running low on razor blades, so I figured I would pick up a pack where they were cheaper. I forgot to buy a BIG supply to bring back. (Well that isn’t really true. Someone I live with had ordered so much crap from Amazon, that I didn’t have any more room in my luggage.) I ran out of the US blades last week. I have cut myself now 3 of the last 6 days. I do not think I cut myself ONCE with the blades from the US. So what is the deal?

It isn’t a different razor. Before I moved, I had been using one of the delivery companies for razors; so I had to buy the razor over here. I went with a Gillette because I figured the blades would be the same everywhere. Stopping and thinking about it after I was done shaving this morning; I now think for the last year I had been cutting myself very frequently before going to the US, and didn’t think about it until I was on my 2nd piece of toilet paper this morning. I am looking for ideas, though I have another three weeks supply of blades on hand, so I will be shopping for a Gillette replacement soon.

COVID Situation

There hasn’t been any real change in the virus situation since I updated last week. We do have a mask mandate, the Military has been activated in some areas to relieve the hospitals, but that is about it. Since 22 October the number of new cases has not dropped below 5000 per day once. We are now about 7500 cases per day. I think it has gotten so bad the Government seems to have stopped reporting cases daily. I’ve been checking a couple of different websites, and now I see a dump of info about every 3 or 4 days. This has really made the charts wonky. I do think there will be official travel restrictions soon, but the Government really does not want to do that. The French Speaking cantons do not have official travel restrictions in place, but bars and restaurants are closed until the end of November so it would be pretty hard to travel anyway.

I did get the official word from the Government that the kids are still not able to come over. After the entrance policies were changed, the information was conflicting as to whether or not people from the US could come. So I sent off an email. I got the response on Monday “The persons mentioned do not meet the entry requirements, they cannot be allowed to enter Switzerland.” I have to admit, in some ways it makes perfect sense, in other ways it doesn’t make any sense at all. I get why in the middle of an emergency you don’t want people traveling. That being said. If you are concerned about the virus, it is a lot more dangerous IN Switzerland than outside of Switzerland. Oh well, the kids will be able to see one set of Grandparents for the holidays, and some of their Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. Hopefully, by next summer they can visit.


I’m not going to say a whole lot about the election. I am glad it is over. I hope the four or five states that haven’t been called, are able to get things counted soon, so that everyone can begin to move forward. I am convinced that President Trump will file lawsuit after lawsuit to try and get the counts to go his way. I am amused that on election night, he wanted to stop the counting in WI, MI, and PA, but continue counting in AZ and NV. I was also glad to see some Republicans finally push back against President Trump after his declaring victory.

I admit I am still sad for the United States. I truly had hoped for the Blue Wave; not because I am a raging liberal (though some of my Indiana friends think so), but I was hoping there could be some progress made on some of the real problems the US and the World has. I am sad that no matter the outcome of the presidential election we have set ourselves up for 4 more years of getting no where. If Trump wins, the only thing that will continue will be the nomination of rightwing judges. If Biden wins, nothing will happen because the Republican Senate will block every piece of legislation like they have done the last two years.

Oh well, I am happy that it looks like my good friend Paul Barlow will be buying me some good bourbon the next time we see each other. He bet on Trump, I bet on Biden.

Talk to you next week!