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 ZĂĽrichsee. 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.

2 June. 2022

MY SON TRIED TO KILL ME THIS WEEK!!!!

Elevation image of hike

This is only the 3rd time our son has been able to be here in the warmer months. The first time really doesn’t count, because he was only here for a few days, and his main task was to move his Mother out of the hotel and into our apartment. This time he has decided he wants to try some hiking. Last weekend he and Julie went on a lovely hike from our home to Uetliberg. It is a fun hike of about 9 kilometers. You hike over one ridge to a nearby town, take a gondola up the next ridge, and then it is a fairly level walk the rest of the way. He and Julie took the hike, while I went for a long bike ride. His second hike he wanted to do in the mountains. He decided to visit Seealpsee and Ebenalp.

I read up on the hike, and found that this is one of the most popular hikes in the country. At least the hike to Seealpsee is. Now most people doing this hike, take the graveled trail from the train station up to the lake. If people are doing the entire hike, most people take the gondola up to Ebenalp and then hike down. Not my son. He wanted to be Swiss. We drove to the train station, and then started going up, and up, and up. We got to the top of the first ridge, and I was “OK, that wasn’t that bad. It was hard, but I didn’t die. We will have a nice level walk to recover. Have some lunch, and since we are halfway up I should be OK.” Then I looked across the valley. As you can see from the elevation map when we leveled off, we were not 1/2 way up, we were only about 1/3 of the way up the mountain. We have some good pictures, but I also hope you enjoy the video I made by splicing together a bunch of TikToks. Ignore the heavy breathing toward the end of the video. I was EXHAUSTED!!

The hike was even harder because the day before I went on a pretty hard bike ride, that had over 1500 meters of climbs. My legs started tired, and they were pretty shaky at the end! If you look at the elevation picture, where the climb was the most steep I was only able to walk about 25-30 meters at a time. The trail at that point was nothing but steps and switchbacks. I basically went from switchback to switchback and took a two – three minute rest at each turn. The strangest part of the hike was near the end. You can see the restaurant we stopped for a breather. The restaurant is built into the side of the mountain.

I was a little concerned about how we were going to get from the restaurant up the top of the mountain. The trail started as a bridge built off the side of the cliff. I was a little worried that was going to be how the hike ended. I stumbled and fell hundreds of feet down! However, after a few hundred yards the trail came to a cave. You actually hike through the cave to get up to the field at the top of the mountain for the gondola ride back down. The change in temperature was very striking. We were very comfortable up to the point we left the cave. I think the temperature was a good 15 – 20 degrees colder up at the top of the mountain versus the bottom. Thank goodness there was a building to wait for the gondola, or we would have gotten hypothermia.

Growing up on a cattle farm, I am still impressed with how the Swiss cows live on the mountains. When you look through the photo gallery. Look for a picture of 3 or 4 cows on the side of the mountain. The next picture is zoomed out to normal, and you can see the whole hillside. The cows actually make little terraces as they walk across the hill finding what little grass is available. It seems so strange to me, that the cows are able to find enough nourishment on the mountains, but I guess they have been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years, so what do I know?

This weekend we are heading to Luxembourg. So I should have some more travel photos for next week’s post. Talk to you soon.

27 April 2022

Well according to the city and canton of Zürich winter is officially over. Based on the cold temperatures in the morning this week I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature! I was able to head down to the Operaplatz (renamed Sechseläutenplatz for the weekend) to see winter being blown to smithereens. No one knows exactly when the Böögg became the symbol of the spring festival, but it has been awhile.

BĂ–Ă–GG

Sechseläuten goes back to the middle ages. It was the start of the summer working hours for the guildhalls in the canton. The workday used to be from sunup to sundown, and they were paid a daily wage for their labor. This, of course, was a raw deal for the working person for about 8 months of the year. During the spring, summer, and fall the laborers put in a lot more work than they did during the winter. Sechseläuten is Swiss German for Six O’Clock ringing of the bells. This was the symbol for the workday to be over. It meant these workers had some time off with sunlight; so they could do some work of their own, or just simply visiting with family.

When the festival first started it was a neighborhood party. There were multiple parades around the town, and boys would set off fireworks and other LOUD celebrations. At some point boys being boys someone decided to burn winter in effigy. Hence the Böögg was born. In the US we would call this the Boogeyman. From different stories I have read the first Böögg was set aflame in 1902 as an official part of the festival, but reports go back to the 17th and 18th centuries in regards to fireworks and burning winter in effigy. It has been done every year since with the exception of 2020 when the event was canceled due to Covid. 2021 saw another first because although the Böögg was set on fire, it happened near the city of Andermat. The city government moved the display because they did not want people congregating again because of Covid. So 2022 was the big return.

I knew it was going to be big; so I went down about four hours early. I took a leisurely stroll through ZĂĽrich from the train station down to the Opera. The festival goes the entire weekend ending on Monday. There are many different neighborhood festivals going on with food, games, and fun. About 4 PM the parade of guilds begins. The different guilds have bands, floats, and many parade walkers in period costumes.

One thing I had not done, was visit the Lindenhof. There is nothing very special about this place, but it is the sight of an old Roman Castle. The views of the river are very pretty, though.

The Limmat Fluss (River) from the Lindenhof

I learned that Swiss crowds are no better behaved than crowds anywhere else. I was kind of surprised by this. So again, I got down to the festival grounds very early. I knew I was not going to be able to get very close; so I wanted to find the best possible spot to watch the show. I was so early, that literally there was no one else just standing around; so I did get a great spot right as close as possible. The crowds starting pick up with about an hour and a half to go. I found myself having to defend my spot on the fence fairly aggressively. Everyone wanted that spot. I kept one hand on the fence; so as not to get pushed away, but one point a woman wedged into the 6 inch space between another person and I. A hand grabbed the back of my jacket and pulled me away from the fence far enough the lady could get in front of me. I was really mad, but not mad enough to start a fight. 🙂 I really started getting upset when 15 minutes before everything really got going the woman’s son came and tried to climb the fence in front of me. Then about another 6 kids magically appeared. I get the festival is really for the kids, but darn it. I had scoped out that spot, and been standing there for HOURS. I was not about to let these kids climb the fence and ruin my sight line. So I stood there grabbing the fence above the woman’s head. The kids were able to climb up enough they could see, but not high enough they ruined everyone else’s view. It was a good thing I do not speak Swiss German, because I am sure I was being called a lot of names! Next year, I think I skip the fire, and just go down to watch the parade!

We have visitors coming this weekend. If you have read my blog for a while you have met Gabby (my son’s significant other), well Gabby’s sister is studying in Europe this semester; so she is coming tomorrow to spend a few days in Switzerland with another friend. I admit I am a little nervous. The last time we had college students stay with us the entire world shut down two weeks later! Hopefully, this will be like the burning of Böögg and signify the end of the covid pandemic. I am not going to hold my breath, but I will remain hopeful!

In other news, when Switzerland announced they were going to put economic sanctions on Russia over invading Ukraine a lot of people questioned that. The feeling seemed to be that Switzerland could not stay neutral and still put sanctions on a country. Well this week the government was able to demonstrate what military neutrality means. Germany wanted to send some anti aircraft weapons to Eukrane, but the munitions are made in Switzerland. Switzerland’s policy is they will sell arms, but only if there is no active war. So if Germany wanted to ship the material six months ago there would have been no problem, but now they cannot based on Germany’s agreement with Switzerland. Switzerland takes the equipment thing very seriously. They have blocked shipments of helmets, footwear, and protective vests. The government here has even blocked shipments of medical supplies, because there is no guarantee they will only be used in civilian hospitals. On the surface it seems kind of harsh, but the more I think it does make a lot of sense.

Not a whole lot of pictures from this last week. The weather was awful, so outside of Sechseläuten I did not do much other than ride my bike on the balcony, and go to the grocery store! I did get a pleasant surprise today, though. A month or so back I told you all about the Alpenbrevet. This is a ride through the Alps. I signed up for a 100 KM ride that goes over three mountain passes. I got a package today that had a new bike jersey! I think it looks awesome.

I hope you have a great week, and as usual enjoy the pictures.


21 April 2022

I remember when Kaylee was looking to spend her senior year of high school in Argentina. Julie and I, of course, were a little worried about our baby going so far away, and other than the surprise trip to a hospital we really did not have much to worry about. The one thing I remember from the preparation was a quote by an exchange student that had already returned. “I decided I was going to make my exchange year the year of “YES.” As long as it was not illegal I told myself that no matter what someone asked me to do, I was going to say yes, and enjoy the experience as much as I can.” Of course there is a difference between being an 18 year old vs someone in their mid 50’s. We probably have not said yes as often as we should, and we spend far to many Sundays recovering in the apartment instead of being out exploring, but we are trying.

One of the ways we have expanded our horizons the most is in food. Whenever we go someplace new, we make sure to order what we think is the most strange thing on the menu. (Seriously though, the fresh octopus we had in Portugal has been one of the best things we have ever eaten.) One big change is that we almost never buy pre-made meals any more. This is primarily because since I am not working I have time to cook, so about the only thing we buy pre-made is Rösti (a local take on hash browns) and Pasta. Well the pasta is going to be cut down a lot in the future.

Pasta Maker

Julie had a gift card burning a hole in her purse; so we hopped a train to Zürich last Saturday and went to Globus. Most of you have never heard of Globus, but think high priced department store and you are on the right track. We almost never shop there. Everything is priced significantly higher than any other store. However, since Julie had the gift card we decided to check it out. As we were walking around the store, Julie saw this and said how she had always wanted to learn to make pasta. So on the spur of the moment she picked up the machine, a spaghetti attachment, a drying rack, and some kind of ravioli contraption. The ravioli thing looks like a cross between a pizza cutter, and one of those tools used to put screen in a screen door. 🙂

We brought it home, and decided that since Monday is a holiday, (Does anyone in the US get Easter Monday off? That is actually a thing here, but I did not realize it until this year, because the last two Easter’s we have basically been shut down due to Covid.) we would use the afternoon to try and make fresh pasta. The recipe is pretty easy. You buy a specific kind of flour and then mix a little olive oil and 1 egg for every 100 grams of flour. I also added a little salt based on some of the things I read online. Mix everything up well. Roll the dough into a ball, and let sit for about an hour while wrapped in plastic wrap. Flatten the ball with a rolling pin, and then start running it through the big rollers on the pasta maker. It takes a total of about 18 trips through the roller and then you roll it through the attachment on top of the machine to make the shape. I actually made a video of using the machine, because WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO DO? 🙂

My first attempt at making pasta from scratch!

Making pasta is a lot more work than buying a bag of stuff in the grocery store, but honestly the results are worth it. The taste and texture is so much better than anything we have bought in the store. One thing we have learned here, is there is a big difference between regular pasta and premium pasta in the grocery store. Well the fresh stuff makes the premium stuff seem second rate. I highly recommend it. The other benefit is that until I do this enough to really figure out the machine, it is a great way to cook together. If you watched the video, the pasta maker is a lot easier with two people than only one. Now, maybe if we had bought the PREMIUM pasta maker that had an electric motor instead of a crank…… but that will be for the next gift card!

Pasta on the drying rack.
The finished product with a homemade sauce as well!

I think I am going to have a fun time experimenting with this. Just like I have really enjoyed learning how to bake bread. My next bread adventure BTW is to make Julie some English Muffins. The two stores that used to carry the muffins, locally, stopped carrying them, so Julie needs to find an alternative. Our recent trip to Munich found Julie searching through the grocery stores, where she picked up a month’s supply of muffins, but that is running out quickly!

THe BööGg

Sechseläuten is the name of the Spring Festival in ZĂĽrich. The translation of the word is “The six o’clock ringing of the bells.” This goes back to medieval times when the work day was from sun up to sun down. That scheduled worked fine in the winter, but starting in the spring and then through summer it meant that the workers got the shaft because they were paid per day, and all of a sudden sun down meant a much longer work day. So the guilds in ZĂĽrich came up with a solution. Each spring the GrossmĂĽnster started ringing the bells at six pm to signify the end of the work day. So now the day is a festival in ZĂĽrich. The festival ends with the burning of the Böögg. At 6 pm next Monday the pyre is lit, and the tradition is that the faster the Böögg’s head explodes the better the summer is going to be.

The festival has been called off the last two years due to covid. In fact, 2020 was the first time in recorded history the festival was canceled. Last year the festival was canceled, but the burning of the Böögg was moved to Andermatt. (See the video below.)

Burning of the Böögg

Next Monday, I will be downtown ZĂĽrich for the parades, and to watch the head explode live!

According to Wikipedia. The fastest time has been 5 minutes 7 seconds, and longest time is 43 minutes 34 seconds. I am hoping for a record, because I really want a good summer!

language success

I know I have talked many times on here about trying to learn German. I had, for me, a major success this week that I wanted to tell you about.

Each year, Julie and I have to renew our visa. Honestly, it is a pretty easy process, but it is kind of a pain. We are supposed to surrender our Aufenthaltstitel (residency permit) and then wait 4 – 6 weeks for the new one to show up. Normally it is not a problem to be without the card. If we are going anywhere, we simply use our driver license and passport. This year, though, I did not want to surrender the permit card, because we will be traveling back to the US before the new one would arrive. Not having the card does make it hard to get back through customs at the airport. Without that card, the border agents, give us a lot of grief about exceeding the 90 day policy as a tourist in Switzerland. So my success was that not only was I able to do the whole transaction in German. I was even able to ask about keeping the cards until the new ones arrived since we are going to be traveling internationally in the next few weeks.

What made the transaction even more special to me, is the town clerk realized I was trying valiantly to do this in German. He kept replying to me in English and then he would stop himself and switch to German! This almost never happens. The normal thing is that once the Swiss person realizes that I am not fluent, they immediately switch to English, and everything from that point on is English not German. It really does make it hard to get better.

I hope you are having a fantastic week. I will write again next week with hopefully some good pictures and video of the festival.



13 April 2022

Today is a bit of a recovery day. I went for a bike ride yesterday with my two new TikTok friends. I did close to 80 kilometers, but as part of the ride there were a couple of really hard climbs. My legs still felt a little weak this morning; so I took it easy and just did some walking and stretching! I am really thankful my new friends took me on this ride, because now I have a good route to really practice some longer climbs without having to take a train to the mountains! The last climb took us up high enough that there was still some snow on the ground. The last climb was about 350 meters and you could really tell the difference when we hit 1000 meters above sea level. That was when we started seeing some snow still on the ground. The ride really showed I have a lot of work to do before my big mountain ride in September. I really have to start doing some work on the hills.

Easter Week

If you have followed me very long on this blog, you know that Julie and I do not go to church very often over here. Part of the reason is the nearest english speaking church is on the other side of Zurich. The other reason is financial. If you belong to one of the major religions you are taxed for belonging to the church. It is not as bad as it sounds, it does go back to when the church was also the government. In this case the money the government collects goes back to the church. From what I can tell, this is also another issue with being a US citizen. We get a 1:1 credit on our US taxes for every dollar we pay in Swiss taxes. However, the church tax does not count. Making it even worse, the US does not consider it a charitable donation, so we cannot write it off our US taxes that way. So we have not joined a church here. I say this because one of the Easter traditions in Zurich is to decorate some of the more well known fountains with roses for Easter.

We found this out by mistake last year, but this year we were really looking forward to touring the city and seeing the fountains. It is really a pretty site. I really wish they would do more, but I guess roses are pretty expensive.

The picture above is our favorite. For sure it is the biggest one, but the way the water hits the basin right in the center adds a lot to this display. The roses are in the fountains from the Saturday before Palm Sunday through Easter Monday. We went and did the tour Monday after Julie got off work. It was so nice, because last year we did it the day before Easter and there were BIG crowds at all the fountains. The churches publish a map so that you can easily find which fountains have been decorated.

Employment Update

Back in 2021, I decided I was going to try and find a job. Since then, for a couple of reasons, I have learned that it would take some kind of miracle for me to find employment here. In other posts I have talked about some of the reasons, but it boils down to 1) I have not worked as hard as I should in becoming fluent in German and 2) Being over the age of 50 makes it harder to find employment.

Number one is solely on me. I realize, that if I absolutely HAD to find work I would have worked harder at learning German. Number two, however, is really more to do with how the Swiss version of Social Security works. I also think that age discrimination is something that is pretty universal. In the US, for example, the statistics of what happens to someone over 50 that loses their job are pretty shocking. ProPublica did a study a few years ago that found: only 10 percent of people over the age of 50 ever earn as much as they did before they lost their job. For years after the job loss the household incomes of these people are substantially lower for the families that experience job loss after the age of 50. From what I read online, this same phenomena happens in Switzerland.

For years job seekers in the US market have come across companies that treat them like dirt during the interview process. Companies never call back, never give updates as to how the process is going, and some companies are even asking for prospective employees to provide free labor by working on “case studies” that are actual problems the company is trying to solve, and still the person is not hired. This same thing happens over here. I have been following this one thread a man started about six months ago. He was asking about salary ranges for positions with financial institutions here in Zurich. Six months later, the company finally got around to offering him a job. When he got the job offer, he found the company was offering the same wages they were offering almost 10 years ago. When he turned down the offer, he described being berated for “wasting” the company’s time. What about his time? I mean how many of us would ever wait around six months on a job offer? Then when you found out they were offering the same pay as they gave out 10 years ago, would you take the job? I admit not having any first hand knowledge I may not have the full picture.

That being said from what I read and hear about the one real difference in employers here vs the US is the length of time it takes to hire someone. This process seems to be even more broken here than back in North America. So anyway, I have made a future employment decision.

I applied for a couple of different Masters programs in Cyber Security. I was accepted by Indiana University and will be spending my remaining time in Switzerland as an online student. :). I figure this will help cover up the HUGE gap in employment when we head back to the US and Julie and I switch roles as Homemaker. So if anyone has any hints about being an online student, I welcome them. I have looked over the courses, and I have to say the Nerd in me is very excited. The IU program was appealing to me because it mixes courses from the Business School, the Law School, and the School of Informatics. The degree requires 6 hours from each of the schools. I have to admit I am kind of looking forward to taking a class called “Information Privacy.” I am equally intrigued in taking a class called “Topics in Artificial Intelligence.” The one thing I am not looking forward to is that there are a couple of the classes that are not 100% compatible with living on another continent. There will be a couple of semesters where I have class at 02 or 0300. That will make it rough to wake up and walk Julie down to the train the next morning!

So that is about it for updates. Nothing to exciting is coming up other than heading back to the US in a couple of weeks. Julie is smack in the middle of quarter close, so hopefully we will get some day trips in after Easter, but the next big trip will be when young George comes over. Since he studied in Milan for a semester he is going to take us back and show us around. This will also get another bucket list item checked off, because I have bought tickets to get in and see “The Last Supper.” I figure not seeing that painting would be the same as going to Paris and not seeing the Mona Lisa. There are only a handful of paintings so famous that everyone knows them; so if you get the chance to see it “live” you have to take it.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. They are from my bike ride, and the fountains around. Zurich.



14 Februar 2022

Happy Valentines Day. I really didn’t think about it being Valentines Day until I was at the grocery this morning. They had one little kiosk set up by the front door with little heart shaped tines of chocolate. No banners, no section of cards. Pretty low key. In fact in one part of the store it looked more like Halloween, because there were two displays of masks and costumes. I am assuming these are for Mardi Gras or Carnival as it is known by on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, Julie and I are all booked for a long weekend in Venice, Italy this month which is known for a Carnival celebration. I am very excited. Anyway, I did at least get something for Julie. I mean how else is a wife supposed to know she is loved if her husband doesn’t buy something because some random date on the calendar says I need to show my love. 🙂

On another note, I did break down this weekend and finally sign up for the Alpenbrevet. This is a bike ride that takes place around the city of Andermatt. There are four different rides to choose from. The shortest is 64 kilometers long and you go up and down two mountain passes. The longest route is 268 kilometers long and you go up and down FIVE passes. (This one is sold out already!) I am more of a wimp. The ride I signed up for is a little over 100 KM long, and it only goes up three passes. The picture below is from near the top of one of the passes.

I will have 12 hours to complete the ride and it will probably take the majority of that time; so I do not think I will be riding in the Tour deFrance anytime soon! I am not worried about the distance part of the ride at all. I can ride 100 KM in under 4 hours so that part will not be bad. I AM worried about the elevation changes. In measurements that I know all my US friends can understand. The ride is only 67 miles long, but in those 67 miles there are over 10,500 feet of climbs. That is a lot of elevation change. The ride is the first weekend of September, so all summer long you will be getting reports of me trying to learn to climb up the mountains on my bike! This is going to make the hills of Southern Indiana, look like Florida!

In other news: There was another election yesterday. There were some interesting things on the ballot, but one of the most interesting was a local referendum question in Basel. The city of Basel was voting on granting “rights” to primates. I am not talking just normal animal rights issues. The vote was to grant human rights to all primates in the canton of Basel. This, I think, would have caused major problems if it had actually passed. The question did not spell out which rights were being granted. Would primates have a right to free travel? A right to an education? A right to marry other primates? No one actually knows, so it is probably a good thing the question went down in flames. 76% of the people voted against this. Just think of the lawsuits. Any person would have been able to sue over basically anything. The zoo has a monkey cage? The monkeys have to be freed. This monkey needs to be given a free public education. This list would be almost endless.

The four national questions were: 1) can Switzerland limit tobacco advertising 2) should ALL animal testing be banned 3) end the “Stamp” tax on large corporations 3) Financial Aid to public media

The first question had 56% of the vote to get rid of almost all tobacco advertisements. This one was fought vigorously by the tobacco companies, and also other large industries. The feeling is that if the country can limit the free speech for tobacco companies what are they going to come after next. I found this to be pretty odd. Most of the world has already determined that limiting tobacco advertisement is a good thing, but Switzerland has resisted this until now.

I was actually kind of surprised the medical testing question did not pass, but it failed with almost 80% of the people voting no. I mean this is the country that says you cannot just own one guinea pig because one guinea pig will be lonely. It is the country that says cats MUST have access to the outside. I mean in a lot of ways, I think Switzerland likes animals more than people. Switzerland would have been the very first country in the world to have a total ban on animal testing.

The stamp tax question was really a bone being thrown to big business. Right now if a “large” company wants to issue stock the government imposes a 1% tax on the capital raised. This is only on sales that generate more than 1 million CHF. So if it had passed it would have only impacted large companies. Over 62% of the people voting said no to this one.

I really did not understand the “media” question until the last couple of days. I thought the bill was to abolish public TV and radio. You know the same argument that happens in the US every election cycle when one party wants to cut Sesame Street and Wisconsin Public radio. However, in Switzerland the “PUBLIC” stations are already taken care of by a direct tax. Every household has to pay about 450 CHF per year to support public TV and radio. This question was should the government provide support for every newspaper, television station, and radio station in the country. The people that brought this bill forward basically have said since social media has changed the way advertising works these businesses are no longer able to make it financially. Therefore, the government should provide help. I have to admit I was torn on this one when I learned what it was about. On one hand I think businesses should either make it or fail on their own. There should not be government assistance. On the flip side. I have seen what has happened to newspapers and other media companies in the US. There really is no longer a local paper in the Fox Valley WI, or in my old hometown in Lawrence County Indiana. The local papers still have the same name, but almost all of the reporters are gone, and all the stories come from the HQ in some distant city. Heck the old paper in Appleton, WI doesn’t even have news stories any more unless they are two days old. This vote was the closest of the four questions. 54% of the people said the government should NOT help out these media companies.

One thing that will be happening soon in regards to media companies does have me ticked off, and it will be causing me to cancel our cable service in the next month or two. The new rule is that cable companies can now charge you for recording shows. Since you can fast forward through the commercials the companies have to make up or that lost revenue. The fee will probably be only 10-20 CHF per month. So basically a hamburger and fries at Burger King, but that puts me over the edge. I am already paying for streaming services, It will mean that I will no longer be able to watch the local news like I do most days, but I only catch about 1/4 of what they say anyway, and I do it to help learn german; so I will just have to start watching more Netflix in German.


That is about it for the day. I hope you have a great week, and will write more soon.





11 November 2021

This will be my last post from Switzerland for a couple of weeks. In 4 days I will be heading back to the US. I am going to spend some time in Wisconsin and then head back to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. I will probably write at least once per week, because I am sure I will have some amusing stories to relate.

There is probably a 99.9% certainty that something will not go right with the Wisconsin DMV. I mean what can go wrong while trying to get an ID that has an address on it, but the only address you have is in another country? I have already talked to someone in Madison, but just because that person understands my problem is no guarantee that someone in Appleton will. If I had not talked to other people, in my shoes, that let the license expire to learn the headaches I would just let it expire. That being said, I do not want to retake all the tests when we eventually move back. I am not so much worried about getting the ID. I am not getting the Real ID (where you have to show proof of citizenship as well as residency.). I figure when we move back I can worry about the Real ID. What I figure will cause problems will be asking the person to have the ID mailed to a different address than is on the ID. According to the person I spoke with, I have to keep my old address on the license, because that is the ID I have to provide to keep my voting eligibility. Yet since we moved so long ago, the Post Office will no longer forward any mail. So I have to use my daughter’s address as the mailing address.

One thing that still has me ticked off about Switzerland is the health insurance situation. I have talked before about how Switzerland runs the whole country on the same system as Obamacare. It works, and overall health care is very good here. What has me angry is that when we moved here two years ago. I was given the “basic” insurance that every company is required to provide. This is OK as long as I am in here, but it does not cover a thing if we travel to another country. I do not worry about for short trips, but spending two weeks in the US scares me a little in case of an accident. I think I do need some coverage. Anyway, I just bought a policy that covers up to $1million in expenses. Max I could be on the hook for is $20,000. So pretty similar to the long term policies in the US. The cost is about $80 for two weeks. At first I thought this was expensive, but then I started thinking about how much money was taken out of my paycheck every week and how much my old school district had to pay. I realized that $80 is a heck of a deal. There is still much confusion on my part why my insurance company would not let me upgrade to a policy that would cover me in other countries. Julie was eligible for that one right away. The price increase would have been $150 per month. Based on my track record with doctors here, that would have been a good deal for the insurance company. Anyway, it is all bought and I am ready to head back to the US next week.

For those of you that get our Christmas cards, do not be alarmed that they have a US stamp on them, and are mailed from Indiana. I spent this week getting the cards ready. If I were mailing them from here it should have been done about a month ago. The mail is so inconsistent with the US. Sometimes letters take 6 days. Other times they take 6 weeks. The other reason for doing them now, is that it costs about $2 to mail something to the US from here, but I have a bunch of 40 or 45 cent forever stamps. So I have them all addressed and stamped so I can drop off and save about $100 on postage. Even with the increased postage, here, it is not enough to keep the Swiss Post in the black. There are talks about limiting service just like the talks that have been going on for decades in the US. I am not sure what the cost of postage really needs to be, but it is not high enough to keep the system running.

Below I am reposting the videos that were made in Murten. I learned that I should never update this thing on a weekend, because absolutely no one goes back and reads it. I do not get a lot of visits on my blog but I enjoy the writing, and it gives me something to do. On a normal day about 15 people visit my site. On a day that I post something that usually goes up to 30 – 40. Again, not a very big reach! 🙂 That being said when I posted these videos on Saturday only three people visited the site! So if you are interested to see a little more of Murten, please click on the videos below.

I hope you have a great rest of your week, and the next time we talk I will be back in the USA! Hopefully with some good stories to tell!

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: