27 Oktober 2021

So this week has been one with a lot of frustration, and it is only Wednesday! I am hoping that by the end of the week it will be a bit better.

So Julie and I have been having cable TV problems for a few weeks now. The cable box simply decides to reboot itself. Some days it might be only once. The worst day has been five times in a 50 minute window. As a technology person the one thing I always feared were problems that seemed random. They are always frustrating to the user as well as the “fixer” so I know a little about how the technicians at Sunrise/UPC are feeling. What is the most frustrating is that we pay for cable TV, yet we really only use it for about 50 minutes a day. When we are having our morning coffee and breakfast the BBC is on; so we can see about the weather, and keep up with what is happening in the world without having to consult a dictionary every 30 seconds. So when the TV reboots itself multiple times in that 50 minute window it becomes very annoying.

I am convinced it has something to do with the construction going on around us. The reboots ONLY happen when someone is working. However, UPC does not appear to share my concern. At this point I am going to give them two more weeks, and then I call a competitor.

My second frustration has me convinced that if travel does not pick up after the pandemic, it is solely due to the airlines. I do understand they have it tough. They lost a lot of business starting in 2020 and that money is lost forever. They have scaled back in a lot of ways, but this has also made the travel experience that much worse.

It started off with the kids coming over this summer. Kaylee somehow managed to not have any major changes in their flights, but George and Gabby were a different story. The morning they were departing, the flight was cancelled at 3:00 AM. They did get a text message about the flight, but who in the heck reads text messages when they come in at 3:00 AM? Most of us have gotten to the point we do not even have an audio notification to a message we just get a visual pop up. By the time they woke up and found the notice they should have already been at the airport boarding the one other flight that was leaving that day. It was nice in that we got to spend another day with the kids, but a pain in the butt for them.

Like a good traveler I made my reservations for Christmas months ago. We try and schedule the non-stop flight from Zürich to Chicago, and then connect to Indianapolis from there. It should have the least amount of headaches, because there are multiple flights all day every day from Chicago, or if the worst happens, we can rent a car and drive to southern Indiana without that much of a headache. So the first change was fly to Washington and then to Indiana. Not that big a deal, still just one stop. The next change was fly to Newark, then to Indiana. Again not a big deal. The icing on the cake came this week. We fly from Zürich to Newark, Newark to Chicago, and Chicago to Indianapolis. Even worse we only have 1.5 hours to get through customs in Newark and to the new terminal, and 40 minutes to change terminals in Chicago. The other thing that made me angry is that instead of getting into Indianapolis at 7:00 PM we do not get in until 10:50 PM. That 4 hours is the difference between being able to sleep at our destination vs having to pay for a hotel for the night, because I will be exhausted.

Now I have not had the pleasure for flying into Newark from over seas. Maybe it is possible to get through customs that quickly, that is not my experience in any other airport I have visited though. So if we miss that flight we spend the night in the airport. You know they will not put us up in a hotel, because the airline does not control how fast customs moves. Assuming everything goes perfectly and we make the flight in Newark. What do you think the odds are that this plane takes off on time? So now we probably miss the flight to Indianapolis. So the way I see it, unless everything goes absolutely perfect, there is almost zero chance we make it home without having to spend a night in an airport.

Here is what makes me INCREDIBLY ANGRY. So I am logged into the United website. I am looking at all the available flights they have. Somehow the original flight we had booked is now back on the schedule. So I wait for my 90 minutes on the phone and ask about that flight. I asked why we just cannot go back to the original flights we had reserved. I was politely informed that is possible, but it will cost an additional $4500 per ticket!!!!! To get back on the SAME flight that I booked originally, and UNITED kicked me off? I have many things I can call that situation, but the most polite is BULL SHIRT!

In United’s defense the flight is a Swiss Air flight, but because United has limited flights into Zürich they have a partnership with Lufthansa (they own Swiss). So I do not really know which company kicked us off the flight, but it does not seem right that I have to pay extra to get back on a plane that I originally booked, and that I did not choose to leave. The other part of this situation that really honks me off, is that looking on the website there were multiple ways to complete our flights that were easier. For example, if I wanted to have a 2.5 hour layover in Newark there was a directy flight to Indianapolis, that I could take instead of routing through Chicago. It gets me there almost three hours faster, and United does not have to pay for the added weight on the third flight. To me that saves them money. I guess I need someone that knows airline economics to tell me if that is true, or not. It sure makes them more money for me to have some convenience because they wanted to charge me an extra $300 per ticket to make that flight.

There is a very strong possibility I am over reacting to this. I would guess that before now, I averaged 1.5 flights per year. We thought we would be flying a lot moving here, but I am still just a little above average. I have flown twice a year since moving here. I just know on my two trips back to the US, I have not had any issues with flight changes, but this year they have been awful. Even worse it seems the flight changes are never in the favor of the passenger.

What makes me even more upset, is that I am already looking at giving the airlines even more money in 2022. Julie and I want to visit Budapest and Greece. Both of these trips will involve air travel. Not to mention, Julie really needs to fly back to the US in the spring to visit her parents. She has not spent any time with them in three years. I guess the bottom line is that I really need to meet one of those incredibly rich people that supposedly live here in Switzerland. I need to find that one friend, and convince him to let me use his private jet whenever I need one! I guess I need to start hanging out at different places than the grocery store and library. How hard is it NOT to become an alcoholic but drink every day? Asking for a friend…

Not much else to report this week. The weather is definitely heading toward fall. We do not see the sun much anymore, and the temperature is down in the single digits every morning. We will be driving to the town of Murten this weekend. Murten is located right on the border between the French and German sections of Switzerland. In fact, so far it has been the first city that I have always seen the french name and the german name used together. The town is called Morat in French. The town is one of the few that have preserved the medieval city walls that surrounded the population. So next week I should have some more pictures to view instead of simply reading my rants.

I hope you have a good week.

Talk to you soon.

two years and here are some of the things I am still confused about. :)

7 Oktober 2021

At age 54 my wife and I really never thought we would find ourselves selling almost everything we owned and putting down roots in a country where we did not even speak the language. Yet, here we are two years later. Our initial thought was that we would spend a couple of years touring Europe every weekend, but of course Covid and the pandemic put a HUGE crimp in those plans. We have had the chance to explore in Switzerland. Even after two years, here are some of the things I still just do not fully understand.

Why does switzerland not have a capital and why is it really bern?

In most European countries the capital city is also the most “important” city in the country. Whether that means population size, or industrial might, there was something that caused that city to become the capital city. In Switzerland Bern is only the sixth largest city. When the Confederation of Helvitica was started in 1291 until 1798 the capital city was wherever the Federal Diet chose to meet. This rotated between the cantons. After Napoleon invaded in order to centralize the government he initially set the capital in Aarau and then Luzern. In 1803 the Diet then began rotating between six of the cantons. This system lasted until 1848.

In 1848 parliament voted to seat the federal government in Bern. The feeling at the time seemed to be that Bern is located centrally in the country, and it was already a large enough city to handle the growth that seating the government would bring. Here is the important part. In all of the laws that set the federal government to meet in Bern, none of the laws call Bern the capital. The laws simply state The Federal Assembly meets in Bern and The official seat of the Council, Departments, and Chancellery is the City of Bern. Not one law officially calls Bern the Capital. The old wives tale is that this goes back to the days of the initial federation. Not one city or canton is supposed to be more important than any other.

For all practical purposes though, Bern is the capital of Switzerland.

when is toast not toast?

Which of these is Toast? As someone from North America, I would say the picture above this text is bread, and the picture to the right of this text is toast. To me toast is made when the bread goes through the chemical reaction caused by applying heat to bread.

In Switzerland though, the “bread” in the top picture is called toast, and as near as I can tell there is not another word for the careful burning of the bread. So my english speaking mind gets confused when a breakfast place asks if I want my toast toasted. 🙂

The bread Switzerland seems best known for is Zopf. It is made from white flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, and milk. Before baking the dough is rolled out in 4 long strings and then braided. The Swiss traditionally eat Zopf on Sunday mornings, but Julie and I have found it makes wonderful “French Toast” and also really good sandwiches!

I found some amazing arguments online between people arguing about toast, and when bread becomes toast, but I have never found any explanations as to how the square bread came to be called toast. I think it may be because real brot (bread) is probably never put in a toaster. At one point it seemed someone was going to report me to the local authorities when I made the mistake of saying online that I made french toast with Zopf! I think I made the mistake of admitting to a mortal sin here in Switzerland.

Where can I find swiss cheese in switzerland?

People in the US know all about Swiss Cheese. It is a very mild flavored cheese. It is white in color. Some times there are more holes in a slice than actual cheese. Well over here the vast majority of the cheese is “Swiss” cheese. This is only because the majority of the cheese you find in Switzerland is made in Switzerland. Unfortunately, we have never been able to find the exact cheese we are looking for.

What North Americans think of as swiss cheese is basically a knockoff of a true swiss cheese called emmantaler. A true emmantaler is much harder than the cheese we were looking for and it has a stronger taste. It turns out the cheese that tastes most like the swiss cheese we were used to is actually Dutch!

I thought for the last 25 years I was living in the cheese capital of the world, Wisconsin. Sorry Cheeseheads…. There is really no comparison. The styles and varieties of cheese you find everywhere are leaps and bounds above anything I ever found in Wisconsin. Even in the smallest grocery you will find varieties of cheese that could only be found in specialty stores in the US.

The only cheese product I have found missing in Switzerland are cheese curds. I really miss that squeaky goodness that is only found in a fresh cheese curd. Oh well, in about 6 weeks I will be back in Wisconsin for deer hunting, and I will be looking for that first Kwik Trip across the border from Illinois so I can buy a bag.

how did a country this small not develop one common language?

Language is normally the one thing that every citizen in a country shares. Sure there might be dialect differences, but the base language is the same. This never happened in Switzerland. The best explanation I found for this is that Switzerland is a country of “will” not of shared culture. The 26 cantons were originally separate sovereign states that agreed to work together because they were stronger together than by themselves. Each one had it’s own customs, army, and language. When the 26 cantons agreed to work together and forge a federal government there were agreements that each canton could keep the language they were using.

Here is the breakdown by language. About 68% of the country speaks German. (This is even more fragmented, because there are multiple dialects of German through the country.) 23% of the country speaks French. 8% speaks Italian. Less than 1% of the country speaks Romansh. I do not think I have ever heard Romansh being spoken, but I have read it is a combination of Latin and Italian.

Outsiders view having four languages strange. I admit, it does make reading instructions on packages more difficult. The print has to be a LOT smaller than normal, because instructions are always written in German, French, and Italian. (The Romansh speakers get the short end.) Sometimes it can be frustrating, but in any tourist related operation English is always spoken, and the only places I have had to rely totally on my limited German are grocery stores and gas stations. Even in those places, if we are completely unable to communicate the employee always goes to find one person that speaks English. 🙂 I think the Swiss take great pride in the fact that language is not a part of what makes them Swiss. When I think about the language barriers in the country, I always think about an article I was reading during the European Soccer Cup this past summer. The Swiss team did very well, and for a couple of weeks the soccer team was the main thing in the news. The article asked how fans of the team interact with other fans from a different part of the country. The answer was simply “We yell and cheer in our native languages, and then when we need to really say something, we all talk in English.”

A final thought

This weekend is one of those times living far away from family is tough. My Mom’s side of the family is getting together to celebrate the life of my Uncle Jerry Sadek. My Uncle Jerry came into my life when I was a very young boy. One of my most vivid memories of Jerry, was the look of concern on his face after I woke up in the first aid room at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort. Jerry and I thought it would be a good idea to go skiing the morning after I drove straight through from Indiana. I got about 200 yards from the ski lift and passed out from a combination of altitude and exhaustion. Jerry skied down the mountain behind the ski patrol sled and waited for me to wake up!

Jerry was a man that loved hard and played hard. He was the life of every party he attended. He could sometimes be gruff and annoying, but in the end you knew he always had your back. That he would do his very best to protect and defend the ones he loved. We had a lot of good times on the slopes of Breckenridge, and the beaches of Hilton Head. Family get together s will not quite have that same spark for a while. I am sure the rangers on heaven’s golf course will be kept pretty busy for the rest of eternity.

1 October 2021

What happened this week? Well….. I went to the dentist for the third week in a row. Julie has a wrist that will not stop hurting, and road repair season has started near our apartment.

In regards to the road repair, I think we will be living with this one all winter long. According to our landlord, and a letter from the town, the town is replacing all the sewer lines. Back when the lines were installed there was no thought of separating storm water from “black water”. So there was one big pipe run, and that handled everything. Unfortunately, as many communities have learned YES, MILWAUKEE, WI I am talking about you. That can be a big problem with a lot of raw sewage being released. Thank goodness they have not had that problem here, but the increase in rain the last few years has the town worried about the future. They are digging up all the sewer lines, and then installing separate runs for the two systems. I am being hopeful that there will be no emergencies on this block for the next few months, because access via the street is going to be very limited the next few months. Between the construction on houses and the street there will be many times that you will not be able to get to our apartment by car.

We got another good lesson this week on how the Swiss government handles immigration. One thing that does make immigration management easier is that thousands of people are not lined up at the border to get here. The federal government sets the rules, and sets the quotas on who can come in. The canton (state) government is responsible for approving immigration, ensuring the quotas are kept, and they run the verification systems. The local government is responsible for monitoring where everyone is living. We got another example of how efficient this system is just a few days ago.

If you remember from a couple of months ago, Julie had to have her passport renewed. I was so impressed with how quickly the US government replaced her passport. On Tuesday, Julie got a letter from the town. The letter was reminding her that the passport was set to expire in November, and prompting her to get it renewed if she had not done so. They also requested that she make a copy of the passport and get it to the town hall.

Efficient, may not be the correct word, but it is what comes to mind. One drawback to this system, is that some cantons interpret the rules differently, and once a decision is made there does not seem to be a means of appeal. I was reading an online post from someone in my shoes. This person is a non-eu citizen, and is here with a spouse. Like me, this person is wanting to work, but unlike me the canton they live did not grant him/her a work permit. Unfortunately, she cannot appeal the decision. There could be more to the story. For example, I had to prove that I met the requirements for a “highly skilled” individual. (No jokes from the gallery on that one.) Meeting that requirement involved my resume and college transcripts. I wonder if this move had happened 20 years ago, when I was just getting out of college with my MIS degree. I am sure there is not much demand for immigrant retail managers here, and would just having a degree but no experience be enough to consider me highly skilled? Of course the kids would have been little then; so I probably would have still had to be the Hausmann. It is hard to work, when the kids come home for an hour or two every day for lunch.

In other Swiss news….. There was a referendum over gay marriage last week. It passed with about 65% of the vote. This is not going to be like the US where the day the courts ruled marriage constitutional people started queuing up. According to some of the reports I have seen, it might be a year or more before same sex marriage is fully in place. Same sex couples are seen by the law as equal in almost all ways. The two big things that will change are: 1) partners can jointly adopt now where before only one “parent” could legally adopt. 2) lesbian couples can now seek medical help having a baby. Not sure how that last one was ever enforced, because a single woman could get fertility treatments, but not a lesbian? I guess that goes to show that laws designed to discriminate do not ever have to make sense. This was another one of the political questions that was very interesting to follow. A lot of people were making the arguments that individual cantons should be able to decide this. In some ways when I hear political arguments here, I feel like back in the US!

I just made reservations for two Christmas Market trips this year. I do not think Julie is very happy with me. Because of deer hunting in WI, I will be missing two weekends of Christmas Market time. We are going to visit Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czechoslovakia. So she will just have to get enough Christmas from those two cities, and I am assuming Zürich will have their markets again; because we really enjoy going downtown and listening to the singing Christmas Tree! Strasbourg is about a three hour drive, but we are flying to Prague. One benefit of Europe is that airline tickets are pretty inexpensive. It is about an 8 hour drive to Prague, which is pretty closed to the breakeven for driving vs flying. The trip by air, should take about 5 hours, but with delays……. Taking a train is not going to work, because with the transfers, the train is a 14 hour trip. The round trip cost is cheaper by train, but when I look at the time difference; that eats up any of the savings to me.

I also know winter is coming, because I have an appointment to put on my snow tires next week. Also because on an English Forum I follow, the annual winter vs summer tire debate started up again this week. I do not know why this amuses me, but it really does. Before I moved to Switzerland I spent 30 years in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Not once in those 30 years did I ever own snow tires, and there is a lot more snow there than here in Zürich. I concede the fact that snow tires are better than year around tires, but I also think that when people get in accidents in the winter, it is not because of the tire it is because they forgot that you have to slow down when driving on snow and ice. I am thankful that Julie’s company provides a place to get the tires changed and they store the tires as well. When I got online to book my appointment, I was able to book a VIP appointment, and get quickly. If I had to wait for the normal appointment I would not be able to get the car in until November. I also got an alert on my phone that some of the mountain passes have already implemented their winter tire rule, and online I saw that some of the auto passes will be closing for the winter in the next week or two. I wonder if I will actually need my “WINTER”coat this year. I have only worn it once in two years, and I did not need it even then.

I hope you have a good weekend. Talk to you next week.

28 September 2021

This past weekend, I was able to check one thing off my lifetime bucket list. I do not remember when I learned about Liechtenstein, but ever since I had always wanted to visit. There was something about a country that does not even have 40,000 citizens and is the fifth smallest country by area that fascinated me. I grew up in Lawrence County, Indiana. Lawrence County is about 70 miles south of Indianapolis and is about 450 square miles in size. Liechtenstein is only 61 square miles!

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy. The country, however, is ruled by a Prince, not a king. The monarchy is a hereditary position. My understanding of their government is the prince is the political leader, the prime minister runs the government, and the parliament drafts the bills. The prince has veto power over parliament, but I am not sure if parliament has any capability to over ride a veto. Because the country is so small they also practice direct democracy. Any eligible voter can propose a referendum, but they need 1000 signatures to get on the ballot. 1000 may not seem like that many, but remember the population of the country is not even 40,000 people so it is a pretty big number in reality.

I have to say I was quite surprised by how modern the capital is. I was expecting it to be like many of the smaller Swiss cities we have visited. I thought there would be two distinct flavors to the city. One that was old and traditional and another that was new and modern. Vaduz seemed to be all modern. Outside of the Schloss, there did not appear to be any old buildings. Even the church looked to be new and in many ways it is new. The church was built in 1874. I say it is new because the castle was built approximately 7 centuries earlier. 🙂

Julie and I were a little surprised about the castle. The castle is used by the crown prince as his living quarters, but we were expecting at least part of the castle to be open to the public. I mean a building that was built that long ago has to be expensive to maintain. If they opened up a third of it to the public, and charged 20 CHF to visit I bet they could recoup all the maintenance costs from tourists. I read there are about 130 rooms in the castle, and you know the Prince is not using that many of them to live in. 🙂

Julie and I outside the Vaduz Castle

There is a covered bridge across the Rhine that enters into the town from Switzerland. At one time there were 13 bridges similar to this one that crossed the two countries. However, there is only one left. This bridge was built around 1870. Once modern things like concrete and steel came into use the old bridges were left to fall apart. In the 1980’s this one was the last one standing, and the two countries realized they needed to preserve the history so the bridge was refurbished. Now it is used for horses, bikes, and pedestrians.

One final note about Liechtenstein. One thing we really did not realize is that once we were in Europe our US passports would never get stamped. In the two years I have been here, the only stamps added to my passport are leaving and entering Switzerland and the US. Julie had to get a new passport this year so we took the passports with us just to get a Liechtenstein stamp! There is no international airport (that I am aware of) so the only place you can get a passport stamp is the tourist office!

Other notes:
Our son got some really good news last week. He officially goes off the parental payroll next year. He accepted a clerkship with Judge Weissmann of the Indiana Appellate Court. I guess that means he will be staying in Indiana a while longer.

Now if we can just get IU Medical School off the dime and extend an invitation to Kaylee… We will only have to go to one city to visit the kids for the next few years. 🙂

and speaking of travel. The airlines are still not really put back together after the last 18 months. It seems like Swiss and United are stopping their Zürich to Chicago route. I am flying back home for some deer hunting in November and my flight was rerouted through Washington. The flight home for Christmas is now rerouted through New Jersey. Also when George and Gabby were here in August their flight home was rerouted away from Chicago. So that is three out of three. We are keeping our fingers crossed that coming back home will still go through Chicago as we are bringing the two kids and George’s girlfriend Gabby home with us after Christmas and we all meet up in Chicago. We really like the Chicago route so much better because there are constant flights from Chicago to Indianapolis. Not as many options from the other airports, and if we get delayed, we probably lose half a day waiting for the next flight.

I think that is about it for today. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Talk to you again soon.

18 September 2021

Well this past week marked my official 2 year anniversary for arriving in Switzerland. I spent it like I spend every other day. Walked Julie to the train, exercised, cleaned the house, did laundry, cooked dinner. When we are not going somewhere, I lead a very boring existence! I have been really bad the last six weeks keeping up with my German. It was very hard to do with all the visitors, but now that they are gone I really need to start in on my lessons again.

I did get a practical lesson yesterday. You have heard me go on about the hills around here. Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen I noticed an elderly woman starting to walk up the hill towards the grocery store. She had a cane, and looked like she could barely move. So I quickly grabbed the recyclables, and started off. I caught up to her about 10 meters up the hill, and in my halting german, I asked her if I could help pull the shopping trolley up the hill. She gave me a big smile, and consented. She did not speak a word of English, but we were able to talk some as we walked. I got her up the hill to the level ground, and she asked for the trolley back. I told her if she would like, I would shop with her, and help her go back down. I think she said there was no need; she does it frequently, and she finds going down easier than going up. She might have actually been saying, what a stupid foreigner. I make this walk multiple times every week, I can do it myself. But she gave me a big smile and said “Vielen Dank” so I am choosing to believe it was my first thought.

Julie is getting ready to leave me for three days next week. It will be her first work trip since February of 2020. If you remember, she went back to the US, and we were afraid she was going to be stuck there, as that is when all the travel restrictions started because of Covid. I had big plans for three days of solo exploring, but now it turns out, I might get one. She leaves on Tuesday, but Wednesday I have a dentist appointment at 8:00 AM and then she comes back home on Thursday. Not really sure why I agreed to the dentist appointment. I had a temporary brain fart. I think it is simply because I hate going to the dentist so I wanted the first appointment I could get; so I did not have to dread it any longer.

I found a new goal for next year, though. I had lunch with a fellow American on Thursday. He told me about a bike ride that happens every September called the Alpenbrevet. The ride starts in the town of Andermatt. You have four rides to choose from. The rides go from 64 kilometers up to 288 kilometers. The rides are over some of the most famous mountain passes in Switzerland. So the short ride is two mountain passes with over 2000 meters of climb. The longest ride is five passes with over 7000 meters of climb. The longest ride starts at 6 in the morning. There are two control points you have meet along the route, and then it finishes at 9 PM that night. That is one long day on a bike. No way can I make that one. I think I am going to sign up for the 2nd easiest ride. It is a little over 100 KM. It covers three mountain passes. The Furka ( go back to my post from last week where I did this one in my car.), the Nufenen, and the Gotthard. If I spend a lot more time on the bike than jogging next year, I think I can get in good enough shape to tackle this one. Anyone want to come and join me?

We also got another lesson in one of the differences between the US and Switzerland. This one concerns renting. Now please note I cannot say with any certainty that this is the way all renting is done here. This has been my one and only experience.

When I arrived, almost three months after Julie, two years ago. Our landlord had us re-sign the lease. I do not know if it is a law that both spouses have to sign, or if this is simply another sign that Switzerland is way behind the times in regards to women’s equality. Anyway, our landlord was very insistent that I had to sign the lease as well as Julie. We signed a two year lease, that was originally up in June of this year, but one thing we noticed when we signed the new lease that September became the end month. We since learned that there are two months that people traditionally move in the canton of Zürich. Those two months are March and September. Anyway, we knew the lease was coming to an end, but we had not heard anything at all from the landlord. We knew we were covered, because we did not give any notice that we planned on leaving. Anyway, I called him and he came down to talk to us about the new lease. It turns out, that once the original lease expired, the lease converted to a semi permanent agreement. Either party has to give 6 months notice for non-renewal. And of course there are only two months the notice can be given. You got it: March and September…. We found this to be strange. One reason I do not know if this is common, or not. Is I made the comment to our landlord about how different that is vs leases in the US. He made the comment, that yes, he wants to make money off the lease, but that is not his primary concern. He lives in the top floor of the building; and it is more important to him that he have long term renters, and people that are good neighbors. I guess the good news is that even though he is really the only other person in our building we have met, he thinks we are good neighbors! The bad news with the lease, is that the house next door has finally started to be torn down. This is going to be bad. The house is right next to the bedroom, and our office. If the construction noise is 1/2 as loud as all the other houses being built around here, that means we will never be able to sleep past 7 AM except for Sundays, and the office will be practically unusable while they are building the place. We thought we would be getting a larger deduction on our rent for the time period they are building, but we signed a contract that said $300; so that will be the discount. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

I did not think I had any worthwhile pictures to show, but I did find one. This morning after grocery shopping, we got back to the apartment and it looked like everyone that has a sailboat decided to get it out today. This will probably be one of the last warm sunny days; so people are out taking advantage of the weather.

Segelboote auf dem Zürichsee

Not much else to talk about this week. I will update you next week on my solo adventures. Not sure what they will be, but I am sure I will have fun doing something. My last thought of this post: Go IU! Beat Cincinnati!

15 September 2021

We had a lovely visit to Colmar, France last weekend.

Colmar, France

Colmar is about 150 KM from Zürich. It is part of the Alsace region of France. The city has about 70,000 residents. Like most larger cities, we have seen, there is an “old” part and a “new” part. We spent almost the entire weekend in the old part of town. We toured some churches, a couple of museums, and simply strolled the city. It was a very relaxing weekend. Colmar has been part of France, Germany, and (somehow) Sweden during it’s existence. The Sweden part I found fascinating. It was captured in 1632 during the Thirty Years War and was held as part of Sweden for two years. After the war it was back in German hands, until King Louis XIV in 1673. For almost the next 200 years it was part of France, but then right before WWI Germany annexed the Alsace region and returned to France in 1919. It was conquered again by Germany in WWII and then returned after the war. Because it is so close to the german border, there is a large germanic influence there. One thing that surprised me was that the symbol for the Alsace region is a bretzel. Something I have only associated with Germany.

In the center of the old town is St Martin’s Church. While technically it is not nor has it ever been a cathedral. Everyone refers to it as The Cathedral, because it is so large.

Side view of St Martin’s

St Martin was born in Hungary in 316. He was an officer in the roman army before converting to Christianity. The story that helped make him a saint, was that he met a beggar that was hungry and cold. He cut his cloak in half with his sword and gave the cut piece to the beggar so he would not freeze to death. He continued to serve for a few years after his conversion, but as he neared retirement a new ceasar took over (Julian) and Martin decided he could no longer serve ceasar as a christian. He was charged with cowardice, but before he was punished he was released from military service. He then became a monk and lived the rest of his life serving God.

Anyway, the church is massive, and the inside while plain by cathedral standards is still very beautiful. Julie and I were really struck how different the church looks at night vs the day. Look at the picture above, and then compare it to this one.

St Martin’s at night.

One final note about Colmar’s history. The man who created the Statue of Liberty, Auguste Bartholdi, was born in Colmar. This leads me to the most annoying thing we found in the city.

Brass Plate in Colmar

These brass plates are everywhere. We followed them for almost two hours on Sunday looking for the replica statue. It turns out the replica was about two miles from where we were and it sits right in the middle of a round a bout. Anyway we followed them for a really long way before we realized we just randomly moving about the city. It turns out these plates are simply pointing the way to some of the historical parts of the town. I really wanted to go out about 3:00 AM with some tools from the car, and pry one of the plates up, but Julie would not let me. 🙁

Final Art History lessons of this post. There are two very famous works of art in the town. The first one we saw was “Madonna in the Rose Garden”. This work of art was created about 1473, by Martin Schongauer. The work was created specifically for the domincan monastary that was located in Colmar. I found this bit of history particularly interesting in regards to the engraving.

” The enclosed garden of Mary was a strong symbolic theme in Western Europe, and especially in Flanders. Pious women who remained unmarried but who did not feel inclined to enter the Catholic orders as nuns, lived together in rows of small houses built around a central garden. In Dutch these are called ‘begijnhoven’ or beguinages and the best preserved of these is in Bruges. In many towns of Flanders and Brabant these beguinages can still be admired. They are havens of peace, where spirituality still hangs in the air. The pious ladies worked on embroideries and on lace in their small houses around the enclosed garden of their beguinage. They rarely painted, but one type of their artisans’ work were the boxes called ‘Enclosed Gardens’ of which many have been preserved. These were wooden boxes, sometimes as large as one meter wide and high, about fifteen centimetres deep. The boxes were placed upright. Inside the boxes were placed small puppets of Mary and of saints, splendidly dressed in white lace and surrounded by dried flowers, miniature candle bearers, and so on. White was generally the overall colour. Usually at the lower end of the box one can see a small fence, thus hinting at the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs.

Martin Schongauer’s picture is a ‘Throning Madonna’ since two angels hold an enormous crown symbolically over Mary’s head. The painting is unconventional in various ways. The hair of the Madonna is flowing freely over her shoulders. This feature was reserved since old for Mary Magdalene; it was a sign of sensuality that was rarely associated with Mary. Jesus and Mary are looking in different directions, whereas Mary usually only has eyes for her son. Mary is painted as a melancholic young lady. She holds her head inclined; she smiles affably, secretly and contentedly. But Jesus already tries to escape from her. We mentioned that the colours of Mary’s robe are not conventional. Martin Schongauer must have been one of the first painters to emphasise the strong pyramidal composition, which is obtained by the red cloaks of Mary. Schongauer certainly was a highly skilled colourist and he knew very well how to paint with realism the smallest detail, as in the various tones of the folds of the red cloak of Mary.” https://www.theartofpainting.be/AOM-Rose_Garden.htm

Madonna in the Rose Garden

The second piece of art is an altar piece is the Isenheim Alterpiece. It was created by two germans Nikolaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516. This altar piece is massive, and it has different wings that could be unfolded to display different scenes based on the liturgical year. Unfortunately, the piece was damaged during the French Revolution and pieces were destroyed or stolen. There are paintings and the plans of the artists that capture what the entire thing looked like. Below is a quick movie of a mock up the musuem had to show you how the entire altar piece looked and worked.

Isenheim Alterpiece

That is the highlight of our weekend in Colmar. The food was outstanding. I had foi gras for the very first time. It was fantastic!!! Looking at the very last picture in the gallery below. We were never able to figure out if Colmar is the first city we have seen in Europe that celebrates Halloween, or if they just like vampire bats.

This week is going to be pretty slow. There is not much going on other than hair cuts, and Julie needs to go shopping for a business trip next week. It is going to be strange. Three days next week, we will be apart. We have not been separated at all for a year! I think Julie is happy to be done with me for a few days. I know I would be happy if I had to live with me!

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Talk to you again soon.

11 August 2021

8 days until we see our daughter

Well, we have about 36 hours left in our son’s visit. The two weeks have flown by. The first week we stayed close to home, and simply caught up. We have played a lot more this week. Part of that is because his girlfriend made her first trip to ever to Switzerland. We have enjoyed taking Gabby around to some of the beautiful places in the country. I will not have as many picture this week. Most of the pictures we took were of the kids, and they have asked us to not share them online; so I will respect their wishes. (My guess is that they have already put a bunch of them out there, but….. :). )

We started off by driving to Grindelwald. We spent one day up on The First, unfortunately the rains came in during the afternoon, so that was cut a little short. We had plans on going to the Glacier Canyon on Saturday night. We had been online and seen all the pictures taken at night; so we figured it was always open late. We missed the small print that it is only open late on Fridays. So we walked from our hotel to the canyon only to discover it was closed. We decided to adjust our itinerary for Sunday, and after going up the Jungfrau, we drove over to the canyon before heading back home. On the way back home they did get a small taste of mountain passes, as we took the fast way back.

The two took the train over to Bern earlier this week. We toured the Rhein Falls, and Schaffhausen. We even were treated to an unexpected concern at the Munot. (The Munot is the circular castle above the village. Unlike most castles in Switzerland. The Munot was built solely as a fortification. Most castles served a dual role as the primary residence for the ruler, as well as having a military application. ) Today they are exploring the wonders of Zürich, and then tomorrow, I believe, they are going to Luzern and Mt Pilatus. Today they also had to go to the airport and get their COVID test. The only people flying into the US right now are returning citizens, and some business travelers. However, they have to show a negative COVID test before flying.

Pop up concert at the Munot

Whoever schedules the rain in Switzerland, you have done a good job. We have only had one rain washout during the two week stay. I hope you keep on the job, because I need three weeks coming up for our daughter’s visit, and immediately following that; my parents are coming for a week.

My favorite local store is the Trek Bike shop near our house. I’ve put a 1000 miles on the trainer this summer. (The rain has wreaked havoc on doing anything outside.). I think riding the trainer is even harder on the bike than road miles. Part of that is the simple evaporation and blowing away of perspiration. When I am on the trainer even with a terry cloth covering, a good portion of the sweat lands on the bike. I had to replace bearings in the head tube and the crank. Primarily due to sweat induced rusting! Anyway, the owner of MoveOn Bikes is FANTASTIC. Incredibly friendly. Fast and meticulous work. AND even more importantly for Switzerland the pricing is incredibly affordable. I hope to buy a bike from him before we move home, but that might be a bit of a reach. Good bicycles are even more expensive here than back in the US.

Not a whole lot more to say about this week. I know Julie will be happy when Annual Filing Season is over. She is already looking forward to (hopefully) spending a couple of days near Naples when Kaylee is in town. I will be happy too. We will be able to go back a regular schedule. and not a schedule that changes from day to day.

Hope you enjoy the pictures below. I’ll write again next week.

5 August. 2021

14 more days until we see Kaylee

George came into town 5 days ago. It has been wonderful. We have had a pretty relaxing week. The weather has not been very good; so that has played a big part, but also this is his third or fourth trip here; so we have done a lot of of the close by touristy things. He is also saving some up for next week when his significant other (Gabby) is in town. We have only taken a couple of day trips.

Last Sunday we were wanting to get out of the rain; so we drove to Basel for lunch. Julie and I have wanted to visit; so it was a good escape. We found a really nice place for lunch on the Rhein. About 1/2 way through lunch George exclaims, “I’ve been here before!” He had never said anything to us about being in Basel; so we didn’t believe him. He searched through his photos, and sure enough found a picture that was taken probably 10 yards from where we were sitting. It turns out when he was studying in Milan, he took a long weekend to go see a friend living in Germany. For some reason those two decided to visit Basel for a meal as well!

Lunch view of Basel.

Tuesday we drove to Rapperswil. I wanted to show George the schloss. Once again I was foiled. The first time Julie and I went to Rapperswil everything was closed because of Covid. This time everything was just closed until later in the afternoon. We couldn’t stick around until it opened because we needed to get back and cook Julie’s dinner. Oh well, when Kaylee gets here I am hoping the third time is the charm! I did not take any pictures of Rapperswil because they all would have been duplicates.

Today we drove to St Gallen. St Gallen is home to the Abbey of Saint Gall. We have visited before, but it is very impressive. The Abbey was founded in 719 (that is pretty old!) It was one of the most important benedictine abbeys in all of Europe. One of the more striking pictures is the library. Unfortunately, they do not allow cameras (I also learned they do not allow umbrellas! I did get my umbrella back, though!). The library is home to one of the largest collections of medieval literature. It holds over 160,000 medieval manuscripts and books. I also get to visit in a couple of weeks. This is the one place Kaylee has said she wants to visit. After the Abbey we drove to an Appenzeller Cheese factory and museum. I learned more about Appenzeller cheese than I ever thought would be possible. According to the tour Appenzeller cheese is so special only two people know the recipe for the salt brine in which the cheese rests, and they take the name so seriously that the cheese is “genetically” fingerprinted so they can spot fakes.

Cathedral at St Gall

I did get a big compliment from George. He wanted to go to a “swiss” restaurant for dinner last night. He picked it out, but you could not make same day online reservations. So he “made” me call. After it was done, “I am impressed. I figured after the lady started talking back you would have to switch to English.” :). Of course all of that was ruined about an hour later, when Julie called and said she was going to be very late, so we had to change the time. I knew I could never complete that transaction completely in German. Let me rephrase that. I think I could do it face to face. But I still freak out a little when talking on the phone! The first words out of my mouth on my second call were: ” Es tut mir sehr leid. Mein Deutsch is sehr schlect. Sprechen sie English?” Oh well, my German is still a work in progress. I am getting better, and really try starting most conversations in German. The dinner was very good though, and I was able to show to my wife and son, that I can spot a painting that was made in 1956 instead of the 18th century pretty easily.

I say that last sentence, because the dining room last night was beautiful. It was obviously a very old building, and it looked like a lot of the wood work might have been original. We were discussing the painting, and Julie and I were informed that it has to be original asl well. It was certainly painted in that style, and utilized the same colors, but the artisit’s signature and date of 1956 kind of gave it away. Sometimes the old man still has good eyes. :).

Oh I almost forgot. Sunday was the Swiss version of July 4th. The day started at 7:00 AM with one of our neighbors setting off artillery simulators, or something very close. I was NOT a happy camper. The night ended though with a really nice fireworks show. We were able to 7 or 8 different communities setting off fireworks from our balcony!


It has been really nice having someone at the apartment this week. Julie has been in the middle of her busiest season. She leaves for work every morning a little after 7:00, and doesn’t get home until about 8:00. Long days for her. We are both looking forward to her filing season being over soon.

I am not sure how many pictures I will be able to take over the coming days. We are traveling back to Grindelwald and heading up the Jungfraujoch. I just don’t know how many pictures the “kids” will let us take. Enjoy the pictures, and I will talk to you next week!