3 August 2022

Our latest excursion was to visit the city of Strasbourg. Strasbourg is located in the north east part of France. The city sits right on the border with Germany. The city has about 250,000 residents making it the eighth largest area in France. Strasbourg is one of the capitals of the European Union. The city is full of German as well as French culture.

Strasbourg was originally settled by the Celts. (Bonus points for someone that can tell me the country the Celtic tribes originally came from.) The current city was settled permanently about 12 BC. For about 1000 years Strasbourg was ruled by the Catholic Church. Around 1260 the citizens threw out the Bishop and became a free city/state. It remained free until 1681 when Louis XIV took control. Louis only maintained control for about 10 years when the Germans took over 1871. It remained a German city until the end of World War I. The city again changed hands after it was annexed by the German Government before WWII. The French took over again in 1944.

Another quirk that I found interesting, is that Strasbourg has a very good mix of protestant as well as catholic churches. This is fairly uncommon for larger cities. Usually there is a dominance by either catholic or protestant churches. I think part of the reason is that once the city threw out the catholic bishops in order to maintain commerce the city learned to welcome all different religions. One thing that Louis XIV did to try and keep order after his takeover was to build a church that housed both catholic and protestant congregations. The church stayed that way for many years until the congregations grew to large to share the building. However, they did something very interesting. The catholic and protestant groups went in together and built a new wing to the church. Once that was completed there was a protestant wing and a catholic wing. I find that story refreshing because that peace did not exist often.

If you look closely you can see the different building techniques in this picture. The original catholic church is the light brick in the center. The protestant section is the pink on the right. The red sandstone is a different story. During one of the German occupations they wanted to modernize the city; so they tore down the front 1/3 of the church and rebuilt it in the local red sandstone. If you look in the lower left hand corner of the picture, you will see a different style paving stone. When the French took control again, they wanted to give the finger to the Germans (because the modernization did not take place); so they used a different paving stone to commemorate the part of the church the Germans tore down. 🙂 It seems this one church is able to demonstrate centuries of conflict!

The city is also home to a magnificent cathedral. The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg was started in 1015. Building stopped sometime around 1100, but began again in 1190. Building was not completed until 1439! Think about that over 400 years to build ONE BUILDING! It is a masterpiece, however. It stands 466 feet tall. It held the record as the Tallest Building in the WORLD for 227 years!!! It is still the 6th tallest church in the world, and is the highest standing structure that was built in the middle ages. Another tidbit I learned is that there are many Notre-Dame Cathedrals in France. Notre Dame translates roughly as “Our Lady.” So the english name of the the cathedral would be The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Like many structures in France and Germany, the church was severely damaged in WW II and the restoration of the tower was not completed until 2006. The spire on the church is very unique. It is in the shape of an octagon, and it is open so that you can actually see the bells. I think my favorite view of the church is the picture below.

This picture really does a good job of showing how much open space there is in the tower.

I learned one other tidbit about construction that I will share here. The style below is very common in this part of Europe. I learned that this style of home (especially the smaller ones) were actually mobile homes. Each of the wood beams was numbered and they would be transported when the owner moved to a new city. The open parts between the beams would be filled in with whatever was available locally. It might have been stone, grass, dung, clay, or even simply mud.

In the original homes the area underneath the house was left open. It was not until much later that the ground floor actually had walls.

So that was our visit to Strasbourg. We had a wonderful time walking around the city. The only downfall was that Julie wanted to stay until Monday so that she could take advantage of cheaper prices in France and do some shopping. Monday was a holiday in Switzerland so Julie did not have to work. Since almost every store is closed on Sunday it made perfect sense to stay a little longer Monday. Julie’s plans were thwarted however. I estimate that somewhere around 40% of the stores were also closed on Monday. Not so much the chain or big stores, but a lot of the small shops were closed. Unfortunately, these were also the stores we did our window shopping on Sunday. Oh well, I guess that means we have to go back sometime soon. I am fine with that, there is a lot more to discover.

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29 Juli 2022

This week is coming to a close quickly. We said goodbye to our guests. I think my sister and nephew had a good time visiting. I believe one of their favorite activities was swimming in die Zürichsee. Almost every town along the lake front has a public bath. Many of these have beaches to go along with the swimming areas. Our favorite so far has been the bath in Kilchberg. They have a very large grass area where you can pack in hundreds of people and not feel that crowded. The swimming area has multiple docks so you can get in and out of the lake without walking on the rocks. They have floated a couple of resting areas out in the water and they even have multiple diving boards. It was easy to tell that this has been the warmest summer since moving here. The lake is normally a little chilly, but this year it was almost warm. Still refreshing, but honestly on 90 degree days, I would prefer a little cooler water.

The other big lesson is that I never realized how much nicer it is to sleep with air conditioning. I broke down on our last anniversary and bought Julie one of those portable room air conditioners. It does a pretty good job of keeping the bedroom cool during this heat wave. Unfortunately, this past week for two nights I was being a good husband and slept on the sofa rather than in the bedroom. One night I had a conference call that started at 3 AM our time, and yesterday I had to wake at 4:30 so I could start my first Century Ride since college. Julie works hard enough, so I did not want to disrupt her sleep by waking her up hours before she needed to rise.

In other news this week I sent in my registration for my courses this fall. I signed up for one class through the Business School called “IT for Managers.” The second class is offered through the IU Law School it is titled “Information Privacy.” I think they will be pretty interesting. The classes start on 22 August; so I still have a couple of weeks left on break. One thing that will be interesting is that I have a “zoom orientation” next week. It is scheduled to be about 8 hours long. The time zone difference is in my favor, though. It starts about 3 pm so I do not have to worry about being up in the middle of the night!

I went out for a couple of long rides with week. On Tuesday, I joined a friend in a ride around the lake. This is about a 70 km ride. I have a lot of respect for my riding partner. He has an e bike, but he only uses the electric assist after he stops. I am impressed because I let him set the pace, and he hums along at about 24 – 25 kmh. His bike must weigh 50 pounds. I think I would have a hard time pedaling it, let alone cruising along at a pretty decent speed. He really kicks my butt on the hills, but I know he is using the electronic assist for that. 🙂 My second long ride started in the town of Baden, CH. I met another friend, and we rode from Baden to Belfort, France. This was a really fun ride because we went through Germany as well. The total distance for this ride was 172 KM. As I said in the first paragraph. I had not ridden that far since college. My time was a lot slower now, but not am I 30 + years older, I am carrying a lot more excess baggage now! Anyway, it was a good ride, and my riding buddy is going to do a couple of mountain passes with me over the next couple of weeks so I am ready for my big ride in September!

100 miles in 14 minutes

We had talked about going another 50 KM but the temperatures got up into the 90’s and France (unlike Switzerland) does not have the plethora of water spigots every few miles and we wound up a little dehydrated. Well, that, and when we got to Belfort we checked the train schedule and there was a train leaving in 15 minutes. We decided that the Gods were trying to tell us something. So we bought tickets and headed back. One of the most interesting things about the area, at least to me, were the raised canals over other bodies of water in France.

Canal over a river in France

My riding partner was explaining to me that a very popular summer activity is to rent a houseboat and cruise the canal we rode by. I have done a couple of houseboat vacations on lakes in the US. Honestly, they were not my favorite vacation, but I could see the appeal to others. However, I saw no redeeming things at all to do this on the french canals. For one reason, the canals were foul. You would not even think about swimming in the water, and that is at least 1/2 the fun of a boat vacation. The second reason I would never want do this are the locks. There are some pretty good elevation changes in this part of France, so there are many locks. In some places the locks are only separated by a couple of hundred meters. These locks have been in place so long, that many of them are still manually operated. The amount of work required to go 10 miles on the canal would be significant. This is certainly not my idea of a fun vacation. Drive the boat, tie it up, activate the lock, untie the boat, drive 200 meters and repeat the process. Some of the locks are big enough to handle two or three boats at the same time. However, many of the locks are big enough for only one. I mean we go on vacation to leave the rat race and traffic jams. Not experience them on the water!

Monday is one of the few Holidays that Julie actually gets to take off this year. It is Swiss National Day. This is similar to the 4th of July in the US. The biggest difference is that it celebrates the unification of the country, not independence from a foreign power. To show you how slow things tend to move in Switzerland. The day was first celebrated officially in 1891. That sounds like a long time, right? Well the signing of the federal charter that is celebrated happened in 1291! To demonstrate even more how slow the Swiss Govt can move. The day did not become a National Holiday until 1994. It seems so strange that the celebration of the founding of the country did not become a national holiday for over 700 years!!!!!! The holiday will be celebrated a little differently I think. Usually the weekend is full of fireworks both town wide and household. This year, though, due to lack of rain most of the fireworks displays have been cancelled, and in some areas setting of fireworks is illegal. We are going to celebrate by driving to Strasbourg, France and exploring a new town.

Last note for this week: WE GET TO SEE THE PACKERS PLAY IN OCTOBER! The Packers are one of the last teams to play a game outside the US. This year they are coming to London, and I got tickets today! Hey, Matt Moore! If your season tickets cover this game, come on over, and we will have a party in London! This should be a good time. I am hoping some friends coming over this month from Wisconsin, are going to be able to bring us some cheesehead hats. Though I do not know what the good people of London will think about us wearing the hats on the tube while we are traveling to the game. Just wearing green and gold, they might think we are some crazed soccer fans, but the foam cheese head hats might be a little extreme!

I hope you all have a great weekend. Talk to you next week. Enjoy the pictures. I do not have many this week, but hopefully will have some good ones from Strasbourg.

21 Juli 2022

One of my favorite internet memes is: “He suddenly knew he F’d up…” It is usually a picture of someone getting ready to do something incredibly silly or mildly dangerous. The person has a look of abject terror, or is screaming “Get me off!!!!” Today I had one of those moments. I have talked numerous times on here about the big bike ride I have coming up in about 5 weeks. 100 KM and 3 mountain passes should make for a long day. I started training for this ride, months before I signed up. I had been riding 5 days per week and averaging close to 50 KM per ride. I had also been riding at least two days a week on hills, and had worked myself up to about 75% of the climbing I will do on the ride. I was feeling very confident that it would be a hard, but very enjoyable day on my bike.

I knew I was not going to be able to get many miles under my belt for basically a month. We went on vacation in June, and then I moved Kaylee in July. What I failed to realize is just how fast someone that is approaching 60 can lose their fitness. I took a couple of long hard rides after our vacation and before I went to get Kaylee, and did not notice any loss, but then took time off moving Kaylee and another few days since my youngest sister came for a visit. I took one long slow ride since I came back from this US, and thought I was still OK. This morning I told myself I was only going to ride for three hours, but it was going to be on the hills for the entire three hours. I realized how quickly I lost much of my fitness level about 1/3 of the way up the very first hill. Needless to say I quickly changed my training plan for the day, because I realized trying to complete the climbs I wanted would probably cause me more harm than good. I am hoping I still have enough time to get the miles under my belt I will need to be able to complete the ride, but for the first time since I signed up for the ride I am not feeling very good about being able to complete the distance.

Wish me luck. I think I am going to need it!

We are finally getting to have visitors again. We went almost two years with no one visiting but the kids. That started to change this year, when the sister of Drew’s Girlfriend (Is that still an appropriate term) came to visit. This month my youngest sister is coming, next month, we have some friends from Wisconsin in for a couple of days, then Julie’s parents, and finally my oldest sister will be here. We are in for a busy 8 weeks or so! I had almost forgotten how you can still find new things and that other things change over time as we re-visit places.

The first change I found very sad. The Grossmunster is the largest church in Zürich. It is an old catholic cathedral built by Charlemagne. The legend is that his horse stumbled over the tombs of Felix and Regula (Zürich’s patron saints) and that was the sign to build a church. The church became the symbol of the Switzerland Reformation, as all of the trappings of the church were removed including the organ. Anyway, the best view of Zürich is from atop the towers. I had last been up one of the towers in January of 2020. I was excited to take my nephew up and show him the view. Unfortunately, I am guessing that far too many people were bad visitors because you could no longer go out on the tower’s balcony. You had to stay inside the tower and view the city through steel gates. It was still a fun climb up and down, but the best part of the climb is no longer there.

My Nephew climbing the tower

One of the sites my sister wanted to visit was Luzern. This is where we had a good surprise. Every time I visit Luzern, I have to visit the Lion Monument. Right next to the monument is a place called the Glacier Garden. I had never visited the garden before this week. I learned I had missed out. The start of the garden are some “glacial pots.” For my Southern Indiana folks, this is like a sink hold in the solid rock. Basically, as the glaciers were melting, sand, grit, and water swirled around the stone, and drilled a large hole in the rock.

We took some time and learned about the Alps came to be and the impact glaciers had on forming the landscape. Next we found my nephew’s favorite activity The Labyrinth. I think he would have spent the rest of the day going through the maze.

After the garden, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around Luzern. It was a fun day. My sister is now visiting Venice. I tried to warn off because Venice will be wall to wall people right now, but she wanted her son to see it before it sinks into the water.

It is good to be back, and since I do not have many big things on the calendar I should be able to get back to regular posts! I hope you have a great day. I will talk to you next week. Enjoy the pictures.

28 Juni 2022

In about 12 hours I will be heading back to the airport again. I will be heading back to the US to get my daughter settled in her new city. It should be a whirlwind for a couple of weeks.

santorini

I am going to write about all the great sites on Santorini. Unfortunately, it will be a very short paragraph.

We got to our hotel. We saw how wonderful the hotel is, and then we saw how relaxing the beach was. At that moment we kind of realized that for the next few days we were not going anywhere. I am not kidding when I say the ONLY time we left the beach or the hotel was to walk to dinner. The best part, was the restaurants were all fantastic, and they were only a 10 minute walk at the farthest!

View from our hotel room window

In one way we do not feel guilty for not exploring more. We took Aegean airlines from Athens to Santorini. I got an email about bidding for a business class upgrade. On many of the smaller planes it really does not make that much of a difference, but here we got free check in luggage; so I bid what the cost would be for the luggage, and the bid was accepted. As we were getting ready to land we were given two vouchers for a free flight. Apparently, the curtain could not be closed between the front of the plane and the back. That was such an affront to good order and discipline that Aegean felt the need to make it up to us. I am not complaining. My guess is when we go to book the next flight, there will be some kind of limitations, but if we are able to get one way paid for that still saves a lot of money! Even better we looked it up, and Aegean does fly out of Zürich. So we are already thinking about going back and this time we will actually see what else is on the island.

The one thing I did not do, that I am regretting a little was taking a hike up the mountain to this little church. Seen in the picture below.

It would have been about a two hour hike from our hotel and as you can see from the picture it is a pretty steep mountain. Oh well, that gives me something to do the next time!

I am still having a hard time figuring out how the hotel makes it financially. There are only 7 rooms in the place. Each room has it’s own small swimming pool. There is also a large pool closer to the beach, and a large outside bar. The bar is free for hotel guests, but it is only open from noon to five. They were kind of surprised at the amount of alcohol that two people can drink in five hours! I guess they had never had guests from Wisconsin before. Every other place near the beach has set up lounge chairs and umbrellas for people to use some you have to rent, but others are free as long as you spend so much money on drinks and food. Our hotel kept the beach front solely for the hotel guests. There was one umbrella for each room, and that was it.

Our spots on the beach!

As you can tell from the picture above, the sand is very dark almost black. The consistency of the sand is unlike any other beach I have seen. Sand is all just extremely small crushed rock and shells. This sand does not bind like the sands I have seen in on the East and West Coasts of the US. It would be impossible to build a sand castle and even at the area where the waves break on the shore you actually sink into the sand. It does not get that concrete like texture that I have seen in the US. The one big downfall is that the sand gets even hotter! We learned very quickly that you have to wear some kind of water shoe or sandal unless you have really hard feet. It was like walking on blacktop.

make up from Athens

A final couple of thoughts about Athens. It was a fantastic city. I was shocked to learn that close to 40% of the total Greek population lives in the Athens area. It is a much bigger city than I thought it was.

Did you know that naming rights existed even 500 years before Christ?

The picture above is from the large outdoor theater near the Acropolis. If you paid enough money you got a seat in the front row, and your name was carved in the seat. I do not know why, but that struck me as funny.

I do have some videos to share: One is of the changing of the guard in Athens. Another is also from Athens it is a walk around at the best preserved ancient temple in Athens. (This video kind of shows you what the Parthenon would look like today, if it had not been destroyed.) The third video is from swimming in the sea with my GoPro.

I probably will not have anything to write about the next few weeks; so enjoy your time off! Unless something really exciting happens while I am back in the US there will be about a three week break from posting!

The pictures below are left over from Athens, and the few pictures we took from the island.