Julie needed to get away from work for a bit, so we decided to go on vacation for a week. We were originally planning on spending the week in Austria; since the boarders have opened back. However, her company has said that if you travel outside the country on mass transit, you have to self quarantine for two weeks. What makes ZERO sense to me, is that we have spent more time on mass transit traveling to Grindelwald, than we would have spent traveling to Austria. Oh well, sometimes logic doesn’t make any sense. I am doing a mid week blog post, because the amount of pictures I am taking will make it necessary.
Before leaving for the mountains, I finally was able to get an interview with a school in town so I could discuss volunteering next year. I have been a little afraid that I was going to have to change the name of this blog, because I couldn’t get any education content at all. I was not getting any schools returning my emails. So the pitch was changed. The last email did not talk about volunteering it was a brief introduction and the wish to meet and learn more about the Swiss Education System. It worked! I had a wonderful meeting with the “Principal” of one of the primary schools in town. A primary school in Switzerland is K – 8. I put the word principal in quotes, because even though there are multiple primary schools in town, there is no school district. Each school is independent of the others. Herr Müller informed me that he reports directly to the canton of Zürich. So basically the head of the school reports directly to the Department of Instruction at the State level.
We talked about some of the different problems that he faces. For one thing, about 60% of his students do not speak Swiss German or even German at all. By law the instruction has to be given in the official language of the canton, so German as a second language classes are always full. What amazed me the most, is the number of languages he has to worry about. This year he told me they have 30 different languages being spoken in the school. That is a lot of interpreters. Another difference between schools here and the US: In the US for some reason private schools are looked on as better education systems than the public schools. (I personally disagree with that feeling. The biggest reason being is that private schools get to pick and choose their students, public schools do not get that luxury.) In Switzerland everyone I have spoken with has said the public schools are a much better education option than the private schools. This feeling seems to be backed up anecdotely from the executives at Julie’s company. At least two of the senior executives have moved their families back to their home countries for their High School education. Their feeling is that the private (international) schools here will not prepare the students for college. The problem for a lot of expat workers is the language. Yes they make every effort to make sure the student is going to learn and learn in the language, but if you know you are only going to be here for a couple of years, learning German is a very big burden to overcome in relation to all the other education items a young person needs.
The school I interviewed with is getting ready for a 1:1 program next fall. I think I was able to get the Principal’s attention when I talked a little about implementing the 1:1 program at Winneconne a few years ago. So hopefully in the coming months I will have some education blog posts. Hey Winneconne Administrators, if you get a phone call in the coming weeks from someone with a thick accent: PLEASE say nice things about me, don’t tell him the truth! 🙂
The mountain in the background is named the Eiger. The town of Grindelwald is nestled in the valley, and is one of two start points to the “Top of Europe”. It isn’t the highest elevation in Europe, but it is the highest elevation for a train station in Europe. Tomorrow morning when when we go to the Jungfrau, the train ride is about an hour long, up alongside, and through the Eiger. If you have ever seen the movie ” On Her Majesties Secret Service” ( I believe it was the only James Bond movie that George Lazenby made. After all who could hope to follow Sean Connery!) you know the part of Switzerland we are visiting.
We have done a lot of hiking the last two days, which is great for me, but not so much for Julie. Julie realized how much she has been working the last few months, and had decided to start the Couch to 5K program. She was in week 4, and took a bad step off a curb and hurt her knee. She has been a trooper though. Each day we have logged at least 6 miles with nary a complaint.
Our first day here we checked into the hotel, and just relaxed. It turned out, though we were the awful Americans who don’t follow the rules. The Hot Tub had a sign that limited it to two people at time. Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t near the hot tub. so Julie got yelled at for climbing into the tub when there were people already there. The other BIG Faux Pas, is that we were in our swimsuits. We bothed missed the sign on the door that had a picture of a swimsuit with an X. So not only were we ignoring the Coronoa Virus rules, we were clothed. 🙂 What got me on the swimsuit though was the disrobing area was in the hallway down to the pool. You have to wear swimsuits in the pool, so I didn’t think the “get naked area” would have been that public. Oh well!
The next day we explored the town, and went through the Glacier Canyon. The canyon was beautiful, about 1/2 of the pictures are from the canyon. We also were able to have a nice picnic on the hike. We found a little clearing by one of the many streams, and spread out the blanket for a nice relaxing lunch.
Our second day here, we visited the town of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is in another valley around the Eiger. In many of the tour guides it is also referred to as Water Fall Valley. I have to say Lauterbrunnen is a much prettier town than Grindelwald, but the lodging options were a lot less. I have been fortunate to do a lot of traveling in the US. I have seen many of the National Parks, and until yesterday, I always thought of Yosemite National Park as the prettiest place I had ever seen. The Lauterbrunnen valley is amazing. Literally you are in between two cliff walls that are approximately 1000 feet high. I have not ever experienced feeling so small. I have a lot of pictures of the valley, but NONE of them even come close to capturing the magnificence of the mountain walls.
The image above is Staubbach Falls, it is one of the very first things you see when coming into Lauterbrunnen. The falls are 297 meters high. The falls were measured in 1776 by a team of men that climbed the cliff trailing rope! The 2nd most impressive water display is Trümmelbachfälle. These falls are in the process of cutting a canyon down the middle of the mountain. Only the last two falls were visible until 1877, when some enterprising person cut a tunnel up through the mountain! The amount of water in the falls varies greatly. From December to March there is just a little stream trickling down under thick sheets of ice. After frosty nights in April and October the flow of water measures only a few dozen litres a second. But between April and June, when the snow melts, and between June and September, when the glacier ice melts, as well as after heavy rain and thunderstorms, as much as 20’000 litres a second may come thundering through the rocky defile. The little stream becomes a mighty river.
I have some video of inside the falls that I will get up in the next week or so. I didn’t bring my macbook with me for video editing. Trying to edit video on a chromebook, is not the most enjoyable experience!
Anyway, this is all I am going to write for the day. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will try and get one more post up this week, but I do post frequent pictures on Instagram (gwsorrellsiii) or twitter (@gwsorrells).