2 Juli, 2020

We have been back in town about 5 days, but I am already to head back to the mountains. Zürich, and the surrounding areas are really pretty, but scenery wise, I do not think I have ever seen anything like the alps before. The closest was Yosemite National Park in California. I do think Eowyn has been glad we are back.

The only time the cat has not been touching us, since we have been back, is when she is sitting on the balcony. She has slept on my arm every night. When we are gone for longer than two or three nights, I have a cat sitter that comes in every single day. The cat sitter spends an hour playing with her, cleaning the litter box, etc. Heck the cat probably gets treated better when we are gone. This time, the cat sitter even brought toys for her to play with at night. :).

Right before we went out of town, I kind of had my first run in with the Medical system. I say kind of, because the Wednesday before we left, I managed to break a tooth. It took a day of calling, but I finally found a Dentist that would see me. The dentist put on a temporary crown the day before we left. I have since been back to the dentist twice, once to get the permanent crown made, and another time for a cleaning. The dentist experience here was no worse than going to a dentist back home. I am thankful for that. I need to break down and get a Dr appointment for a physical. We were going to be doing that stuff back in the US, but since we can’t go back home any time soon… I just need to get it done.

We also had to get new glasses. I don’t remember if I talked about this before our trip or not, but glasses, are apparently a big thing over here. There are many optician offices within a mile of our house. I knew my vision had changed, as I was constantly taking my glasses on and off to focus. Most of the exam was the same as in the US. The only difference is to get a glaucoma test, you actually have to see a doctor. Glaucoma runs in Julie’s family, so I think we will be scheduling our first real doctor visit soon. Like everything glasses are more expensive over here, and there is no such thing as vision insurance at least that is what Amcor Human Resources told Julie when she was looking at insurance.

Julie is still on the two days in the office, two days working from home routine. For the most part Switzerland has Covid under control (at least it seems that way). To put it in perspective with the US, by population if Switzerland was a state, it would be the 11th or 12th largest state. It would fit between New Jersey and Virginia. These states are still having 400-500 new cases per day. Switzerland is on a slight uptick this week, we had been around 20 new cases, but now about 50 new cases per day. Still much less than many places in the US. However, her company recently told her they do not know when things will get back to normal. It was originally scheduled that next week all the employees will be back at work, but they are still taking it slowly. From what I read and see in the news, this is actually very common for companies here. I will say, for the most part, on our vacation outside of the train, there was no sign of Covid restrictions. On the train, it was like watching a game of Simon Says. Julie and I were typically the first ones on the train to don our masks, and if the car was even 1/2 full most people would pull a mask out of their pocket. That was only in the mountains, though. The closer we got to any city on the trains, the less people would worry about masks. I found that to be strange. Restaurant wise, the only place that worried about social distancing the tables, was a small Chinese restaurant in Grindelwald. They had every other table blocked off. In fact, the place could only seat 16 people due to Covid. How they stay in business is beyond me, because especially at dinner time, there is no concept of turning the tables. If you sit down at 6, you might stay there until 10.

Final brain fart: If anyone reading this is going to attend St Jude’s for Team David. Drop me a note with your fund raising page. Especially if you are looking at the Gold Level. Traveling back to the US for one weekend, doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially since we will hopefully be coming home a couple of weeks later for Christmas; so we want to spread our donation money around. If you haven’t signed up yet. There is still time, but I think some of the perqs have expired though. Here is the Team David Fundraising page:

The rest of the blog will be pictures. I am going to separate them by day. There may be some duplicates from my earlier posts, but what the hell, very few read this thing anyway!

Glacier Canyon Video

The Canyon was formed by the Lower Grindelwald Glacier. This Glacier does not exist any more, but the Lütschine flows through the floor of the canyon. During the winter months the water flow is much lower. Once spring hits, the river is flowing wildly from the melting snow.

The walls of the canyon are approximately 300 meters high. Julie and I both were amazed at the differences in temperature and wind levels. One section, you could barely feel the wind, but 100 meters up the trail it felt like a mini tornado.

First Berg Cliff Walk

The First is one of the minor mountains around Grindelwald. It is a very popular hiking destination in the summer. The winter months it is filled with skiiers! The mountain is only 7,106 feet above sea level. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is almost 4000 feet higher than the city proper. :).

CLiff walk video

26 Juni.2020

Today is the last day of our Alps vacation. It has been a fascinating week. We have spent a lot of time hiking. We took the train down the mountains to Interlaken, and took an afternoon cruise on Thunersee (Lake Thun). I hope the week was relaxing for Julie. Other than the week we went back to the US at Christmas, this has been her only week off since we moved here. Julie has always been a very dedicated and hard working employee, but the last two years has been incredibly hard. Getting ready for the sale of Bemis, and not knowing what was going to happen with her job, made 2018-2019 stressful, and then dealing with the move and getting the new company straightened out 🙂 has made 2019 – 2020 every bit as challenging.

After visiting Lauterbrunnen, we decided to go up. Tuesday we went up the First and took a hike to Bachalpsee and had lunch.


It takes about 30 minutes by Gondola to get from the bottom of the mountain to the top. We were able to have a very pleasant trip with two Gentlemen from Geneva that were also spending a few days here. I think Julieś favorite part of the ride was getting to pet a dog again. One of the gentlemen brought his golden retreiver along. Upon arriving at the destination, your first adventure is the cliff walk. This is a 3 foot wide metal walkway attached to side of the cliff, and you get a little taste of rock climbing. Well kind of a taste, because there is no effort other than walking, and you are in absolutely no danger, but Julie was a little freaked out by the experience, and did not want to stop touching the cliff. I guess she has a little fear of heights! After taking the path Julie stayed at the restaurant and had a stiff drink, while I grabbed my GoPro and took the walk again. I will be editing the video down a little next week, and sharing it with you!

Cliff Walk

Side note. I am sitting here writing this, and realizing that sometimes I really do not like technology. 🙂 I think I am going to have to have a third post, because a bunch of the pictures are stuck between my iphone and the cloud! I bring three cameras with me everywhere we go. I have the iphone, a Sony Digital camera, and a GoPro for video. It is really easy to sync the pictures from the Digital Camera, the GoPro, and my Google Chromebook (this is my travel computer). However, Apple doesn play well with other infrastructures, so I have to use my iCloud account download the pictures from the iphone. Well, I forgot that iCloud does not sync off of data, and the wifi at the hotel leaves a lot to be desired, so there are about 250 more pictures on my iphone that I can get put in the blog. I should probably take more time, and go through weeding out pictures, but I do not pretend to be a proffessional the intent is to share. So you get them all!

Back to the trip: One thing that is really different here, is that outside you see many elderly people out hiking. The trip to the lake is a little over 4 miles round trip. Up and down some pretty steep climbs, but I would estimate at least 1/2 the people on the walk were over the age of 65. It gives me a lot of hope for our next 30 years! I also got a kick out of the young parents pushing strollers, and carrying kids on their backs. I kept thinking, ¨I really do not miss those days.” That is hard work. Most of the snow was gone, but on the north side of the mountains there were some remnants left, and when I get the pictures synced, I will share some of Julie and I walking on the snow.

On Wednesday, we went even higher. Jungfrauberg (Mount Jungfrau) is one of the highest mountains in Switzerland. It also has the distinction of having the highest elevation for a train station in Europe. We caught a train in Grindelwald, and went all the way up. The trains are kind of fascinating to me. I know they exist in the US, but here cogwheel trains are pretty common. The mountains are to steep for a traditional train, so a cogwheel train has the drive part in the center of the train, and the cogs drive the train up the tracks, and the wheels are there for the most part purely to keep the train on the track.

Cog Wheel Tracks

It takes about an hour and a half to get all the way up the mountain. at the top you are at 11,000 feet. Julie kept complaining that she was feeling woozy. I tried to explain to her about altitude sickness, but I do not think she really grasped it until we were back down the mountain. She kept telling me that one second she was feeling strange, but all of a sudden she felt great. 🙂 The Jungfrau is high enough the snow stays year around. There are a lot of people that bring skis with them on the trip. That seems like a little to much work to me, though, because you can only ski so far down, and then you have to walk back up to ski down again. 🙂 Though if we get the chance to go skiing this coming winter, I think I want to come back here. The ski slopes looked amazing. They are building a new high speed gondola, that will take you from Grindelwald about 3/4 of the way up the mountain in 1/2 the time it takes the train. Most of the people going to the top go for a long hike on top of the glacier, but with Julieś hurt knee we decided not to take that trek. So instead we sat on the glacier and enjoyed hot chocolate and Baileys. (Personally I think we made the smarter decision, but to each their own.)

After spending two days up high, we decided on a change of pace. We are about 30 minutes away from Interlaken, so we took the train all the way down the mountains, and took a lake cruise on Thunersee (Lake Thun). The lake stretches 11 or 12 miles from Interlaken to Thun. The lake is about 2.5 miles wide, and the AVERAGE depth is 440 feet. We got in a little trouble on the cruise, because I convinced Julie to go up and sit on the first class deck. I pretended not to know any German, so the deck hand was actually very nice in explaining to us that we were in the wrong spot. 🙂 Honestly, though it did not make much sense to me. One wooden bench is as uncomfortable as the next one. It was a very relaxing day, the different scenery was still breathtaking. I was very impressed with the road engineering.

Someone was hanging way over the edge to build this one!

So today we are taking our last hike. We have decided to take the gondola to the top of the First and we are going to hike down. We thought about doing it the other way, but that sounded much harder.

I hope you enjoy this batch of pictures. I will get some more up when we get back to Rüshlikon. Next week I will have some video to add as well.

22 Juni, 2020

Julie needed to get away from work for a bit, so we decided to go on vacation for a week. We were originally planning on spending the week in Austria; since the boarders have opened back. However, her company has said that if you travel outside the country on mass transit, you have to self quarantine for two weeks. What makes ZERO sense to me, is that we have spent more time on mass transit traveling to Grindelwald, than we would have spent traveling to Austria. Oh well, sometimes logic doesn’t make any sense. I am doing a mid week blog post, because the amount of pictures I am taking will make it necessary.

Before leaving for the mountains, I finally was able to get an interview with a school in town so I could discuss volunteering next year. I have been a little afraid that I was going to have to change the name of this blog, because I couldn’t get any education content at all. I was not getting any schools returning my emails. So the pitch was changed. The last email did not talk about volunteering it was a brief introduction and the wish to meet and learn more about the Swiss Education System. It worked! I had a wonderful meeting with the “Principal” of one of the primary schools in town. A primary school in Switzerland is K – 8. I put the word principal in quotes, because even though there are multiple primary schools in town, there is no school district. Each school is independent of the others. Herr Müller informed me that he reports directly to the canton of Zürich. So basically the head of the school reports directly to the Department of Instruction at the State level.

Rüshlikon Primary Schule

We talked about some of the different problems that he faces. For one thing, about 60% of his students do not speak Swiss German or even German at all. By law the instruction has to be given in the official language of the canton, so German as a second language classes are always full. What amazed me the most, is the number of languages he has to worry about. This year he told me they have 30 different languages being spoken in the school. That is a lot of interpreters. Another difference between schools here and the US: In the US for some reason private schools are looked on as better education systems than the public schools. (I personally disagree with that feeling. The biggest reason being is that private schools get to pick and choose their students, public schools do not get that luxury.) In Switzerland everyone I have spoken with has said the public schools are a much better education option than the private schools. This feeling seems to be backed up anecdotely from the executives at Julie’s company. At least two of the senior executives have moved their families back to their home countries for their High School education. Their feeling is that the private (international) schools here will not prepare the students for college. The problem for a lot of expat workers is the language. Yes they make every effort to make sure the student is going to learn and learn in the language, but if you know you are only going to be here for a couple of years, learning German is a very big burden to overcome in relation to all the other education items a young person needs.

The school I interviewed with is getting ready for a 1:1 program next fall. I think I was able to get the Principal’s attention when I talked a little about implementing the 1:1 program at Winneconne a few years ago. So hopefully in the coming months I will have some education blog posts. Hey Winneconne Administrators, if you get a phone call in the coming weeks from someone with a thick accent: PLEASE say nice things about me, don’t tell him the truth! 🙂

The mountain in the background is named the Eiger. The town of Grindelwald is nestled in the valley, and is one of two start points to the “Top of Europe”. It isn’t the highest elevation in Europe, but it is the highest elevation for a train station in Europe. Tomorrow morning when when we go to the Jungfrau, the train ride is about an hour long, up alongside, and through the Eiger. If you have ever seen the movie ” On Her Majesties Secret Service” ( I believe it was the only James Bond movie that George Lazenby made. After all who could hope to follow Sean Connery!) you know the part of Switzerland we are visiting.

We have done a lot of hiking the last two days, which is great for me, but not so much for Julie. Julie realized how much she has been working the last few months, and had decided to start the Couch to 5K program. She was in week 4, and took a bad step off a curb and hurt her knee. She has been a trooper though. Each day we have logged at least 6 miles with nary a complaint.

Our first day here we checked into the hotel, and just relaxed. It turned out, though we were the awful Americans who don’t follow the rules. The Hot Tub had a sign that limited it to two people at time. Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t near the hot tub. so Julie got yelled at for climbing into the tub when there were people already there. The other BIG Faux Pas, is that we were in our swimsuits. We bothed missed the sign on the door that had a picture of a swimsuit with an X. So not only were we ignoring the Coronoa Virus rules, we were clothed. 🙂 What got me on the swimsuit though was the disrobing area was in the hallway down to the pool. You have to wear swimsuits in the pool, so I didn’t think the “get naked area” would have been that public. Oh well!

The next day we explored the town, and went through the Glacier Canyon. The canyon was beautiful, about 1/2 of the pictures are from the canyon. We also were able to have a nice picnic on the hike. We found a little clearing by one of the many streams, and spread out the blanket for a nice relaxing lunch.

Our second day here, we visited the town of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is in another valley around the Eiger. In many of the tour guides it is also referred to as Water Fall Valley. I have to say Lauterbrunnen is a much prettier town than Grindelwald, but the lodging options were a lot less. I have been fortunate to do a lot of traveling in the US. I have seen many of the National Parks, and until yesterday, I always thought of Yosemite National Park as the prettiest place I had ever seen. The Lauterbrunnen valley is amazing. Literally you are in between two cliff walls that are approximately 1000 feet high. I have not ever experienced feeling so small. I have a lot of pictures of the valley, but NONE of them even come close to capturing the magnificence of the mountain walls.

Staubbach Falls

The image above is Staubbach Falls, it is one of the very first things you see when coming into Lauterbrunnen. The falls are 297 meters high. The falls were measured in 1776 by a team of men that climbed the cliff trailing rope! The 2nd most impressive water display is Trümmelbachfälle. These falls are in the process of cutting a canyon down the middle of the mountain. Only the last two falls were visible until 1877, when some enterprising person cut a tunnel up through the mountain! The amount of water in the falls varies greatly. From December to March there is just a little stream trickling down under thick sheets of ice. After frosty nights in April and October the flow of water measures only a few dozen litres a second. But between April and June, when the snow melts, and between June and September, when the glacier ice melts, as well as after heavy rain and thunderstorms, as much as 20’000 litres a second may come thundering through the rocky defile. The little stream becomes a mighty river.

I have some video of inside the falls that I will get up in the next week or so. I didn’t bring my macbook with me for video editing. Trying to edit video on a chromebook, is not the most enjoyable experience!

Anyway, this is all I am going to write for the day. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will try and get one more post up this week, but I do post frequent pictures on Instagram (gwsorrellsiii) or twitter (@gwsorrells).

17 Juni.2020

Well it has been a while since I have written anything. Primarily because there was nothing to write about. I know this is not true for Julie, but for me life is more boring now than it has ever been. The routine is pretty much the same day to day. I think it would have been easier to be a Hausmann if we had kids here. At least yelling at them to pick up their toys, and not throw their clothes all over the bathroom would give me something to do. 🙂

On a positive note. I have finally heard back from a school. I have a meeting with the “Principal” on Friday afternoon. I am not sure I will be able to volunteer for them though. I reached out via twitter and have learned that the rules and qualifications for working in the public schools are much more strict than in the US. The recommendation I have been given is to look to some of the private or international schools. I guess this is similar to the education structure in the US. The private schools do not have to follow the same requirements as the public schools. I have also been made aware that it is rare for volunteers to be found working at a school. I guess I will know more in a couple of days.

I have been able to find some interesting facts about becoming a teacher here. First off, the pay is pretty good. Last year the starting salary for a “primary teacher” was over 60,000 CHF per year. (NOTE: 1 CHF is roughly equal to $1). The median salary for all teachers is about 160,000 CHF per year. In Switzerland, there are apparently different types of diplomas. Now I say apparently, because sometimes my translations are really bad! But to teach at the primary level. You need a Bachelors degree with a teaching diploma. To teach at the secondary level (think High School), you need the Bachelors degree and a Masters degree. It takes about three years to get the first degree, and them another two years for the Masters. One thing I am really looking forward to finding out on Friday is the supervisory structure. From what I can tell, the public schools are run by the community, There is no school board. Just like in the US, each Canton has their own policies and requirements for the schools in their area. There are also federal dollars and some control; again like the US. Hopefully, I will be learning more soon.

Got another lesson in differences between the US and Switzerland yesterday. I am about 6 months overdue for an eye exam. I was going to get one when I was back in the US, but that didn’t happen; so I made an appointment at one of the many local optician stores. Glasses stores see, to be everywhere here. There are 4 or 5 within a mile of our apartment. You go to any large town, and there are “glasses” stores on every block. I was trying to put off the exam, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Anytime I am on the computer, or trying to read something on my phone, the glasses go off and on every couple of seconds. Glasses with lenses are expensive. Between Julie and I, we will spend close to $4000 on new frames, and lenses. I did get lucky. The optician was able to simply replace the lenses in my sun glasses, but my normal glasses also require new frames. Hopefully next time, if my eyes change again, I will only have to do lenses. We have not been able to find anything like vision insurance over here,. Which is to bad. or maybe that is a new business I should start!

I’m also learning about the dental industry here. Exams and cleanings were also something we were going to do when we were back in the US, but last night I somehow managed to lose 1/2 a crown. I was very thankful for the english capabilities of the people in the different offices I called. I was able to get the basics of my call done in German, but then when they asked if I wanted a checkup, or something else. I was having a hard time with the german. I know the german word for crown is krone. However, there must be a different word if the crown you are talking about is on a tooth, because it really seemed to confuse the people I spoke with. So tomorrow afternoon I have a dentist appointment. I will let you know how it goes.

Julie and I leave Saturday morning for a week in the Alps. We are going to a little town named Grindelwald. James Bond fans will know this town from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Parts of this movie were filmed in Grindelwald, and the surrounding areas. I think I am going to see if I can find the movie to watch sometime before we go! Anyway, we will be spending a week up in the mountains. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not particularly good; so you may get a lot of boring updates because we can’t see anything.

Oh I almost forgot the biggest news of all! It turns out that Julie and I are delinquent with our taxes. Way back in January, I spent a couple of days getting all the information entered so that Ernst and Young (who AMCOR pays big $$$ to) can do our Swiss and US taxes. Well COVID pushed back all the tax deadlines, but the Swiss deadline was in May. Of course EY has missed that deadline. I know it is my fault for not knowing this, but when we registered it wasn’t like someone pointed out this is tax day. When I learned that someone else was filing for us, I figured they would know the deadlines. This whole process has been a joke, though. I’ve had to go back and re submit the exact same information at least three times. I just hope that EY is going to be paying the penalties and interest.

1. Juni 2020

I have to admit I feel kind of guilty writing this post. The US seems to be coming apart at the seams over the last couple of days. Julie and I have a lot of friends right in the thick of what is going on in Minneapolis. We pray every day, that our home country will come to its sense and get it’s collective head out of it’s you know where. I am thankful I have had the chance to travel, and experience many different things in my life. It has taught me there are all kinds of differing viewpoints, but even though you may not think the same, you can still treat everyone with dignity and kindness. I long for those days where people treat other with kindness to return.

Switzerland is slowly starting to lift the lockdown restrictions. We are in our last week of phase two in opening up. By and large things are open back up. Stores, restaurants, bars, public transportation, etc… are back up and running. There are some restrictions such as social distance requirements, numbers of guests allowed, dividers up between tables, and shorter hours. Next week we move into phase three. The social distance requirements are the same, but larger venues can open back up. I believe that events of 100 can be held, churches, can re open, and some entry points to the country will open up. The borders between Germany, Austria, and Switzerland all open, but there are still restrictions for air travel.

Julie and I were going to visit Salzburg, Austria in June, but her company instituted a two week quarantine if you leave Switzerland, so we are pushing that off until later. We have instead booked a week trip to the Alps; so later this month you will be inundated with pictures of mountains!

We did visit Bern this past weekend. Bern is the capital of Switzerland. It is a beautiful city. Like many places in Europe there is a huge difference between the old and the new sections of the city. The video below shows two of Bern’s biggest tourist attractions.


We really were only there one day, so we didn’t get to see a lot. We got in Friday evening, just in time for dinner, and then we came back home Sunday morning after we had to check out of the hotel.

A big part of experience was food! Friday was my Birthday so we went out to a restaurant down by the river. It was a great walk down, and very beautiful in the river bottoms. Julie as usual thought I was crazy, because I ordered RindsTartar (Raw Beef) for dinner, but it was excellent! I have to admit I was a little disappointed that cake platter didn’t read Glücklich Geburtstag instead of Happy Birthday, but as usual the servers got a kick out of my awful language abilities. Someday I hope to get credit for trying, though! 🙂 ( and yes I took a bite before remembering to take a picture!)

Birthday Cake

Saturday, we really overdid it in regards to food. We have found many different places over here that you pay for your meal by course. You have your choice of four to six courses, and the prices change by how many courses you choose. The restaurant we went to Saturday night was literally the most impressive food I have ever had. I chose all six courses. The wonderful thing is that each course was only a few bites of food. It was almost like a tasting, but it worked because at the end I was pleasantly full, not over stuffed. The meal started with a white asparagus and hollandaise sauce, continued with Salmon, Duck, Pork, Cheese Plate, and Dessert! The other thing that was wild, was a different wine paired with each course. What knocked us off our chairs at the end of the meal, however, was finding out that each wine cost an additional 12 – 15 francs. So by the end of the meal, we had an additional 250 franc charge for wine!!!! We just laughed about it realizing that we had only eaten out once in the last two and a half months, so we just made up for lost time all at once!

Legend has it that Bern got it’s name from the founder because a bear was the first animal he killed after arrival. The bear has been on the flag from the very beginning of the city. The City of Bern began keeping bears in a pit in the year 1513. Bears have been kept in a pit ever since. From 1857 through 2009 the bears have been kept in the pit pictured in the video. In the early 2000’s though there had been so many complaints about the way the bears were being kept the city had to come up with a different solution. So in 2009 the current bear park was created. The bears now have access to approximately 5 acres of land to roam. Still not like the wild, but much better than most zoos.

Bern’s flag

Two other things that are distinctive to Bern are the Zytglogge tower and what I call one of the first outdoor shopping malls. The Zytglogge tower was originally part of the city walls. It was built around 1218. The tower has served as a guard tower and a prison before becoming a clock tower in the early 1400’s. The clock has received numerous upgrades over the centuries. However, it looks the same as it looked in the 1700’s. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed by the clock. Julie and I were thinking the figures moved on the hour, so we get there first at 10:59. waited for a minute, and all we got was the bell ringing, and the king figure moving his staff in time with the bell. We came back at 11:55 thinking maybe the figures moved at the 12’s. at 11:56. the cock crowed, and the figures started moving so I captured the video, they moved for about 30 seconds, and then stopped. Three minutes later the bell was ringing. It was after that we did a little checking and found the figures only move at 4 minutes to the hour. 🙂 The covered sidewalks were not part of the original city plan. In the old city, though, the streets were much wider than traditional european cities for some reason. After the city was ravaged by fire in 1405 the old city was rebuilt in stone. When this happened, they kept the streets the same size, but people wanted larger houses. Since the housing was all above the businesses, when things were rebuilt the houses were extended about 10 feet creating covered sidewalks, but giving the home owners more room. So though many people think the sidewalks were created to make things nicer for customers, the reality is that people wanted more room in their house!

The rest of our Saturday was spent with me standing on the sidewalks, as Julie went shopping! Thank goodness there really wasn’t anything she needed, or even wanted. The budget took a big hit on food! All in all Bern is a neat city to visit. Julie and I will definitely be going back. There are a bunch of museums we did not get to visit. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Alpine Horn on the streets of Bern