6 Januar 2022

Today marks a dark anniversary in the history of the United States. The first time a presidential handover was not handled peacaefully. I will not comment any more than that…

We were fortunate to be able to spend another New Years Eve in the alps this year. It was extra special because our children were able to be with us. I do not know if Engelberg celebrates that much more than Andermatt, though Engelberg was drastically louder. In Andermatt we were staying at a hotel that was away from the center of town. We did not have a balcony; so we watched the fireworks from inside the hotel room. In Engelberg, we stayed in a hotel two blocks from the train station. The neighborhood was more boisterous simply because of the people walking home from the center of town. We had a great time standing on the balcony yelling “FROHES NEUES JAHR!” to all the neighbors. We did not have as good a view of the fireworks display, but it was still a very fun evening. Most of us were going skiing the next morning, though, so we called it a night when the noise subsided about 1 AM.

After the headache of getting back home (See my last blog post.), we were ready for a relaxing few days in the mountains. We did learn something about the car we have been driving for the last year, though. It only has seating in the back for two people. This made us a little uncomfortable since there were five us needing to ride in the car. The kids improvised. They put the smallest in the middle, and then wrapped the seat belts around all three of them. If we had gotten stopped, I am sure I would have gotten a ticket, but we got away with it. The most ironic thing, is that Julie’s company just started giving us car options for this year since the lease is up on our current car. We now have appointments made at different dealerships; so we can see the cars before we take one!

The trip to the mountains was a lot longer than normal. It is normally about an hour drive from our apartment to the train station in Engelberg. Well, there must have been a lot of other people heading somewhere to celebrate the New Year, because the autobahn was at a standstill. I could not figure out why the GPS system in the car was telling me to get off the highway, but after the second exit, I realized it was trying to steer me around the traffic; so I got off the autobahn and started following the GPS. That was a mistake. Instead of traveling along the highway at 15 KPH, we were now on city streets traveling 5 KPH. After another hour of trying to get through Luzern, the GPS kept trying to get me to re route AGAIN. I knew we were only about 2 kilometers from the autobahn at this point; so I ignored the GPS, and got back on the highway. By this time the traffic had dissipated; so the last 30 minutes of the trip went smoothly.

After arriving in Engelberg, we went and got our skis from the rental store, had a nice dinner, and then crashed. Julie and I were exhausted. We both got a little sleep on the plane but that was it for the day.

New Years Eve we had arranged ski lessons for some of the group. Young George (showing he is much more like his old man that he wants to believe), went straight up the mountain, as high as he could get to ski down. Unfortunately, on that side of the valley the snow was awful. There was only one run open so he skied that a few times, and came down for lunch. After the lesson, we went over to the other side of the valley where there was actually some snow. It was still pretty bad low on the mountain. There were a lot of rocks and mud peeking out from the snow. It was a fun afternoon though. We ended our ski day by skiing down to the bottom of the mountain. This was HAIRY!!! There are two ways down the mountain: Gondola, or one ski run. This mean that at the end of the day at least 1/2 the people on the mountain are using the exact same space on the mountain. Every level of ski proficiency was on display for this 1/2 to 3/4 mile ski run. Even more exciting were the hair pin turns and the run being only 10 yards wide in spots.

Young George and Kaylee on the slopes of Mt Titlis

New Years Day only three of us wanted to ski; so we headed back up Mt Titlis. We did not head all the way to the top, but we found some fun runs and spent about four hours tearing up the slopes. Thank goodness the snow was A LOT better further up the mountain. Mt Titlis was a fun ski area. I hope to visit it again this winter and try some more mountain skiing.

In the afternoon we turned in our rented equipment and met up with the rest of the group. Kaylee and I were the only ones who had been up Mt Titlis. When we were there this past summer the weather was awful and we could not see anything; so we took the entire party all the way to the top The pictures below are: When Kaylee and I were at Titlis in August, a panoramic picture from the top and a group shot from the top. I thought you might like to see the differences between a clear day and a cloudy day.

Cloudy day at the top of Mt Titlis
Clear view from the top of Mt Titlis
Gabby, George, Kaylee and Julie at the top of the mountain

After enjoying the top of the mountain we headed back to town for a relaxing dinner, and to head back to Rüschlikon the next day. It was another whirlwind trip to the mountains, made even more hectic by having to scramble and try and meet Zürich’s Covid requirements that we did not even know about until we got back and started getting emails about sending proof of our covid tests.

Since being back home, we are managing covid tests for the return trip to the US. Gabby was the first to head back. George leaves in about 36 hours, but we get Kaylee for another week. I am learning a little about what my parents started to go through when trying to get different schedules to line up. Between limited number of vacation days, and two different universities starting up at different times I feel fortunate that we were able to have everyone over at the same time this year. It might be the last time that all of us are here together!

Julie is back to work this week, but Switzerland has a mandatory work from home rule in place; so for at least the next three weeks I have been relegated to the kitchen table and she has taken over MY office! Just like everywhere else COVID seems to be leading the news here. I was just reading an article this morning that explained the train system is having to cut routes, and that in some of the most popular ski towns restaurants and even hotels are being forced to close because to many employees have caught the virus. I was very surprised that the government did not issue new mask mandates. The health department released a study that FFP2 masks offer 70 times more protection than the surgical masks that most people wear. Many countries in europe have mandated the FFP2 masks and will not allow cloth or surgical style masks. I have noticed that since we left for Christmas the mask compliance has gone up a lot. For the most part people have been really good about wearing masks, but November and early December it was very noticeable the number of people that would not wear them on the trains, or had to be reminded to put them on inside a building. Since we have been back, I cannot remember seeing one person without a mask on the trains, and a lot more people are wearing them when going from building to building. Personally I am holding out a lot of hope, that this will be the last big spike in COVID cases. It is probably a pipe dream, but I am going to hold on that hope as long as I can!!

It finally got cold enough that I had to move the bike into the basement. I had taken a couple of weeks off from exercise after the St Jude’s 1/2 Marathon, but with the New Year I knew it was time to get off my behind again. I tried riding out on the balcony, but it was just way to cold. So for the next couple of months I will be spending about two hours a day down in the basement putting many kilometers on the bike. The weather is just so lousy in January and February, that I will probably jog only a couple of times in the next few months. That should be OK, though, I have my eyes set on a three peak mountain ride the middle of September this year. To accomplish that I need to put a lot of hours in the saddle this spring and summer.

I hope your New Year has started out as good as mine! Enjoy the pictures, and I will talk to you next week.

4 Januar 2022

We have been back in Switzerland for almost a week now. I haven’t written anything, because as soon as we got back we repacked suitcases, and headed up into the Alps to celebrate the New Year with the kids. I will have more about that later this week, but this post is going to solely be about why no one really likes to travel any more. Sure, most of us love the adventure of exploring new places. We enjoy being with family or friends. However, it is the actual travel that sucks today. Getting from one place to another is not the enjoyable experience it used to be. I know I am sounding like a BOOMER. Darn kids get off my lawn!!

It really wasn’t that long ago that flying was a more pleasant experience. The seats had just a little more leg room. You were given free beverages and snacks. If you were bored, you could even get a pack of playing cards for some solitaire on the tray table. Little kids could go up front and see the cockpit. I won’t even get into the kabuki theater that is security today! The news today is filled with people assaulting flight attendants and other passengers. There is no excuse for violence, but it is easy to understand the frustrations. Here is our latest travel story.

It started back about 8 or 9 months ago. This was the time that prices were dirt cheap; no one was flying anywhere except for emergencies. Trying to be a smart consumer, I booked our flights from Switzerland to Indiana for the Holidays. I always try and book a direct flight from Zürich to Chicago. Yes, O’Hare airport is awful, but there are myriad connections to Indianapolis, or at worst we can rent a car and drive to my parent’s house. The problems started when United started changing the flights. They kept changing the flights and making more and shorter connections. What should have been a one stop trip, suddenly became a three stop trip. I went round and round with United, and we finally got a travel schedule that was at least doable. However, I was really frustrated. The original flight I wanted to take was suddenly back on the schedule. I asked about taking that flight, and was told, “Sure, you can have that flight for an additional $4500 per passenger.” So the airline can cancel the flight at their whim, and then charge an extra $9000 to be booked on the same flight I booked in the first place? What I originally planned to be a 12 hour journey had suddenly ballooned into a 24 hour ordeal, and it meant getting a hotel in Indianapolis, because we were now getting into Indiana at 11 PM and I was not going to try driving another hour and a half being that tired. So going into the trip I was already irritated.

Anyway, we made it to Indianapolis, and it actually wound up being a really good change. There are a LOT of things we cannot easily find here; so my wife and I spend a day shopping every trip back. The changes allowed us to wake up, have a nice breakfast, spend our day shopping, and then drive down to Southern Indiana. Once we were done with the “chores” we were able to enjoy spending time with our families.

So coming back to Switzerland is where the problems really started.

We had been listening to the news for 5 days about how airlines are cancelling numerous flights due to Covid. So many flight crews were calling in sick, that airlines could not staff the flights. Also knowing how busy the airports are immediately before and after the holiday we wanted to make the return trip as stress free as possible. We planned to get to the airport FIVE hours before the flight left. Have an enjoyable lunch with shrimp cocktails at Harry and Izzy’s. (Great restaurant by the way. Give it a try if you find yourself in Indianapolis anytime soon, or the Indy Airport!)

Julie and I go to check in and are told the flight has been cancelled. The counter agent tells us the reason is weather in Chicago. This immediately makes zero sense, because she offers to book two out of the four on other airlines flying to the same airport at roughly the same time. One was an American flight leaving about 45 minutes before our flight, and the other was a Delta flight that was scheduled to leave about an hour after our flight. I have never heard of a weather prediction being that specific, that flights leaving in four and six hours were fine, but five hours? You are out of luck. Anyway, since there were four of us flying and there was no guarantee that we would be able to get back together we declined the offer of those flights. Instead Julie and I were rebooked for a flight the next morning. United did offer that we could drive to Chicago and catch the last leg of the flight there.

We decided not to do that, because of cost. Renting a car in Indy and returning it to Chicago was going to cost almost $350. If we had each of the kids drive a car to Chicago (the only way to get all four of us plus the luggage) it would have meant an additional $400 in parking fees. We knew it would be much cheaper to simply send the two kids up north, while Julie and I would stay another night in Indianapolis. Making the situation even more confusing was our son’s girlfriend was meeting us all in Chicago so she could spend New Years in Switzerland. We thought that made the most sense.

So we got the kids driving north. Julie and I found a nice hotel to spend the night that had a restaurant. The next four and some hours were very relaxing.

We had just sat down in the restaurant and had some cocktails delivered when my phone rang. It was my daughter telling us that Swiss would not allow the kids on the flight to Zürich. The first reason they were given: “You cannot be here. Your flight from Indianapolis was cancelled.” Then they were told, ” The united gate agent cancelled all your tickets.” My daughter called me because the hold time with united was pushing 2 hours so by the time she talked to someone the flight would have left. I quickly scrambled and found a ride back to the Indianapolis Airport to have a discussion with the United people there. The next hour was spent arguing between United and Swiss Air about if the tickets were good, and if the kids actually had seats. I do not know what caused Swiss to suddenly accept the tickets, but all I know is that within minutes of the united agent printing off boarding passes for the flight that did not exist. Swiss was able to see the reservations and print off tickets for the kids. Thank goodness the security lines were not that bad, because by this time there was only about 45 minutes before the plane took off. The kids ran through security and to the gate. They got there with a few minutes to spare. So we thought things were good.

Seeing as we were going to be gone about two weeks we had to do something about the cat. Boarding animals over here is even more expensive than in the US. Instead we hire a pet sitter. This person comes in for an hour each day to check on the animals and play with them. The laws here are very strict about animal care; so I quickly contacted the pet sitter and asked her if she would come one more morning. I sent another message once we knew the kids would make the flight telling her that there was no need to come by the apartment because our kids would be arriving one time. Unfortunately, she did not get the second message, and instead of leaving the key in the mailbox she had the key with here. So the next morning as I had just sat down on the plane, my phone rang again.

This time it was my daughter explaining that there was no key in the mailbox. Telling us it was raining, and they had no way to get into the building. I was able to call the pet sitter and she ran the key up to the kids. She only lives about a mile away; so they did not have that long of a wait. So the last crisis was averted.

The worst part about the flights being re arranged was the wait in Chicago. Our original plans called for reasonable layovers in all the airports. Not to long as to be annoying, but not so short as to miss a flight. Well because of the cancellation, United booked us on a 7:30 am flight to Chicago, while our flight to Zürich did not leave until about 7:30 PM. This meant an 11 hour layover. It is not fun to be in an airport that long. You can only walk the terminal so many times before someone has called security because you are probably a terrorist that is casing the place for an attack.

We were able to stay in a United lounge for large chunk of time. The dining room in the Polaris Lounge was very good.

Our biggest concern now were the COVID tests. Switzerland requires a test 24 hours before the “departing” flight. The real question is what IS the departing flight. We figured it was Indianapolis, but when we got online to complete the arrival form Switzerland says the departing flight was the one from Chicago. This was a big problem. We got our COVID test the morning before we were originally supposed to leave. That was well within the 24 hour window. One of the reasons we had to take the 7:30 flight from Indianapolis; was that United considered the departing flight to be Indianapolis. The 7:30 flight meant that we still had 30 minutes left on our COVID tests!

I was very worried about this so I made Julie check in with Swiss Air about 4 hours before flight. This would give us plenty of time to get a quick test. It would have probably cost another $200 but at least we would be ok to get back home. I was needlessly worried. The gate agent never even questioned anything. She took one look at the test certificate and said we were good to go. Now the worst thing would be if the custom’s agent looked at the test when we landed and tried to send us back.

The last few hours were not nearly as enjoyable as the first few. We checked into the swiss lounge, but it was a major step down from the united lounge. It was a lot more crowded, the seats were very uncomfortable, and the food and drink selections were sub par. I really shouldn’t complain because this was still better than sitting on the floor of the terminal, because there were absolutely no seats in the public area. The worst part, however, of the lounge was that the restrooms had not been cleaned in weeks. They reeked and were filthy.

We were finally able to board the flight, and we got home a day later than originally intended. I guess this was a good thing, because I have chatted online with people that have been stuck for days.

Once we were back we re-packed some bags, and headed up into the mountains. Where we were able to spend an enjoyable few days skiing, and celebrating the New Year.

I was originally not going to write about the problems of the trip. However, once again United has upset me. We were forced to spend an additional $400 + to get back home. I do not buy United’s excuse about the weather; so I wrote a complaint and asked for some compensation for our troubles. I know the airlines do not give compensation for weather delays; so I was very offended when they stick to the weather excuse, but then offer me a $75 credit for future flights. I would have at least given them credit for sticking with a bad excuse rather than offering me a pittance for the added cost and added stress they caused. I guess I have to start looking at different options for flying in the future. Unfortunately, there are not many options for Zürich to the US. I will now look for flying to other destinations in Europe, and then making the atlantic leg. Paris or London are much bigger cities; I am sure there are more choices to get to the US than from Zürich.

I hope you had a wonderful New Years celebration. I will write more this week with some pictures of our New Years celebration and skiing experiences.

Talk to you soon.

25 November 2021

Since I am back in the US, I will start this with

happy thanksgiving everyone!!

Unfortunately Julie is back in Switzerland toiling away for the MAN! This year, as always, I am very Thankful for my wife. I truly hit the lottery jackpot, when she agreed to marry me three decades ago.

I do not have a lot of funny stories during my trip back. Things have, knock on wood, gone extremely smooth. I was a little worried after seeing the border control line when we landed in Washington. It took so long to get through customs that I only had 10 minutes to spare to catch the flight to Indianapolis. Side Note: I contend that when you enter your “home” country the customs line should be smaller than for visitors. Going through customs it was annoying that there were only two agents for all US citizens but 8 for everyone else. Especially when the line for citizens was easily three times longer than the other. I did make one fateful mistake at the Zürich Airport. Arriving at the airport early, is usually a good thing; so like a dutiful traveler three hours was the time. I made it through security in record time, and got on the train to go to the terminal. Unfortunately, in the terminal, all the bars and restaurants were closed. I really wanted to start of my trip with a cocktail or three, but instead wound up walking over three miles by pacing from one end of the terminal to the other. By the time the flight was boarding I am sure everyone else in the terminal was comparing me to a caged animal. All of that walking did make the flight go easier.

I have found it a little shocking that in the US Covid no longer appears to be a thing. No one wears a mask. I was castigated in Fleet Farm for being a sucker and wearing one, and get a lot of strange looks when I go into places wearing a mask. Even yesterday, Dad and I drove to the hardware store in Mitchell, and he asked why I was putting a mask on. It is simply habit. I always carry a mask or two now, and whenever I go anywhere. It seems so strange to me, that a simple piece of paper, cloth and plastic can be such a divisive thing.

Things I did not realize I missed until I came back

So the first thing I made George do after he picked me up at the airport was go to the White Castle Drive through. I started getting a craving for sliders at the airport in Zurich. Wow, did that little two inch square burger taste heavenly. The only disappointment was they were out of onion chips. 🙁 I have since stopped two additional times at White Castle and that will have to old me until I am back in December!

Living in the self acclaimed cheese capital of the world you would think I would not miss cheese. 🧀 Cheese itself I do not. There is a much wider assortment of fantastic cheeses available at my local grocery store than the the biggest cheese store I ever found in Wisconsin. However, cheese curds are not a thing in Switzerland. I told myself I was stopping at the first Kwik Trip in Wisconsin to buy some cheese curds. It took me seven

stops before I finally found some. That bag of golden deliciousness was every bit as good as I remembered.

There were two other things on my must have list. The first was for Julie. She always puts a caramel flavoring in her coffee every morning. After two years we finally found one store that actually sells coffee flavorings, but in typical Swiss fashion they have allowed for the scarcity in their pricing. So I needed to pick up 6 Davinci Sugar Free Caramel syrup bottles. Thanks Theresa! Julie was ecstatic when I told her about the gift!

The second thing was some underwear. Yes they have underwear in Switzerland, but I have been unable to find the style I like. I am not a fancy man. Hanes boxer briefs are perfect, and my parents thought I was a little strange for wanting to visit Walmart on my first day back just to buy some. What they did not know, was I had thrown away all but enough to get me through my first day in the US. It had been probably three or four years since I had last purchased under garments; so they were getting pretty ratty!


It felt great arriving back in the Fox Valley. I arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. My first task was to get the hunting gear out of the storage locker. I opened up the door and immediately experienced heart palpitations because almost nothing was where I thought it was. The gun safe was there, and Kaylee’s hunting clothing were right where I thought they would be, but I did not find anything else I needed in the front of the locker like I had “remembered”. Thank goodness I had my Dad track down some ammunition for us. I was positive I had put all the gun cleaning supplies, ammunition, and hearing protection on the top of the gun safe. NOPE! I have no clue where that stuff is, because I unloaded a good portion of the locker and never found it. I was able to find some of my hunting gear, but somewhere in the stacks is a box with my orange hats, coats, and most importantly boots! Thank goodness it was not very cold this year! So after failing miserably, I went to Fleet Farm and had to buy some last minute gear for hunting. (Side Note: Julie no Christmas presents for me!). I did not sleep a wink that night, because of two other items. Kaylee needed her Social Security Card, It was either in a small fire safe in the storage locker or in the safe deposit box at the bank. I THOUGHT I had left the key to the safe deposit box in the gun safe, but I did not, which means it is back in Switzerland. I also could not find the fire safe; so I convinced I had let Kaylee down.

On Thursday morning, I got up and went straight to the DMV office in Appleton. This was another thing I was convinced would not go well. I was even so concerned about renewing my license, I had called the main office in Madison and had a contact name and number in case of problems. I mean what problem could there be when I am getting an ID that specifies an address that I am no longer living? So I was full of trepidation while I was standing in line. The anxiety went to a level 10 when the man in front of me was sent home because he did not have “proof” of address while trying to do the exact same thing. I steeled my heart and got to the counter, the first question from the agent was, “Do you have proof of address?” Like the Smart A$$ I am, I replied, “Yes, but you will not be able to use it. Your system will only take a five digit zip code, and my zip code is only four digits.” This of course caused a raised eyebrow. I explained what was going on, and all she said was “OK.” In fact the whole process went easier this time, than the last two times I had to renew my license while living in Wisconsin.

Feeling that the Gods were smiling down on me, I went straight to the storage locker. Within two minutes, I found the items Kaylee needed, and some more of the hunting gear. It felt like Christmas morning!! I had set myself up for spending the entire day in frustration, and here I was finished with all my tasks by 9:30 AM. I then spent the rest of the day tracking down some of my old co-workers, went out to lunch with some, and then drove to the town of Omro so I could congratulate the new High School Principal. I had worked with Kathy for years in Winneconne. She came as a High School Science Teacher, and we worked very well together, because she loved using technology in her classroom, and when she moved to the Assistant Principal, we again worked hand in hand. Winneconne lost a good one when she moved to Omro, but the school system at Omro really hit the jackpot!

I felt strange driving into the hunting camp for the first time in three years. It felt like coming home. The Eierman Family has been so gracious for allowing me to hunt with them for the last 20 plus years. Tom is like a second father, and before I moved I spent as much time with him fixing his computers as I did with my real parents! I still have not figured out who Tom has replaced me with. 🙂 I was able to take a few shots with my gun so I knew I would hit what I aimed at, and then waited for Kaylee to arrive.

I did not have any success hunting, but honestly, shooting a deer was a tertiary consideration. I really just wanted to see my friends, and spend some time sitting in the woods! I saw deer every time I hunted so that was good it meant I could still do it. Like a good father, though, I put Kaylee where I thought she would be successful, and she had success. She even made her brother happy, by giving him half her deer! It is kind of amusing that she claims to be a better hunter. Then I remind her that I was the one who put her in the stand where SHE saw deer.

I came back to Southern Indiana on Tuesday. Driving back I had to stop and fill the truck up with fuel. I truly realized how good people in the US have it when I paid the bill. I put almost 30 gallons of gas in the truck, and it cost about $80. I did a quick conversion in my head, and realized I had put in over 100 liters of gas. In Switzerland, that same tank would have cost hundreds of dollars. I do understand how frustrating it is when prices go up. The same issue happens on the other side of the Atlantic, but I will never again complain about the high cost of fuel. It could be MUCH MIUCH worse.

I choose to not go hunting this morning, because it is pouring rain. I love hunting, but there is no reason to be miserable! I am going to end this now; so I can help my Mom finish the final preparations for the feast. I am looking forward to seeing two of my three sisters again in a few hours. I have to wait until Christmas to see the third.

I will write again when I am back home with Julie in Rüshlikon. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a magical start to the Christmas Season.

6 November, 2021

As promised I will be posting the two videos from Murten, but before that I have some more living outside the US things to share.

First to update you on the visit to the pharmacy. It took three trips, but I finally got the stuff Julie needed. I still have to say I am even more confused by the experience. My second trip back, the pharmacist took the card, but BEFORE she did anything else, she looked online at the medication, and saw they did not have it in stock. She did order the stuff, and told me it would be in the next day. She scanned the card in the system. So I come back the third day to pick it up. I had the card ready to go, and looked at me and said, “I do not need the card. I scanned it in yesterday.” So what gives? They do obviously keep the information from the card in the system. Was the first person just not treating me well? All she had to do was look up my wife’s information from the prescription. I guess I just got lousy customer service, instead of finding some real difference between stores over here vs stores in the US. 🙂

Our cable TV woes are still continuing. We now have three competing theories. One technician at UPC claims there is a bug in the programming, and that many people are impacted. Another technician claims that it is either the electrical current in the apartment, or the power supply for the cable box is bad. I still think it has something to with the construction going on around the building.

For the first theory, I started a thread on one of the forums I monitor. They have a section titled TV/Internet/Telephone. So I thought it was a natural. I figured if it was an update issue, there would be some other people respond. The thread has been up for almost a week, and the only responses I have gotten are “UPC is a crap company, and no one should ever use them.” and “there is something wrong with your cable box. You should probably switch it out.” So based on my limited sample size. No one else is having a programming problem with their UPC box. In regards to the, electrical theory. The technician wanted me to plug the box into a different outlet. That did not do anything. He then asked if I switched the power supply out when I got the new box. Neither of them have had any impact on the problem, because I did switch out the power supply. Here is the interesting thing. Last Saturday and today, the box has not rebooted ONCE. This, to me, leads some credence to my theory that all the construction is somehow messing with the cable signal. Of course no one from UPC wants to come and check on that. That might cost them a lot of money to replace the cable down the street. Oh well, we probably will not be customers for much longer. I am ready to just ditch the whole thing now, but Julie is afraid there will be problems while I am back in the US. So I guess we wait until after the Holidays to make the switch.

For those of you that are Facebook friends with me, you heard this rant yesterday, but it is a pretty good example of how complicated things are now days, so I thought I would share it here as well.

So I am traveling back to the US in 9 days. To get back into the US I have to provide proof of a negative COVID test, I am not sure about the vaccination status, because the rules are different for citizens. Yesterday I get an email from United Airlines about making the trip easier. They want me to get in and upload my documents before traveling. This is normal. We did the same thing when Kaylee was here to travel back and forth from Italy. So I log into the United site. I upload my passport information (for the second time). but am stuck trying to upload the COVID information. I figured I should be able to at least upload my vaccination information, but United has tied the vaccine into the test. So without one I cannot upload the other. This is where it gets silly.

The instructions state that all documents have to be uploaded at LEAST 72 hours before you fly. So for me that means by next Friday morning. Unfortunately, The documents have to be uploaded BEFORE you would have any information in regards to your Covid test. The test has to be taken 3 days before you leave. So if I go in at 8 AM to take the test. I won’t get the results back before noon. That service also costs me an additional $100. For the normal Covid test, the cost is still $150, but the results do not come for 24 hours. This makes it impossible to meet the 72 hour deadline.

Where it became even more funny. Is that in the section regarding the Covid test. United says I cannot take the test until the 14th. So if I wait until the 14th, I cannot fly back home, because I won’t have the results back I do not think I can even pay for the fast test on a Sunday. So I guess I will simply do what all our visitors did this summer. Take the test about 48 hours before I leave, and ignore having to upload the documents. Hopefully it will work out fine. I will be very angry if I get to the airport on Monday morning, and cannot fly home. Reminder to George: I get in to Indianapolis at 7:00 PM Monday the 15th. Don’t forget, you are picking me up and driving me to Mitchell. 🙂

Here are the videos from Murten:

Driving through the old section of Murten
The City Wall of Murten

Julie took some nice pictures from the town, so I thought I would share some of those as well:

Thanks for reading. Not sure what I will post about next week. I am going to be pretty busy getting ready to head back home! Talk to you soon, though.

4 November 2021

First off, Happy Birthday to my Father. He is 84 years young this week. He certainly is not as spry as he was 30 years ago, but he still loves getting out and doing things. He walks every morning, and spends time in the garden or other maintenance tasks on the farm. If it were not for computers he would probably still be practicing medicine as well. He still gets excited about travel, and he and my mother are already making their plans to come back to Europe next year. Anyway, Happy Birthday Dad! Glad we got to talk. I hope you like your gift, and I am looking forward to seeing you again in about a week and a half.

I had one of those “Oh Crap! Life is a little bit different here moments yesterday.” I had to visit the Apotheke (Pharmacy) and get something filled for Julie. We have visited this store multiple times. Of course I had never picked a prescription up before. I thought it would be like the US. Show up with the order, give your wife’s name, date of birth, and some other information, and you would get the medicine. Not here. I am sure they keep records that Julie has gotten medicine there in the past, but I could not get the order filled, because I did not have her insurance card. Honestly, I do not see how that matters. The way the insurance works here, is that I am the middle man. I pay for the drug, and then I ask the insurance company for the payment. I am sure it has something to do with the fact, that some drugs are no cost to the user, and then there is an arrangement made for payment, but I do not know for sure how it works. I do know that because of data privacy rules stores do not keep all the information they have about people in their data files. I am guessing that insurance information is one of those things they choose to not keep.

Technology did come through for us this past weekend. My son was in the “Moot Court” competition for his law school, He made it to the final round last Saturday. My parents, and some other relatives and friends were able to be there in person, but not so much Julie and I. His school, though, was very accommodating for us. They set up a zoom meeting; so we could watch him compete. The time difference was a little inconvenient for us. We wound up eating a really FAST dinner, and then sitting outside the restaurant watching his arguments. Julie and I were given a LOT of strange looks by the passerby’s but it was worth it.

Before I tell you a little about the town we visited. I got a lesson that my language skills are NOT nearly as good as I think they are. We show up to a restaurant, and exchange greetings with the server. This was done in German. So after the greetings in German I say: “Wir haven eiene Reservierung um seben uhr dreissig. Der Name ist Julie Sorrells.” Translated to We have a reservation at 7:30. The name is Julie Sorrells. Pretty simple and I thought I said everything right. However, she gives me a BLANK state. She had no clue what I said. So I tried it again. Still nothing. So I tried using the word for appointment (termin) thinking I butchered reservation so badly. Still just giving us blank stares, but then starts saying something that I cannot understand at all. Julie adds in, from behind me in English, We have a reservation…… The server immediately starts smiling, and shows us to our seats. The rest of the evening we conversed back and forth in German and English both.

I am really not sure what happened. I am convinced I said everything correctly. I did ask online, if I said something wrong. Here was the feedback I got:

1) Most said there was nothing wrong. She was just surprised to hear German. Julie made the reservation online and in English; so she was probably expecting an english speaker.

2) Like many Swiss people she speaks multiple languages. She was conversing with almost all the other customers in French. So the thought is that she is probably learning German just like I am. Since I do not speak German like a Swiss person, she probably did not understand my accent.

3) I did not use the common form for time. In German the normal way to say 7:30 is halb acht or 1/2 8. Honestly I struggle with this one, because in the US you would never say “It is 1/2 to 8.” You would always say, ” It is 1/2 past 7.” I always forget with the half, and think past instead of to the hour. I do need to get better at that.

The online feedback seemed to agree on number 3 the most, but I struggle to buy that one. What I said was not wrong, just not the preferred way of saying it. I think number 2 is probably the most likely explanation, but we will probably never know.


So our trip this weekend was to the village of Murten. Murten is about 150 KM from our house, so about a two hour drive. Murten is located in the canton of Fribourg. It is pretty close to the French Border. Friburg is the start of the French speaking area of Switzerland; so Murten is truly a bilingual village. Below is a picture from the church bulletin. You will notice that not only the mass order is written in two languages. Look at the song. The verses switch back and forth between French and German. This certainly made the Mass harder to follow. In German, I can usually follow about 50% of the service, and 30% of the homily. Last weekend those percentages were cut in half. Even during the homily, the priest did some in German, and then some in French!

Murten is a VERY old settlement. Archeological finds around the city are from 8000 – 5000 BC. Unfortunately, the provenance of those finds cannot be proven because the records have all been lost, but in the 1970’s during some road construction some additional finds were made that dale from 5000- 2500 BC. That is still pretty darn old! In Swiss History, the town is first mentioned in 515 AD. It was mentioned as a defensive site. The lake on one side, and the shape of the hills around the lake made Murten a natural defense. Murten is one of the few places that have maintained the old city wall. Parts of the wall date back to the 1100’s. The wall was made bigger for the next few hundred years, and in 1476, the city was under siege for two weeks. You can still see some of the bullet and cannon ball marks to this day! Starting around 1500 the town had really started to outgrow the walls; so parts of the wall were torn down, and as is common here were replaced with houses like pictured below. However, what makes this place unique, is that the majority of wall was preserved as it was originally built.

There are still a couple of spots where you can climb up to the battlements and look over the town, and the countryside like you could almost a thousand years ago! I will be putting up a video that we made walking along the old part of the wall; so you can really see what it looks like. The picture below is a panaramic photo I took from near the center of the wall,. You can see from the White tower on the left all the way along the wall to the tall tower on the right

The name of the town comes from the Celtic word for “Lakeside Fortress” One of those examples where the name describes the thing exactly.

Murten is an example of the thinking that lack of transportation can make or break a town, Back in the 1800’s Murten’s future looked very bleak. The government was putting in a rail line on the west side of the country that would go from North to South. The line was originally planned to go through the town, but it was rerouted through the Canton Seat of Fribourg. For the next 20 years the town struggled to survive because there was no transportation. Around 1875 a rail line was finally installed from Fribourg. That allowed tourism to become one of the driving forces for the village.

My final thoughts on Murten. I was very surprised by the number of homes in the old part of town. In most villages I have seen the old part of town has been preserved for business. Sure there are homes above the store fronts. Murten is a little different. The old part of town is about 4 blocks wide by about 6 blocks long. About 2/3 of the buildings are primarily business. However the section of the town closest the wall is primarily homes. There is an occasional storefront, but the majority of the buildings seemed to be homes. It looked like a really nice place to live. The other big shock was to find the grocery stores and some of the other retail establishments open on Sunday morning, Outside of the larger train stations or the airports, this was the first time in two years I have seen a grocery store open on Sunday. I think that is a sign that Murten’s number one industry is now tourism.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will have two videos and some pictures on Saturday or Sunday to post.

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.

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.