13 Oktober 2023

It has been a couple of weeks since I gave an update. I was all ready to write about my experience at Oktoberfest, but I wound up bringing something back home that was unintended. COVID….

I knew better than to believe someone when they say, “It is only allergies.”, and it did come back to bite me in the behind! I spent four days in bed. After that I tested positive for another 4 days, but I just felt like I was suffering from a bad head cold. It has now been 12 days since I first tested positive, but I am still suffering some of the cold symptoms. The worst, and also my biggest fear, is that I am not able to walk up the hill from the train station without resting at least one time. I had never recovered fully from my first run in with Covid from 2022. I am worried that those long term symptoms will get worse.

I have been very jealous of my wife. She seems immune. She rode in the same elevators with the person who spread the virus, and we both spent about 5 hours driving back from Munich with the same couple who both tested positive the same day I did. She had one day where she “didn’t feel right,” but always tested negative. I am very thankful for her, though. She worked from home all last week, and was able to keep the household running while I was quarantining myself.

Getting sick almost cost seeing my parents. They were on a cruise around Italy and the north east Mediterranean. After the cruise they decided to swing by Zurich for a few days and visit. I felt pretty bad that they had to stay in a hotel, but some good friends made their stay a little more enjoyable. They were traveling with a couple who have a daughter that also lives near Zurich, so THANK YOU Sarah and Francois for entertaining two sets of parents for a couple of days until I tested negative!!!

My parents did give us another example of how awful airlines are. They looked into moving their flight up a few days, but the cost to change their flight would have been MORE than their original tickets. Delta wanted almost $9000 to move a flight up! That is simply ridiculous.


Oktoberfest has been an annual festival that has been happening since 1810. The festival originated as a marriage celebration that lasted five days. The next year the celebration was paired with a state fair. Even in the beginning it was a pretty big event. That second year the festival had over 1800 booths selling food and beer! Each of the Munich brewing companies sets up a tent that can hold about 6000 people each. The multi-week event now draws over 6 million people every year to Munich. The festival goes through about 76,000 hectolitres of beer. For my metrically challenged readers that equates to almost 2 million gallons!

I am really glad I had the chance to visit, but I wish I had done so about 30 years ago. I think I would have been more into showing up at 10 AM and drinking until the next morning when I was in my 20’s. The festival was both everything I thought it would be, and more. I was not expecting the large carnival grounds. I thought the whole thing was going to be beer and food. That makes up a big part, but at least during daylight hours it is truly a family event.

The bier was excellent!!!

Schloss Hohenschwangau

One of the places I have wanted to visit is Schloss Neuschwanstein. On our drive back home from Munich the side trip to this area would only add about an hour to the drive; so we decided to make a detour. What we did not account for was the popularity of Neuschwanstein even after the “tourist season” is over. We tried to get tickets for the castle, but none were available. So we called an audible and visited a castle that is only a kilometer or so distant. The castle we visited is Hohenschwangau.

A few posts ago, I explained that I had never learned about the difference between a palace and a castle in my younger days. Well Schloss Hohenschwangau is the exception that proved my rule about the differences.

The castle was built in the 12th century. The castle was originally built for the defense of the area, and it was built by a knight. Over the next couple of centuries the castle became a hunting and vacation lodge. Then in the mid 1700’s the castle was razed by Austrian troops and officially became part of Bavaria. In 1832 Maximillian II bought the land and began to reconstruct the castle. This where the definitions of castle and palace get mixed up. Maximillian II kept the outer walls of the castle, but gutted and remodeled the interior. During this remodeling process the “castle” became a “palace.”

Hohenschwangau was the official summer and hunting residence of Maximillian and his family. When Maximillian died in 1864 one of his sons took over the throne. The Queen Mother continued to live in the residence. In the mid 1800’s Ludwig decided he needed a bigger palace; so he began construction of the larger and more opulent Neuschwanstein. Today Neuschwanstein is the more famous of the two castles, but that in no way degrades from the opulance of Hohenschwangau.

Unfortunately, this is another place where photos were not allowed inside the building; so I do not have any to share. Every room had very elaborate murals that told stories about Bavarian History. With the murals was some painted text that told the story. I assumed the writing was added in the 1900’s when the castle became a tourist attraction, but our guide corrected me. The writing was done at the time of the painting. Our guide said, legend says the King did not want to explain the story to every visitor so he had the stories put on the walls to lessen his annoyance. :). Another interesting tidbit about the murals. All of the murals were made during the remodeling. The artist NEVER set foot in the castle. He was sent drawing as to the dimensions of the walls, and he created the art and sent it to the workmen. The workmen simply copied his drawings from paper onto the walls.

We will certainly be visiting the area again. I want to see Neuschwanstein before we leave. So this was a good trial run. We learned the crowds are going to be ridiculous so we need to buy our tickets early, and get to the parking lot at first light!

What is coming up?

Well, our season of visitors has come to a close. In our time, in Switzerland, we had more visitors in 2023 than we have had in total the three years before! It was really fun, and hopefully that will continue through next year as well. We are starting to get our next travel plans together, but there really will not be any big trips for the next couple of months. I will be heading back to the US for deer hunting in about three weeks, and then we will both be going back for the Holidays.

Fall is certainly here. I was a little amused to see the traffic around all of the ski shops over the last week. Everyone is getting excited about cold weather and they are getting the skis tuned up for the season.

21 September 2023

It is always fun when people come to Switzerland for the first time. The looks on their faces when they see the landscape is priceless. It also means that Julie and I get to experience some new things as well. We able to experience two new things this past weekend. We got see an Alpabfahrt or Alpabzug parade. We also rode the worlds steepest funicular train. Hopefully we will continue to have some new visitors, because it is always fun to find something to with a visitor that I have not had the chance to do.


Depending on what part of Switzerland you live this annual celebration is called alpabfahrt or alpabzug. They mean the same thing. A literal translation is simply alpine descent or alpine deduction. So coming OUT of the alps. The celebrations occur usually between the 2nd weekend of September and the 2nd weekend of October. I have to admit it seemed awfully warm last weekend to be thinking about winter. The temperature was pushing 30 degrees and we were baking while we were waiting for the cows to march by. I really felt sorry for some of the children leading the cows, goats, and sheep. Many were walking barefoot, and the heat from the road had to be torture on their feet. I don’t know for how long the animals and the people were walking, but it was a long way. As we left the town of Urnäsch we passed one of the groups and they were walking to the village of Waldstatt 4 miles away!

In the Appenzeller region, each group consists of a small group of goats, followed by 3 or 4 herdsmen dressed in native outfits. Immediately behind the herdsmen are the three “bell cows. These are three boss cows of the herd. The bells the cows wear are harmonized to each other. The four herdsmen will either sing, or yodel to the tones of the bell whenever they come near people. After the cows pass, the owners of the herd walk. They are identified by always wearing brown. The last part of the parade is a wagon that contains all of the apparatus needed for making cheese and butter on the mountains.

In other regions of the country the parade is similar but the tradition of the bell cows is different. The cows will still wear a bell (just like almost every cow in Switzerland), but the cow will wear a headdress of flowers. Some of these get very ornate. The bells also are not nearly as large as the ones found in Appenzell.

In the spring this tradition is reversed. There is a big party because winter is over as the cows go back up to the mountains. The first half of the video below is of one of the parades we saw. The second part of the video was for the second new thing we did last weekend.


Stoos pronounced more like close in “Please close the door.” is a town located in the canton of Schwyz. The town is located 1/2 way up a mountain. There are two peaks on the mountain. Fronalpstock is the peak we visited. At the top of the mountain you look over LuzernSee (Lake Luzern, Mt RIgi, Mt Pilatus, and the city of Luzern. The other peak is named Klingenstock. One of the most famous hikes in Switzerland is between these two peaks. It is called the ridge hike, it of course goes along the ridge of the mountain where one side overlooks the ski area and the other side is pretty much a cliff about 1800 meters down. I have already told my children that if they come visit this spring we are taking that hike. They may have to leave me on the side of the mountain, but that hike looks absolutely amazing!!!!!

I do not know what the population is of Stoos. I am guessing a couple of hundred permanent residents. However, I think it would a great place for a ski vacation. It is one of the only places I have seen, here, that you can actually ski from your house to a chair lift!

Besides the views at the top, the main attraction is the ride up the mountain. You start at the bottom and board the strangest looking train you will ever see. It looks like four giant barrels pushing a half barrel. The train was built in 2017. It is a funicular training meaning it works similar to a giant gondola. There are two trains, and they are always at opposite ends from each other. The trains run on one track separated into two right in the middle, so they can pass. There is a giant cable that actually pulls the train up and lowers the train down the hill.

This is the steepest funicular in the world. At the steepest the gradient is 47 degrees, but you never realize how steep it is because the train levels the cars automatically. The train can take 1500 passengers per hour. It takes about 5 minutes to make the trip. The train climbs about 750 meters. The ride is almost 2 kilometers long. Two more tidbits of useless information. The gift shop and lodge are heated with the waste heat from the engine room of train. The hot water in the lodge is heated by capturing the braking energy of the train! Julie and I have been able to ride quite a few funiculars while here, but this was by far the most unique.

We got some good pictures of our travels last week. Another side trip we took was the the Abby Library at St Gallen. I have talked about this place many times as it is one my favorite places to visit in Switzerland. They have really opened up the rules on taking pictures. So we have quite a few pictures from the library this week. The pictures below are a panoramic picture of the ceiling, and a panoramic view of one side of the library. It amazes me each and every time I see it!

Next week there will not be a post as we are heading to Munich for Oktoberfest. I figure I will be in no condition to post while we are there, but hopefully on Monday or Tuesday my head will have cleared enough to write coherently!

Talk to you soon, enjoy the pictures.

14 September

Well I am the tail end of 48 hours with out guests for a couple of weeks. This morning, I am cleaning the house, washing clothes, and writing this before I have class this afternoon. Having guests is good. We did get another example of exactly how bad air travel is again.

My Sister and Brother in Law were originally going to be staying for three days. The airlines cost them a day, though. They got to their first airport and their flight was cancelled. (You will find out, that this makes no sense in a few sentences.) Of COURSE the cancellation was due to weather, so there was no compensation for the delay. They were forced to get a hotel in the evening, because they were rebooked for something like 5 or 6 AM the next day. They asked for their luggage back, but they were told since it had been checked it could not be retrieved. So far this makes sense. They got on the early flight the next morning, and had an 11 or 12 hour layover at the next airport before making the flight across the Atlantic.

They made it into Zurich, but this is where it gets confusing. Scot, my Brother in Law, couldn’t find his luggage on the carousel. So he gets in line to file the missing luggage report, but as the queue was moving he noticed his suitcase in an area for luggage that came in the day before. So my question for the airline is…… If there were no other flights between Indianapolis and Philadelphia (which is what they were told), how did the one suitcase make it Zurich the day before the passenger? Oh well, we still were able to have a quick visit, before they boarded a train to Italy, but I am kind of angry that we lost a day of visiting.

We didn’t have much planned for Monday. After a shower, and a couple cups of coffee we boarded a train for downtown. They got to see a little of Zurich, before they crashed Monday night. Tuesday morning, we got up early and drove to a nearby mountain town called Engelberg. It was kind of funny as we were driving there Scot told me had been there before about 35 years ago. He said the mountains looked the same, but the town seemed a lot different.

I was very happy, because this was the first time I had the perfect combination to walk over the suspension bridge at the top of the mountain. I have only take the bridge one other time. Most people see the bridge and say NOPE! My daughter walked the bridge with me, but it was cloudy so we couldn’t see anything. This week the weather was perfect.

I was shocked by the amount of construction going on. I did learn that building on a mountain is kind of hard. In fact you even have to bring your cement plant up on the mountain with you.

The nice thing is that you do not have to go very far to find the stone that you need for the concrete.

I was a little shocked at some of the building practices, however. There is a glacier up on the top of the mountain, and just like glaciers everywhere it is melting incredibly fast. The top of the glacier on Mt Titles is even covered with a blanket to try and minimize the melting. The construction, though, is making the glacier degrade much faster than it would otherwise. In one way it probably makes sense. It just doesn’t matter. There is nothing that can be done to stop the glacier from melting. The steps the government is taking simply delays the inevitable. If something really needs to be built, protecting the glacier that will disappear anyway probably does not make a lot of sense.

After we visited the mountain we made a stop by Luzern. I figured my sister needed to get a taste of Switzerland even though she had only 48 hours. So we hit the mountains, and got some pictures by arguably the second most famous place in Switzerland die Kapellbrücke (The Chapel Bridge) in Luzern. I realized that I am a really bad tourist. I was looking for a picture of the bridge, and I only have one that was not even of the whole bridge just of the tower in the middle. Oh well, I am sure I will be in Luzern at least one more time before we move back to the US! :). I would post a picture that someone else has taken, but I got burned once by posting a picture that I thought had a free copyright. I don’t want to make that mistake again. So here is a link to a Google image search Link

Our next visitor arrives in about 18 hours. It is my wife’s oldest friend. On Saturday we are going to do something we have wanted to do since moving here. We are going to one of the mountain villages for the Alpabfahrt or if we were in the french speaking part of Switzerland; Désalpe. This is the celebration that takes place at the end of every summer when the cows come down off of the mountain pastures. So I should have some more pictures and video for my next post.

I have some pictures, but I am waiting for permission from my sister to put up some of the pictures with her in them. :). So enjoy the ones for now, I will update the gallery once I get her permission.

5 Sep 2023

Well happy late Labor Day to everyone back in the USA. I hope you enjoyed your long weekend, and are ready to start autumn with a bang!

I was glad to be able to watch football again. Those that know me, also know that I am a fan of the losingest team in all of college football. I have been a fan of the Indiana Hoosiers for as long as I can remember. Some of my most vivid memories growing up were being out in the woods cutting firewood with my father. We would drive the tractor out into the woods pulling a trailer that at one time was the bed of an old pick up truck. That old trailer got beaten up something awful, but never broke down, and even though the tires were probably the original tires from the truck I don’t even remember it ever getting a flat. Oh well, going down memory lane has taken me off target.

So we would be out in the woods with a transistor radio listing to WBIW 1340 on the AM dial. (Isn’t it weird how some little things just always stick in your mind?) The process always went like this. We would use the chain saw and get everything cut. Then when it was quiet, we would turn on the radio, and listen to the game, as we split the logs and loaded them into the trailer. It would usually take one half to get the trailer loaded. Then during half time we would cut up some more logs and stack them for later. Then we would go back to the house, and unload the trailer listening to the rest of the game.

I wish I knew why those memories are still so vivid in my mind. In my heart, this happened anywhere from 5 to 6 times a year from the time I was 7 or 8 until I got old enough that Dad would let me use the chainsaw by myself. In reality it probably happened only a few times, but it is one of those memories that I really cherish. I also remember the first BIG tractor my Dad bought that had a radio in the cab. That was great, because I could work all day any time of the year, and always have music or IU football and basketball games to listen to.

Writing this makes me think of the old John Denver Song “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” It starts with “Well, life on the farm was kinda laid back. Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack.” The second sentence is pretty true. I can usually buckle down and get through pretty much anything, but the first sentence is kind of a lie. Farm life is far from laid back. It isn’t rush, rush, rush, like living in a city, but there is always more to do than there are hours in the day. You are always doing something on the farm, but usually you don’t feel a lot of pressure to get it done, because there will always be tomorrow to finish.

Why did I bring this up? Well, I got to watch the Hoosiers play football last Saturday. They had an early afternoon game, which meant I only had to stay up until 1 AM to watch the whole game. Now unfortunately, they were playing Ohio State. For you non American football fans that would be like a Premier League team playing a local club! Maybe not quite that bad, but since 1965 Indiana has won twice and tied once.

I had told myself that I would watch the first half, and if Indiana was down by three scores or more, I would go to bed. As it turned out, the score was 7 – 10 OSU at the end of the half. So I had to stay up and watch until the collapse. It was, by Indiana, standards a really good game; so I stayed up to watch the whole thing. Normally when these two teams play it ruins the whole season for me, because Indiana just is not competitive. This year, I actually go into the rest of the season with a little hope. If Indiana can find a quarterback, and coaches will call some plays other than options and runs up the middle. IU might actually win 5 or 6 games this year!

another life story

When I moved to Switzerland I brought the winter coat I used in Wisconsin. I only wore the coat one time when we were up in the mountains during New Years, and the coat was STILL too warm for the environment. So the coat is sitting boxed up in the basement. I figure I will need it when we move back to the US, because it actually gets cold there. 🙂 I do have a winter coat, but I have been looking for something a little more casual ever since we moved. I thought I had finally found one.

Now I know I could stand to lose some weight. In the US I buy L or XL clothing. I am kind of right in the middle, where I think the L is a little small, and the XL is a little big, but I usually go with the XL because a little loose is better than a little snug. So it is a little depressing to me that over here XXL is my size.

I was very happy when I found a winter jacket in the size I wear; so I ordered it. I was very sad when I tried it on and realized that even if I had bought an XXXXL size it still would not have fit. I could barely get my arms in the sleeve, and then it felt like blood pressure cuff had been strapped around my biceps. I could zip it up. However, it made me look like a stuffed sausage when it was zipped! By Swiss standards I need to lose weight, but there are an awful lot of people walking around even bigger than me. Where in the heck do those people find their clothes?

Air Show

Julie and I had decided to take it easy this weekend, because we start a stretch of visitors over the next six weeks. This weekend the Zurich Airport was celebrating Flughafenfest. It was the 75th Anniversary of the airport. They had a carnival area for the kids. A plane exhibition, and then an air show at 2:00 pm on Sunday. We decided we would head down about noon, grab a bite to eat and watch the air show. What we were not expecting was that this would be the second highest attended event in zurich this year. Street Parade gets over a million people every summer. This one didn’t get a million, but it made the crowd at Sechselauten (Go back and look at my burning of the BÖÖG video.) look like Sunday morning church service.

We stood in the line to get to the air show grounds for over 15 minutes and didn’t even move. We realized at this point we were going to miss the show entirely, unless we went somewhere with a view of the sky. We did manage to find a place to sit, but of course we had very restricted viewing. Overpasses and buildings on each side of us meant that we were able to see maybe 5% of the viewing area.

We did get see the Swiss Air Force exhibition group fly around for a little while, but that was about all we could see.

We never did make it out to the exhibition area. The crowd was just so big that we knew it would not be enjoyable if we did. If there is ever a next time, we will just have to remember to get there as soon as it is open instead of waiting a while!

Sorry there are not many pictures this time. Hopefully I will have some more the next post.

23 August 2023

Well the first week of school is coming to a close. I honestly do not know how my son got through Law School. Sure some of the cases are interesting reading, but lawyers talk like they have a huge stick up their bum. I mean they can’t say anything plainly. `There is no doubt that the gravamen of the deception claims is that DLS misled consumers about the data safety and security features of its products.” They could simply say “The main part of the case is that DLS lied about the safety and security features of its products.” I mean isn’t the second quote a lot more clear? 🙂

One of my professors said he recommends reading the passages two times. The first time just read it through, and then the second time read it for the meaning. I find myself going back three and four times. The second time I read something it is with an online dictionary opened up on another screen. The third time is taking notes, and then I find myself reading it a fourth time, and maybe actually understanding about 2/3’s of what I read. When I was taking the computer science classes, I found I only needed to read that stuff twice before I understood it. Why do Lawyers make this so difficult?

One of my classes has two oral exams. I am not sure how I feel about this one. The only oral exam I ever remember taking was the language one I had to take here to show the Swiss Government that I could converse like a toddler in German! IU did announce a new course that I am thinking about taking this semester. It is called Space Cybersecurity.

The description of the course sounds fascinating. This is an excerpt from the marketing page to sign up for the course;”

There is a particular need for more professionals with training in space-cybersecurity, given the reliance on space-based infrastructure for everything from weather forecasting and satellite telecommunications to broadband Internet. The reliance and growing ubiquity of space to cybersecurity, the Internet, and data governance is raising a host of questions surrounding how best to protect vulnerable space-based critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.Since Russia’s cyberattacks on space-based services provided by commercial US space companies as part of the war in Ukraine, cybersecurity of space systems is high on the agenda, spurring discussions at the White House and in Congress, and a US $700 million budget request by the Space Force for this purpose alone. At the same time, a fast-growing market has emerged, with demand for professionals and firms.”

For all my nerd friends that might read my blog here is a link to sign up for the class: Space Cybersecurity. The class meets for 11 weeks at 5 pm Eastern Time. I think I can actually do this one. It means I will get to bed about 12:30 one night a week, but I think I can handle that. I mean if I have trouble, I will just get Julie off the train, and then come back and go to bed!


The term Badenfahrt was actually coined in the middle ages. The term translates as “ride to Baden.” Baden was famous for the healing waters. For my Southern Indiana readers, Baden is the French Lick/Springs Valley of Switzerland. People used to come from all over for the thermal baths. During and immediately after the reformation Badenfahrt was a way to let your hair down, and go somewhere that you could actually have fun because Baden stayed Catholic, so things were not as repressed as the areas that went protestant. 🙂 This year marks the 100th anniversary of the modern Badenfahrt. The celebration takes place every 10 years, but every fifth year is the Klein Badenfahrt. I guess they figure 10 years is a long wait so every five years you get a smaller party,

For the two weeks of Badenfahrt the town basically becomes a HUGE bar and outdoor music festival. The bars all have different themes. Pictured below is the Wäschmachine Bar.

Inside the bars are some smaller music venues, each bar specializes in the type of music they offer. There was even a country/western and blues bar; so we North Americans could feel like home!

I am trying to convince Julie we need to go one evening this week. The weekend was great, but with the temperatures approaching 95 degrees it was REALLY HOT to be standing around listening to music and fighting the crowds. We loved the parade, though, and most of my pictures are from the parade.

Having festivals separated by years seems to be a Swiss thing. We have missed Züri Fäscht, twice. Which is another big festival that happens periodically. Züri Fäscht is every three years. We missed the first year, because I wasn’t here, yet. We were out of town for this years party. Mom and Dad is it OK if I stay in Switzerland another four years so I can go to Züri Fäscht next time? Just thought I would ask!

Every Badenfahrt is themed. This years theme was NEO- Bridging the gap between history and the future. It does seem an apt theme for a 100 year celebration! The festival is planned by a local committee, but all of the bars, and everything to run the festival is done by local clubs and civic organizations. These groups, of course, use this as a major fundraiser. Considering that over a million people will visit this town of 20,000 over two weekends it probably raises quite a lot of money.

As usual, Enjoy the pictures!!
Until next week.

19 August 2023

Well, school started this week. So it is back to studying for me. The thing that intrigued me the most about the Masters Program I am in, was the fact that I was able to take classes through three different schools at Indiana University (IU). The program is basically 1/3 from the Business School, 1/3 from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and 1/3 from the Law School. I found it interesting the three schools could work together, and so far the most surprising thing to me is…. The school that is highest ranked at IU (The Business School) is the worst in regards to hosting online classes. The Professors have been really good, but they make it harder than the other schools to attend online. When the Business School offers an online class, a lot of the time it means you still have to attend the class at the time it is being taught. Now if I lived in Indiana, probably not a big deal, but living over here that means I have to be up at 2 or 3 in the morning for class. If I were 22 again, that might not be a big deal, but at age 58 that takes a toll on me. I was really looking forward to a class through the Business School this semester. You work on a team and with an actual client and present a Cyber Security Plan for them. I am having to drop the class though.

The first reason is because of the mandatory lectures. 1/3 of the grade is “class participation” which means I have no choice but to be up at 2 AM for class. The biggest reason, though, is that all of the deliverables are due on Thanksgiving Day. If I were just staying in Switzerland, not a big deal. Heck, there isn’t even a Thanksgiving Day here. My problem is that I will be traveling to the US the week before Thanksgiving, and will be traveling between Wisconsin and Indiana the days surrounding Thanksgiving. It wouldn’t be fair to the team I would be working with if I were unavailable when the last push to get everything done is on. So I am down to two classes.

That doesn’t worry me. I am still able to finish on time. My son, though will probably be getting a lot of emails. The two classes I am taking are through the Law School. One is a class on Privacy Laws, and the other is a class on general CyberSecurity Law. I figure my lawyer son, can be my editor for all the writing I have to do!

We are also gearing up for another stretch with a lot of visitors. I have a sister coming over early in September for a few days, then one of my wife’s best friends is swinging by after a business trip to Germany. Then we have parents coming. Julie’s Dad comes the last part of September, and my parents come early October. This is kind of what we thought it would be like with visitors. Covid, of course put a stop to that, but hopefully next year will be just as busy.

We have a trip to Munich scheduled the last weekend in September. We have wanted to visit for Oktoberfest and this year we are going for a long weekend with another couple. We are excited we got our dirndl and lederhosen all ready. I’ve been looking for a Bavarian Style hat to complete my ensemble, but so far have not found any I really like!

Castles vs Palaces

Growing up in Southern Indiana, I always thought of castles and palaces as the same. Even after my first trip to Europe I really did not understand the difference. We saw some palaces while we were visiting, but I still thought of them as the same. It wasn’t until I moved to Switzerland that I truly understood the difference. In a nutshell, palaces were the houses of the rulers, castles were what the rulers used for defence. The ruler might live in the castle, but more likely, they had a palace somewhere else, and only stayed in the castle if they were under attack.

The best example I think of in the US: Biltmore Estate is a palace. The Alamo in Texas is a castle. Of course the Alamo was originally a mission, but it was built for defence, and there was some kind of governmental functions that ran from there. I think that is a problem with “American” English. We use those terms interchangeably, whereas the rest of the world does not. In fact if you were to do a google search for castles in the the US. You will get a list of huge homes, none of which were ever fortified other than for appearance. The Alamo was truly the closest I could come up with. Though in the US maybe a castle would be called a fort? Or maybe the US CANNOT HAVE a castle because there was never a nobility class there? I truly don’t know, and will confuse myself the more I talk about it so…..

Just like the US really doesn’t have any castles, Switzerland doesn’t have any palaces. Back in the days the palaces were being built the separate areas of Switzerland were never big or prosperous enough for the ruler to build a palace. There are a couple of buildings that are called palaces here, but they were never the seat of the ruler. There are however, many castles. Julie and I visited Schloss (Castle) Kyburg last weekend.

The “cow castle” was first seen in history in 1079. The House of Kyburg was second in importance only to the Hapsburgs in this part of Switzerland. In fact, when the last Count of Kyburg died in 1264 the Hapsburgs took control of the castle. About 200 years later the CityState of Zurich bought the castle. For roughly the next 370 years the Bailiff of Zurich lived in the estate.

The bailiffs were administrators over particular territories. Zurich, back then was the largest CityState in Switzerland. Zurich had multiple Bailiffs that controlled the countryside. Kyburg was arguably the most important of these. The Bailiff was an appointed position. The appointment lasted for six years. The bailiffs were of course the “elite” of society. The bailiff had to have enough financial backing to run the household in the castle, but also had to keep the business, and household running in the city. Of course it was very lucrative to be a bailiff.

The castle set empty for about 60 years when it was purchased by a wealthy merchant. He refurbished what he could and turned it into a tourist attraction and art museum. Schloss Kyburg became the first castle museum in Switzerland. The castle has remained a museum ever since.

This weekend we are also taking it easy. I think Julie wants to go shopping downtown and spend some gift certificates, and then Sunday we are heading to the city of Baden for Badenfahrt. Badenfahrt dates back to the middle ages. It was originally a religious festival, but over time it became a secular activity. The festival is only held every 10 years; so the city really makes it special. The city of Baden has about 20,000 residents, but will have over a million visitors during the two weeks of the festival. Hopefully it will be a good time!

Enjoy the pictures from the castle!

10 August 2023

Julie had to go to London for a couple of days this week. So I decided to play instead of just staying around the house. The day that I got her off to the airport I came home got a shower, and then hopped in the car. I drove to a little mountain village named Churwalden where I spent a few hours riding an amazing mountain coaster. Yesterday, I decided I was going to go on a hike. Not any hike, I wanted to hike up Mt Pilatus. Our son did the hike last year when he was visiting. He said it wasn’t that bad of a hike; so the idiot I am decided I could do it as well. The difference being we went up different sides of the mountain. You would think that wouldn’t matter, well it does!!! The side he went up was a Class 2 hike. I tried making a class 3 hike. HUGE DIFFERENCES!

Mountain coaster

According to Google Maps there are 23 bobsled or mountain coaster rides in Switzerland. I have only been on two; so it looks like our remaining time here we will be doing some traveling around finding the different rides! Basically there are two types of rides. The Bobsled rides are an aluminum half pipe that go down the mountain. You sit on a little plastic sled with wheels and a brake lever.

The pictures above are from our weekend at Mt Pilatus a couple of months ago. The one on the left shows Julie being pulled back up the mountain. You can see she is sitting on the little bobsled. The picture on the right shows part of the track. It does kind of resemble a bob sled run. The second type of track resembles a roller coaster more than anything. The cars are similar to the bobsled run, however, it CANNOT leave the coaster track. The picture below is one I took from the chairlift going up to the start of the coaster ride.

You can see the coaster track is elevated off the ground, and you can see it is basically aluminum pipes that the car runs down, not the half pipe of the bobsled run.

The coaster offers a couple of advantages if you like excitement. Because the car cannot jump the track (and you are belted in) the course can be faster, and it has much tighter turns than the bobsled. Both rides are fun, but the adrenaline junky part of me likes the coaster better!

The one disadvantage of both rides happens when you get behind someone that doesn’t like the excitement. At Pilatus I got stuck twice on the run, because I was behind someone that wouldn’t go fast. I had to slow down so much that on a level section I stopped and had to push myself. If you go to the 3:14 point in the video below you will see what I mean!

The mountain coaster has the same problem you can see if you watch the video below. The slowdown occurs at the 7:45 mark.

While at the Pradaschier Coaster I got the pleasure of watching a Swiss Mom jump all over some middle eastern man who decided he would let his family of three kids and two other adults cut in front of about 25 of us that were standing line already. It was masterful. German is an excellent language for cussing someone out, because it just sounds so harsh anyway! The icing on the cake was watching the entire family have to get out of line and go back up to the chair lift because they walked right by the signs telling people in german and english (with pictures) that you could not take backpacks on the ride. The entire line just started laughing!

After the drive back home I got ready the next day’s adventure.

hiking up mt pilatus

Julie and have been to the mountain numerous times. We have gone up and down both sides. I knew the side I wanted to hike was more steep. What I thought, however, was that it was only going to be really steep the last few hundred meters. BOY WAS I WRONG! The trail up the mountain is broken up into three different hiking sections. Each section is between 2.5 and 3.5 kilometers long. I knew there was no way I could start at the very bottom and climb up. On that side, you have to go up two different “hills’ before you get to the actual mountain. I was going to be smart.

I have talked before about the trail rating system in Switzerland. It has nothing to do with elevation or exertion the rating scheme is all about the trail. Class 1 means a paved or gravel path, may be steep. Class 2 means dirt path with a lot of stairs, rocks or roots, and may be steep. Class 3’s definition is: mostly marked trails, may be steep in sections, risk of falling, may need hands for balance. The only equipment talked about for these three classes of trails is having good clothing and sturdy hiking boots. Now there are three more classes of trails in Switzerland, and I KNOW I will never EVER go on any thing marked 4 or higher! The first part of the hike was marked class 1. I knew it was not to bad, because Julie and I have hiked down the trail before. The second part of the hike was marked class 3.

I took the gondola up the first leg. I saved myself 3.5 kilometers of climbing, and about 90 minutes of walking. All told I was going to hike only about 7 kilometers. Since I started at 8:50 (the time I got off the gondola) that meant I would have 8 hours to hike the 7 kilometers. Easy, right? I mean heck two or three days a week I cover 8 kilometers in about an hour on my daily jogs. Of course it isn’t uphill the whole way, but still…..

The first part of the hike went exactly like I thought it would. It took me about 80 minutes to hike up the trail. I was just feeling warmed up. It was. a nice walk, and even with the couple of steep sections I was well on my way to finishing up the second half of the hike. I sat down for about 25 minutes, ate a snack and had a bottle of water.

I started on the next section, and after about three hundred meters I was thinking, “I see what they talk about with needing hands for balance.” I was going through a field along the side of the mountain. It was pretty steep and as I was scrambling over and around the rocks I would occasionally need to use my hands. Another three hundred meters I was really starting to question my sanity. The trail was going straight up the mountain, and there were chains, rope and cable that you needed to use climb up the rocks. It wasn’t quite a cliff, but if you fell, the only way you were stopping soon was to come against a tree! I started to get a little worried when I looked at my watch and realized that it had taken me over an hour and I had barely gone 1/2 a kilometer. The entire section was supposed to be only 3 kilometers, and the trail signs said that it should only take 2.5 hours to complete the hike! I finally got up the “hard” part of the trail, and I was about 1/2 way through the hike. When I looked at my watch, I realized that it took me two hours to get this far. I stopped and rested a bit, but started to worry about the time. I plotted the remaining hike on the map and told myself I am going to give myself two time points. If I do not hit those points by 1 pm and 2 pm. I am going back down. Of course once I had hit the 2 pm point, there was no turning back, because at that point I would have been 3/4 of the way through, and it would probably have taken me longer to go back down. I gave myself the two time points because the steepest section of the hike was going to be the last 400 meters. Technically I would have been only 150 meters from the finish, but it was literally straight up the mountain, so the switch backs meant a lot more walking. 400 meters doesn’t sound like much; four football fields or one lap around a track. Practically anyone can go 400 meters right? Well I never got that far to find out.

I was tired. After another short break I started walking up again. This time the path was a class 1. Nice crushed gravel path. I had my hiking sticks out and I was just going to put my head down and start walking. After 30 minutes I stopped to take a quick break and that was when I knew it was over. In those 30 minutes I had only covered a couple of hundred meters. I was looking up at the place I needed to reach in 90 minutes and knew it was not going to happen.

The chapel above was my 2 pm way point. On a straight line basis, I was probably 500 meters away, but I knew there was no way I was making it up that 500 meters in time.

I will be trying this again. However, I will be taking off the first 1/2 of the hike. I am going to also start walking up more hills. I try and avoid it as a general rule, but I think I need to get better on the hills! I feel a little bad, that I couldn’t complete the hike. But not nearly as bad as I would have felt if I had called Julie and said, “You are going to have to get home from the airport on your own. I have to spend the night on the mountain, because I did not make it up before the last gondola left.” When I try this again, I will be bringing along a blanket. Something that I can wrap around me if I can’t make it up the mountain in time. I am going to finish this climb BEFORE we move back to the US.

I have talked before about the physical effects after catching Covid last year. I have really had to change my exercise goals. I used to do a lot of climbing on the bike, but now I can’t even make a 300 meter climb without having to stop. Hopefully I can work myself up to more strenuous hiking. I guess I have the remainder of our time here in Switzerland to find out! The Doctors I have spoken with don’t give me a whole lot of hope. My heart and lungs have some long term damage from Covid, and they will either get better or they won’t. Basically I am fine as long as I keep my heart rate low. When I approach my max heart rate for even a couple of minutes my body just gives out.

I don’t have a lot of pictures this week. Only a few from my hike. I hope you enjoy them, however.

Talk to you next week!

1 August 2023

Happy Swiss Day to everyone!

1 August in Switzerland is like 4 July in the USA. This is not an independence day it is a confederation day. Not being Swiss, the strange thing to me, is that it isn’t even a celebration of the country forming. Instead 1 August, 1291 is the day the three original signers to the confederation signed a paper pledging to protect each other if one of them was ever attacked. About 60 years later the confederation had increased to eight cantons. The “country” remained that size for approximately 90 years when Zurich was kicked out of the confederation over a territory dispute. Zurich was out for only about 10 years and then it rejoined. This was the start of a very successful time in Swiss history. The confederated states gained a lot of respect in Europe by providing mercenaries on the continent, and it was in 1506 that the Pope hired mercenaries that have continuously served as the Pope’s security force commonly called the “Swiss Guard.”

For about the next 200 years there was a lot of stability in Switzerland. There was also more peace than war because the rest of Europe relied on swiss mercenaries. In the late 1700 to early 1800’s the country was ruled by the French. Napoleon restored much of the self rule and the final three cantons joined the confederation in 1814. By the end of 1815 Switzerland’s borders were set, and the rest of the world recognized Switzerland as a neutral country. Switzerland adopted it’s first Federal Constitution in 1848.

So happy Confederation Day! I now have the pleasure of not getting any sleep because the fireworks in our neighborhood started at 7:15 this morning, and will probably go all night long. Thank goodness it is raining all day, that will keep some of the noise down,

There is a short history lesson of Switzerland, now I will go back to talking about the last part of our holiday!


Julie and I have been to Munich before, but we really like the town. So when our friends were looking for someplace in Germany to visit it was at the top of our list. It also didn’t hurt that Munich is very close to Salzburg. We lost most of a day taking the train from the Alps to Salzburg, so we didn’t want to lose another by traveling to Northern Germany.

Our first morning in Munich we signed up for a walking tour of the old town. I don’t often do recommendations, BUT if you are ever in Munich you need to look into Dark History Tours. We signed up for a 3.5 hour tour, but I think everyone in our group agreed we wish we had more time. Our tour guide was fabulous. He took us through the history of Munich, but his specialty is the rise of the Third Reich. Munich was the home of the Nazi party and Taff gave us a history lesson that we will all remember.

After the tour we got on a train and rode to Dachau. So we learned about the rise of the Nazi party in the morning, and then the afternoon we got a lesson in how awful the Nazi Party was.

Dachau was the first concentration camp. It was opened in 1933, and was the blueprint for all of the other camps. There were even about 100 satellite camps in the surrounding area. The prison camp itself was only about 5 acres, but the entire facility was over 20. The other land was used for training of prison guards and other SS soldiers. For the first five years, the camp was used for german citizens. If someone spoke out against the party or programs they were sent there. In 1938 over 10,000 Jewish men were sent to Dachau. All told over 200,000 prisoners were held at Dachau. I remember reading one of the signs that at the peak of the imprisonments there over 67,000 people being held in the camp. The following is a quote from one of the speeches the day the camp was opened;

“Comrades of the SS!
You all know what the Fuehrer has called us to do. We have not come here for human encounters with those pigs in there. We do not consider them human beings, as we are, but as second-class people. For years they have been able to continue their criminal existence. But now we are in power. If those pigs had come to power, they would have cut off all our heads. Therefore we have no room for sentimentalism. If anyone here cannot bear to see the blood of comrades, he does not belong and had better leave. The more of these pig dogs we strike down, the fewer we need to feed.”

I truly do not have the words to describe the feelings I had walking through the camp and learning about the hatred and inhuman crimes that were perpetrated on the people in those camps. I am not sure I ever will.

I think what depressed me the most is thinking back to some of the parallels I hear from US politicians and citizens when they talk about the other side being evil. That was the way it started in Germany as well. When you truly think of your political opponent as evil. It can become very easy to set up a place to “re-educate” them.

Enough depression!

We ended our first full day in Munich on a high note. Had a great dinner. and then sat on the Marienplatz for drinks to end the day. It almost felt like we were on one of our camping holidays sitting around a campfire at the end of the night!

On Sunday, Julie and I had to head back to Zurich; so she could go to work; so in the morning we toured one of the most impressive palaces we have visited in Europe. The Residenz is one of the great palaces in Europe. It was home of the Bavarian Kings and Prince-Electors. There are over 130 rooms in the tour, and many of them are simply amazing! This was my second time touring the palace, and I enjoyed it as much the second time. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the palace this time; so you will have to visit my last Munich post to see what the palace looked like.

The worst part was having to say goodbye to our friends. I will see two of them in November when I head back to the US for deer hunting, but we are planning on meeting in Southern Indiana next April to witness the eclipse that will be crossing North America!

Not nearly as many pictures this time, but enjoy the ones I have.