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!

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!

Feuerwerk



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!


20 Juli 2021

It looks like the rain is going to go visit somewhere else for a while. Hopefully, the rain will go to the western US; as they need rain a lot more than we do. We have had no rain for the the last two days, and we are supposed to go another three or four without any, but then heavy storms are predicted again. Zürichsee has avoided the flooding, but the water level is at least two feet above normal. There are some places that sidewalks next to the rivers or the lake have been closed because of water, but hat has been the extent of the flooding here.

Julie and I went back to the Zoo Sunday. That took a little bit getting used to. We have not really been around any kind of crowd for over a year. We found ourselves not visiting some of the attractions, due to the number of people jammed into small places. I would say about 25% of the people are still taking threats of COVID seriously. About 1 in 4 people would wear a mask when you could not separate from other people. Speaking of COVID.

From what I am reading the rest of the world is starting to see the number of cases rising. I was reading, though, that we are a long way from going back to lockdowns and restrictions. The health ministry spelled out the criteria that will lead to more restrictions.

  • The first is new cases. Infections must remain below 600 cases for 100,000 people. Right now we are at 53 cases. At our peak during the pandemic the case load was over 7,800 per 100,000.
  • Intensive care hospitalizations: If we reach over 300 at any given time. At this point we are at 37.

I would assume there are more, but those are the criteria I could find. Just like the US, the number of cases are primarily happening with people that choose to not be vaccinated. People in the hospital is the same. Apparently, over 95% of the people admitted to the hospital for Covid, have chosen to not take advantage of the vaccination. Here is my one SNARKY thought for the day. I do not have much sympathy for the people choosing to not be vaccinated. I find it very ironic that these are also the same people that complain the most about the restrictions, yet they are unwilling to do the ONE thing they could do to ensure we do not go into restrictions again. The Swiss are counting on people being vaccinated instead of restrictions. Right now we have about 66% of the adult population with at least their first dose. About 55% of the adult population is fully vaccinated I do think the vaccine passports are playing a part of this success. We can now go anywhere in the EU, and we do not have to quarantine upon return. IF you are vaccinated.

For a few weeks we could travel to many countries and not have to quarantine on return even if we did not have the jabs, but as cases have started climbing in other countries the ability to travel is being lessened without the vaccine. I saw in the news paper yesterday, that Greenland is the first country that is tying public transportation to the vaccine. I do not think they will be the last, and that could have a major impact if all of Europe went to that plan. I also saw that France is tying their immunization records to more social activities. Beginning in August, you have to provide the COVID health pass if you are going into a restaurant, bar, long distance train, or shopping center. That announcement led to over 2 million vaccine appointments being made. Germany has had a system like that in place for over a month, now. The difference being that Germany does allow entrance with a test done within 24 or 48 hours.

Enough about COVID.

So since the rain has held off I have been able to get on my bike a couple of times this week, but that ended this morning. I got about 1 mile or so away from the house, and I think a bearing broke in the crank. I am either going to have to start jogging again, or get out my leisure bike vs the road bike. What I find very irritating about the bike going belly up, is that I just spent money on new tires and re-taped the handle bars all because I knew the rain was going to stop this week! Why this could not have happened two weeks ago, when I was only able to ride on the balcony is beyond me. Oh well, it is probably past time to really start training for the St Jude anyway! I even bought some new running shoes to get in the right frame of mind. The older and fatter I get, the more important the running shoes become!

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count down to seeing the kids:

George : 11 Days
kaylee: 30 days

Julie and I are just a LITTLE bit excited to see the kids again.

15 Juli 2021

I woke up today and realized it is Thursday. Wow, for a week with nothing going on, it sure flew by. I am not quite sure how the days got away from me.

I got a reminder this morning, that I am finishing up my second year in Switzerland. I got a bill in the mail for my 1/2 price pass. This 1/2 price pass is without a doubt the best deal in all of Switzerland. For 165 CHF you get 1/2 price on almost every public transportation ticket you buy. This deal is made even better because it includes almost all gondolas, and mountain trains in the country. There are only a handful that are not covered with the 1/2 price pass. I have decided to let my annual train pass expire. I simply do not make enough trips into Zurich that it pays for itself. My annual pass is about 900 CHF. This allows me to travel anywhere one zone outside of Zurich. The catch with my pass is that I cannot travel between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM. The breakeven point is about 125 round trips downtown. So a little over 2 per week. That doesn’t sound like many, but I do not think I even average 1 per week. I can only remember taking the train three times into Zurich last month, and one of those really doesn’t count, because we took the train only to catch the train going to Zermatt. Of course that might change, I have a job interview on Monday!

I am not very confident I will get the job, though. Qualification wise there is no problem, but the company is looking for someone that is fluent in both German and English. Which has of course been the number one hindrance to my job search. I am convinced that employers here are no different than in the US in many ways. The job I was approached for is an “entry level” job. However, they are asking for 8 years experience. Including experience with Active Directory, SCCM, multiple multi function print devices, phone system support, and they want someone to offer training. That does not sound like entry level to me. I am fortunate that Julie and I made sure we could make this move without me having to work. That takes a lot of pressure off, and as I was talking with Julie earlier this week; makes me want to hold out for a salary that makes it worthwhile. Yes, it would be great to be around people again, but taking a job for entry level wages, to me, is not worth the trade off for the flexibility to get things done for the household.

Swiss Alert App

A few weeks ago I downloaded this app to my phone. I thought it was required as part of the Covid Vaccine passport, but it turns out to not be related. That being said I have been fascinated how often it rings with an alert. The last week, it has been going multiple times per day. The reason for it going off has been alerts for flooding. I do not know what the records for rain fall are, but I am convinced that we are getting close to if not already exceeded the records. I think about 3/4 of the country is already under water, or is getting close . The one nice thing about all the hills is that flooding is usually contained pretty well.

When we were in Luzern last week, Julie and I both commented about high the river and lake levels were. The water was inches from going over the bank, and all the flood control locks and dams were actually under water! I was reading an article in the news yesterday, and it was warning that if the lake rises another 5 inches the center of the town will be flooded. The problem is that it has continued raining since that article came out, and it is supposed to continue to keep raining for another two days. The lake is not supposed to crest until sometime on Sunday, and that assumes the rain stopped for good yesterday! The city of Bern is preparing for the 4th 100 year flood event since 1999. There is one big difference, however, from the flooding this year to in the past. Typically the flooding occurs in April or May. It usually happens when there is an unseasonable warm spell combined with heavy rains. The snow melts from the mountains, and has to run downstream, then combine that with heavy rainfall and you get problems. This year the snow melt happened a few months ago. This is 100% caused by the heavy rains we have seen all spring and summer. There is simply no place left for the water to go. The rains have been very polite. I have only had to drive the car to the train station three times to either pick Julie up, or drop her off in the morning!


The only other thing going on this week, is that Tax Time is finally over. If we were Swiss citizens we would probably move about 15 miles further outside of Zurich. Taxes here, just like in the US, can be dramatically different from Canton to Canton or State to State. For us though, it really does not matter. We get a $ for $ credit on our US taxes. This means that every dollar we pay in Swiss taxes is taken off our US tax bill. That being said. Taxes in the US are SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER than here in Switzerland. At least we do not have to pay state taxes. Wisconsin tax rules are that since we do not claim physical residency we only owe taxes on money that is earned in Wisconsin. I really wish the US would get in line with the rest of the world and only tax people that live there. There are only two countries that tax based on citizenship AND residency. The US is one of those two countries. I know that the number of people in our position is very low, but it does kind of stink. I was one of those people that thought taxes in European countries would be so high that we would never owe anything in US taxes. Wow, was I wrong! The amount of taxes we have to pay for having a US passport is mind numbing because we owe it all at once. The tax bite would seem smaller if it were deducted each paycheck. If we lived somewhere that was easier to obtain citizenship, I would entertain getting rid of my US citizenship for the sole purpose of saving money. I say that completely tongue in cheek. I have no desire to renounce my US status, but DAMMMMMMMN that tax bill almost makes me rethink that! I think what makes me even more angry this year was reading about how little the very wealthy pay in income taxes compared to everyone else. QUEUE: People saying they pay more money. Sure Bezos pays more money, but our income is less than .5% of his income. Percentage wise, we pay much more of our income than he.

Enough of a rant. I’ll just continue to get angry if I think about taxes!

Things will continue to be pretty quiet for the next couple of weeks. We have two weeks of just us, then the visitors start. I cannot express how excited I am to see George and Kaylee. Not to mention seeing my Mom and Dad. Now, we just need to figure out how to get Julie to Florida for a week or two; so she can see her parents as well, since they are not able to make the long flight.
Do not have a whole lot of pictures, as we have not done anything very photo worthy since our vacation. I do really like the chocolate cows below, however. These were pictures from last Saturday. Luzern is only about a 30 minute drive; so we went for lunch!

Elections

Last week there was an election in Switzerland. I thought I would talk a little bit about the different referenda that were on the ballot, and then talk a little about voting.

In some ways Switzerland and the United States are very similar. Both places practice a representative democracy. Both countries have federal rules for voting, but give freedom to the lower levels (states and cantons) to take care of the details. The two countries have a checkered past in regards to who is able to vote. The biggest differences, that I see, are: 1) individuals can gather signatures and get a referendum on a national ballot in Switzerland. That exists at the state level in the US, but not the national level. 2) Switzerland relies very heavily on mail in ballots, and is testing internet voting in some cantons. Another difference is that Switzerland does not rely on any machines for voting. In larger areas they do have ballot reading machines, but other than the internet voting all of the votes are cast on paper ballots. Oh, another similarity between the two countries. The voter turnout is very similar between the two countries. For “big” elections in Switzerland turnout is usually around 60%, Just as in the US during a presidential election.

So here were the big items on the ballot:

  • Repeal the powers from the Federal Government in regards to fighting the COVID epidemic
  • Prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides
  • Clean water initiatives for farmers
  • Limit C02 emissions by 2030
  • Anti Terrorism initiative

The terrorism initiative passed, but all of the rest failed. I think those results would be similar if they were held in the US. After you read a little about them, please comment and tell me if you agree.

Covid

In 2020 a law was passed by the Federal Assembly (Swiss Congress; it is composed of two houses just like in the US.) giving the government powers to combat the pandemic. These powers included mask mandates, limits to travel and assembly, investments into Covid research, and allocated money to pay for the vaccines and the social safety net. There is a group of people that believe those measures were unconstitutional; but when the courts did not agree the group organized the campaign to get repeal of the law put on the ballot. Even though we are on the downhill side of this pandemic, the legislation would have limited government response for future pandemics, or future waves of the current pandemic.

This was defeated by 60.2 percent.

synthetic pesticides

This law would banned use of synthetic pesticides for the whole country. It would have also banned fresh food products from any country that did not have a ban in place. The last sentence seems to be in some debate, so I was really glad it did not pass. Some people were reading the law that only food that had been treated with pesticides would have been banned, others were reading it as ALL food from a country that used synthetic pesticides would have been banned. That is a pretty big difference, and I would have not liked to see what happened to my food bill while it was being ironed out in the courts.

This was defeated by over 60% of the vote.

Clean Water

The referenda called this a clean water bill, but it was really a farming bill. The law would have removed all government subsidies from any farmer that uses pesticides or anti-biotics. It also would have placed severe restrictions on spreading manure over the fields.

This was defeated by about 60% of the vote.

CO2 Emissions

This law would have required Switzerland to go back to 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2030. It would have raised taxes on fuel, gasoline, and airline tickets. The secondary goal of this bill was to have zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

This one was actually pretty close. About 53% of the people voted against this one.

My commentary is that because it is so easy to get things on the ballot here, this one will for sure be coming up again, and in another couple of years, I can see it passing. I think that it will make living in a very expensive place, almost impossible for the average person.

Anti-Terror Law

This one was put on the ballot after the terror attacks that France has had the last year or two. The law grants a lot of power to the federal and local police departments. It allows police to take “preventative” measures against potential terrorists.

This law did pass.

Thoughts

I honestly do not have a lot to say about many of the laws, but after watching the discussion about these, and doing some research I learned how close the US and Switzerland really are. I did not know this, but the US Founding Fathers based a lot of our constitution and organization of the USA off of Switzerland. After living here for almost two years now. I really can see the fight between “States Rights” and “Federalism”. It is one thing to see these take place in the US where there is a lot of space. Here this is compacted and it has been very interesting to watch things evolve.

I was a little sad that the Anti-Terror law passed. Not because I support terrorism, but because the older I get, the more questioning I become of people. I am becoming more and more convinced that most of our political leaders are not looking out for the interest of “everyone” but only for themselves. I have followed what President Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to do and can easily see those kind of things coming true here as well. Especially because the law says that political intent can now be classified as terrorism even if there is no threat of violence. I understand being able to stop violence, and that has my full support, but the thought of arresting someone and classifying them as a terrorist simply because they want to take political action against a law or politician goes against everything I thought a free country stood for.

21 Juni 2021

Happy late Father’s Day. Did you know that Father’s Day is not the same around the world? I did not know this until this month. In Switzerland, Father’s Day was 6 June. However, in a many other European countries the day is celebrated in 19 March. That day lines with St Joseph’s Day in the the Catholic Church. Julie and I were able to spend a few minutes talking to the kids. They are together for at least part of this week.

Every two years the Sorrells Family spends a week on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. This has been happening for either 24 or 26 years. I honestly do not remember, if we started this before George was born, or not. I do remember the very first time he went the room was not big enough for the portable crib we brought; so our son had to sleep in a drawer. It actually worked out pretty well!

Sorry George! (George at 5 months old)

This makes the second time Julie and I have had to miss. Two years ago we were involved in moving, and simply could not take the time off. This year of course we did not even think about making plane reservations as things were so up in the air in regards to travel until the last couple of weeks. We are glad, though, that our kids are able to go spend time with the family and each other.

We had another quiet weekend here. Though I have to admit we did a bad thing…. We are learning to live without air conditioning. The secret is adjusting the blinds in the house as the sun moves. However, Saturday about noon we felt like we were roasting; so we hopped in the car to enjoy a little A/C. Somehow we found ourselves in Interlaken which is about 120 KM away. We did have a very nice lunch, and a stroll through the town before heading back home. The drive through the mountains took me a little by surprise, though. On the map, in the car, it looked like a highway. Well, I guess technically it was a highway, but for about 5 miles it was a true mountain road. I don’t think my speed got over 20 MPH, and I have never been so thankful that we did not come across any bicycles on the hair pin turns. Normally the turns are not so bad, but in this case, we are on the mountain side of the road; so every corner was blind. You had no idea what you were going to come across after you made the turn.

If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about going across the lake and riding the Swiss Wheel. Well the wheel disappeared. We found it on Saturday. It has been moved to Interlaken. The ride would have been scenic, It was set up on a big field that looks at the Jungfrau off in the distance.

View of Jungfrau

The Jungfrau is not the highest peak in Switzerland, but it is arguably the second or third best known behind the Matterhorn and maybe Pilatus. I say arguably, for the simple reason it is so easily viewed from Interlaken; as Interlaken is one of the most visited cities in Switzerland.

Last June, Julie and I spent a week in the vicinity of the Jungfrau. When George and Gabby come to visit us in August, we are planning on taking them down there for a weekend as well. The canton just built a high speed gondola that takes you about 1/2 way up the mountain, and then you take a cogwheel the rest of the way. Julie was fascinated last summer watching the helicopters carry parts up the mountain while they were building the gondola; so we are looking forward to riding it this year. Kaylee is not being forgotten. When she comes to visit, we are going to Mt Titlis. At Mt Titlis you ride up a spinning gondola, and then they have Europe’s highest suspension bridge to cross. I can hardly wait for the video of that!!!!

I am still having fun baking bread. The good thing is that I have not made anything inedible, yet. Though some have been better than others. I am experimenting with some different recipes, and different timings of letting rise, etc.. I tried making a cranberry/walnut breakfast bread and it tastes great, but man it was dense. Here is a picture of the loaf I made today.

I am not sure I am saving a lot of money, but I am having lots of fun, and the afternoons I bake the apartment smells amazing!

So bread bakers I would appreciate one piece of advice. How do I stop the big crack on the top from forming. I have tried scoring the top with a knife, but whether I score it or not, I get a big crack like in the picture. Is it something to do with temperature? Please leave me some feedback!

Saturday, Julie and I are traveling back to Zermatt. If the weather is good, I will probably post once. If the weather is bad, you might get a lot of posts next week. Talk to you soon!

Sorry that I do not have a lot of pictures to post. I left some from Kaylee’s experiment in here. Kaylee started working in a UW Biology lab last year. She is working on a project where they are studying how bacteria move through food plants. The lab is studying one bacteria in particular, and the hope is to find out how they modify the plant to resist the bacteria. Her part of the project is genetically modifying the bacteria to make it glow; so they can follow the bacteria’s progress through the plant. The glowing pictures are from her work. I thought they were pretty cool so I am sharing them as well as the ones I took last week: