9 April 2021

I have found shopping here, to be quite a pain in the behind. Wait, let me rephrase that. I have always found shopping to be a pain in the behind, but in Switzerland I find it even more onerous. The exception to the shopping rule is if I am looking at tools, or anything hunting/fishing related. My favorite store back in the US was Fleet Farm (If they don’t have it….. You don’t need it…..). I could buy practically anything I wanted there. In fact, Julie would get very angry, because that is where about 80% of my clothing came from. Yes, you are right, I have absolutely zero style. The only thing I couldn’t buy there were shoes, but there was Rogan’s for that. During our trip to Locarno, I realized that both pair of my casual everyday shoes bit the dust. I had a pair of Nike Tennis shoes, and some (it turned out real cheap) cheapo shoes I bought in December. So for the last two weeks I have been trying to buy shoes.

Normally I know my size. My problem, is that it is impossible to find a wide shoe. Over the last three weeks, I have spent over 4 days shopping. I spent two days going from store to store, and another two searching online. I had to go to the stores, to actually try on shoes. It turned out I needed a spreadsheet. Some makes I had to wear a 44 before my feet would go in, other brands a 44.5 or 45.

OOOOOHHH! They came while I was writing this morning!

In the US I am always either a 9 or 9.5 wide. I finally broke down and bought some shoes online yesterday. The nice thing is that shipping and mail actually work here; so some time today, Die Post (The Post) will deliver my new shoes.

Don’t even get me going on clothes shopping. I have pretty much decided that I will only be buying clothes when I return to the US. I am not morbidly obese, but over here I have to wear either a 2X or 3X in any shirt or jacket. No one carries those sizes. Even ordering online they are next to impossible to get. Pants, I have simply given up. I can find pants that fit my waist, but they feel like constrictors around my thighs. I have not yet, found a pair of pants that feel comfortable. I have made two trips across the border to Germany. There is a town named Konstanz that sits right on the border. The entire town is like one giant shopping mall, because everyone from Switzerland visits as the prices and taxes are lower in Germany than here. With Covid rules, I am not even sure that is an option right now, anyway. So I have simply decided that whenever I am able to visit the US again, I will bring an empty suitcase with me, and while there I will fill it full with clothes to bring back here.

I just realized what is amusing to me about talking about shopping, is that while I am writing this, I am also waiting on a delivery from the Grocery store. Even though we have a car now, I try not to drive to the grocery. I have learned that it is really a lot nicer, to pay the store one time per month to deliver all of the heavy and or bulky items, instead of having to make multiple car trips to the store. We go through about 5 gallons of distilled water every week. The distilled water is for the coffee maker and the ice maker. Dragging bottles of wine and water up these hills is hard work. So the lazy man residing inside my body says pay the Grocery store $3 once per month to deliver that stuff. It is surely cheaper than driving the car to the grocery store a couple of times per week.

Yesterday, Julie went back to the office for the day. I know she went to the office for some time during December, but it feels like she has worked out of the apartment for the last year. I know I have told you before, that I made her a promise that I would walk her to the station, and pick her up from the station every day(as long as I am not working). Well I learned yesterday, that we have completely forgotten how to communicate about her work schedule. I asked her in the morning what time she would be home. She said no later than 6:30; so I had dinner ready, and was down at the station for the 6:25 train. The train came, and NO JULIE. She finally texted me that she had just left the office and would be catching the 6:35 train in Oerlikon. :(. That is what she meant to say, that she would be leaving the office no later than 6:30. So I had a nice leisurely sit at the train station last night. Thank goodness it had warmed up to about 8 degrees, otherwise it would have been very cold.

Julie’s boss seems to think that Switzerland will announce the end of work from home next week. I think they might announce an end date, but I don’t see it happening until sometime in May at the earliest. Switzerland went into their modified lockdown almost four months ago now. The number of new cases fell the first month, but they have been on a pretty consistent rise since early February. The Government says about 20% of the population has been vaccinated. Which seems really strange to me, because that is about the same population as the US. Everything I read here is very negative about the Swiss vaccination plan and schedule, yet if those numbers are accurate we are doing just as well as the US. What seems strange to me, is that most places in the US have opened up vaccinations for every adult. Here, we are still in the over 70 age group or other people with comorbidities. I was just reading this morning where almost 20,000 appointment slots in the city of Zurich are still open for April, yet the government will not open up the vaccination guidelines to allow more people to fill these slots. I have a hard time seeing the government opening things up more, when the numbers are going the wrong way. Of course I would not have thought that US Governors would start lifting the mask mandates before the numbers start going down either; so obviously I do not know anything!!!!

Swiss history (not so good)

I have talked on my blog about me following TikTok. As an educator I think an app like TikTok can have a pretty big impact on individual students. I am not saying that every teacher should start using TikTok in their classroom, but I am amazed by the amount of really good content that is being created on this app. A lot of knowledge is being shared as well as a lot of scantily clad teenagers that will probably regret those videos in another 10 – 20 years.

Anyway, I am following a young lady who is getting her PHD in History at a University here in Switzerland. She posted something last week about the Verdingkinder (discarded children) so I have been doing a little investigation.

This sad chapter of Swiss History is even more embarrassing for the Swiss as the Japanese/American internment during World War 2 is for the US. Basically until the 1950’s Switzerland practiced child slavery. Of course it wasn’t called slavery. The practice began in the early 1800’s. If a woman had a child out of wedlock, or a family was poor and could not feed another mouth, the young child was handed over to the local government authorities. The Government would in turn give these children to factory owners or farmers. The theory was the benefactor would feed, clothe, and care for the child in return for the child working. Of course the practice turned into indentured servitude for these children, until they were old enough to escape, or aged out of the system. Until the 1930’s there were even markets established for the sale of the children. Some of the stories are sickening. It is hard to imagine that practices like this could happen in an enlightened country.

Here is a link to one article I found that does a pretty good job describing what happened. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/tragedy-of-child-labourers-comes-to-light/3791074

REinfall (Rhine Falls)

During our recent weekend in Schaffhausen, Julie and I took a hike to the Reinfall. Reinfall is basically the Niagara falls of Europe. The Rhine Falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe. I am sure there are some waterfalls that are considered more beautiful. Heck, Julie and I have seen many here in Switzerland, but Niagara are the only other falls we have seen with more water flowing per second. I hope the kids are able to come over sometime this summer or next.

The Rhine Falls have their own Maid of the Mist boats, and these boats actually drop you off on a rock formation right in the center of the falls, and you can climb a stairway right in the middle of the falls. Look at the picture below. See the flag in the middle? That flag sits at the top of the rock right in the middle of the water fall.

I want to climb those stairs with the kids and get some pictures!

It was a gorgeous day for a hike. The sun was shining, and the temperature was near 10 degrees. One thing I really do like about living here is the amount of walking/biking trails. We were able to hike to and from the falls on both sides of the river. Even though people own the property up to the river they have to allow an easement for the walking trail. Now based on the fences along the trail, and the amount of garbage you sometimes come across; Swiss people are no better than anyone else in regards to being a good steward of the public resource. Some of the fences are pretty darn severe; so you know the home owners have had problems with people trespassing and causing issues. I do find it fascinating that we could walk the three miles from the hotel to the the falls and back again on one path, and not have to worry about cars. In all the places I have travelled in the US, I have never found another place that takes such a serious interest in ensuring that pedestrians can get around as easy as here. They even go so far as to have road signs on all the trails so you never get lost.

We were also able to find a nice little abandoned island to have a picnic lunch during our hike.

During our picnic lunch

Another thing that impressed me on our hike is the water quality of the river. I am sure a big part of that is due to having rock instead of a mud bottom, but every time we crossed the river you could still see the bottom even in the deepest areas. This is not unique to the Rhine. Everytime we go near a lake or stream Julie gets mad at me because I stop and look for fish. I do think it has more to do with the beds of the rivers and streams than anything else. The only other place I remember seeing water this clear was in Yellowstone Park and that is another place where the bottom of the waterbodies are made of rock and not mud. I would never drink the water with out a lot of filtering and decontamination, but the clarity of the water almost is enough to think you could stick your head in take a drink, and not get sick.

I think this is our last bigger trip for a while. Amcor has quarterly filings coming up so Julie will be pretty busy the rest of April and May. We will probably take some day trips, but the next big trip I am planning is down to a town named Vevey for late May. Vevey is in the French section of Switzerland near Geneva. I don’t think there will be much a resemblance to Vevay, Indiana, but you never know. Vevay, Indiana sits in Switzerland County and is named after Vevey, CH so maybe there will be some similarities. 🙂

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Falls and our hike. Talk to you next week.

7 April, 2021

I am writing this looking out on another few inches of white stuff that fell last night. This is the second morning, in a row, that we have gotten up to snow on the ground. Winter does not want to go away this year. We have had some glimpses of spring, but they have been few and far between. I do not remember if I have told you this before, but snow tires are a law here during the winter months. There is no such thing as all season tires. Every time you buy a car, you have to buy a second set of tires. Since our car is a company car for Julie, we do not have to worry about storing the tires, but I did get an email last week telling me I need to get in and have the tires changed. I think I am going to wait until the last possible moment. It isn’t even that I drive that much. I simply like the idea that if I have to get out on the hills around the apartment and there is snow on the ground, I have every advantage!

I am able to feel productive this week. I have kept my membership in CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) while I am over here. It helps me stay informed with what is going on in regards to Education Technology, and every once in a while it gives me something to do. A couple of weeks ago, there was a request for some assistance with some Cyber Security Training that CoSN is providing for the Florida Department of Education. The benefit to me, is that I get to record some volunteer time for my certifications, and I get to attend the training for free! It is not the same as working, but does it make me a bad Hausmann to say I prefer spending my afternoons helping vs mopping the floor or doing laundry? The floors do need mopped pretty badly, though, so tomorrow I will be doing that all day! 🙂

Schaffhausen

We were able to get away for a second weekend in a row. Thanks to the swiss holiday schedule. Even though Switzerland is not particularly religious, they still keep a lot of the traditional religious holidays. Easter is a four day weekend for us. We have actually been through Schaffhausen a couple of different times, but we never left the train station; so it was good to see some of the town. The coat of arms is a ram, but look at the picture of the flag, and I think you will agree with me, that it looks more like a dancing poodle.

You just have to ignore the cloven hooves. I am not exactly sure why the symbol of Schaffhausen is a sheep (schaf). I did a little research, and there are a couple of theories. One is that it came from one of the founding families. One of them may have had a ram on their coat of arms. Another theory is that it comes from a wrong translation, that somehow got passed down through the years. This one does have historical context to it, however.

Before there were any bridges or trains. The town was critical for the transport of goods up and down the Rhine. About two miles below Schaffhausen sit the Rhine Falls, and there are some small falls and rapids in between; so goods were offloaded and then carted to the other side, where they were loaded in a “scapfa” or skiff to continue their journey. Back in 1045 Schaffhausen first appears in history as Villa Scafhusun. This theory actually makes a lot of sense to me. The dialect of german spoken in this area tells me that it could be just the way the word was pronounced, and some influential traveler heard the word spoken more like the word sheep, and it simply stuck.

I made the comment with some friends via Snapchat, that you know you are visiting a town with a lot of history when the “New Tower” in the town was built in 1321.

The New Tower


One thing that never fails to amaze me, is how so much of the history in these old towns has been preserved. There are many examples in Schaffhausen where the old city walls have been integrated into the architecture of the town. Quite a few of the towers that used to make up part of the city wall are still in existence. It is not quite as fascinating of some of the old Roman and Greek ruins, but it is pretty close to me! One last bit of historical relevance, is that Schaffhausen holds the distinction of being one of 70 Swiss cities attacked by the Americans in World War II.

Attacked is honestly a little bit of poetic license. The Americans did bomb the town, but it was because the navigators were lost. They thought they were bombing a German city. An article I read while we were visiting, was that the air raid sirens had gone off so frequently the citizens ignored them. About 40 people were killed, and the US paid $40 million in apologies.

Munot

One of the more interesting examples of architecture in town is Munot. (Another interesting tidbit, I have not ever seen it referred to as The Munot. I am not sure why.). Munot is a circular fortification built on one of the hills above the city. Standing at the wall, and you get a beautiful view of the Rhine, and of downtown. Julie and I actually made the trek up the hill a couple of times.

Munot was built in the mid 1500’s. The town leaders decided Schaffhausen needed more protection so they built the fort. Interesting enough even before it was finished the town realized it really wasn’t strong enough to handle the “modern” artillery. It was only used in battle once in 1799. The French had been chased out of Austria, and tried to hole up in Munot. After a very short battle, the French forces realized it was not going to hold so they abandoned the fort and escaped across the river. The tower on Munot is occupied. The Watchman lives there, and every evening at 9:00 PM rings the bell signifying that everything is secure. This bell ringing has gone on almost every night since 1589.

There used to be a moat around the fortress. The water has been drained for many years now, and it is a park for a small herd of deer. The one male deer is always named after the current mayor. I joked with Julie, that this would cause some issue if there is ever a woman mayor!

Munot Deer

Another thing that seems to set Schaffhausen apart from other Swiss towns are the number of Bay Windows all through the town. At some point this became a competition to the wealthy people that lived in town, to have the most opulent bay window. I did not take pictures of all of them, but I did take some of my favorites.

Below is a short video of Munot. I started recording from the roof, as Julie and I were walking out. The “stairway” is striking, and you will see a little of the gathering space in the center of the fortress. The video ends with some of the views from the top.

I will have one more post this week. Easter Sunday Julie and I took a hike from Schaffhausen to the Rhine Falls. It was a gorgeous hike along the river!

See you soon, and enjoy the pictures. The first of the pictures were taken Friday morning in Zürich. Each spring the city fills some of the larger fountains with roses. So before we went away for the weekend, we made a fast trip into the city to see the fountains.