31 Mai 2023

First off:

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag meiner kleinen Schwester Trisha Doyle!

Last weekend Julie and I went back to one of our favorite places. We spent the weekend up at the top of Mt Pilatus just outside Luzern. We have been to the mountain a couple of different times, because it is one of the places that almost every visitor wants to see. We even stayed up at the top the second fall we were here, and woke up to about 8 inches of snow on the ground. No snow this time, but it was still just as magical. Now a little history:

The mountain takes its name from Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who, according to tradition, sentenced Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion. According to a local legend, Pontius Pilate’s body was thrown into a deep and remote alpine lake near the mountain, and his ghost was believed to haunt the mountain.

Long before it was named after Pilate, the mountain was steeped in ancient myth and superstition. The early inhabitants believed that the mountain was inhabited by dragons, and stories of sightings and encounters are numerous, feeding the mystique of this majestic peak. The notion of dragons living in the mountain caves was so strong that in the early 19th century, the government of Lucerne even banned ascents to prevent disturbing these legendary creatures.

The first successful recorded ascent of Pilatus was in 1585 by Jost Burgi, a Swiss clockmaker, mathematician, and astronomer. However, the mountain remained relatively inaccessible to the general public until the 19th century. That changed in 1889, with the construction of the Pilatus Railway, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. This monumental feat of engineering transformed the mountain, making it a popular tourist destination. The railway was initially steam-powered but was converted to electric operation in 1937, making the trip up the mountain more accessible and less environmentally impactful.

Despite its relatively modest height of 2,128 meters (6,982 feet), Mount Pilatus continues to captivate visitors with its stunning views, unique history, and legendary folklore. Its craggy peaks and deep valleys remain a symbol of the natural beauty and cultural richness of Switzerland. I think the view from the eastern side of the top plateau is one of the most beautiful views in Switzerland. This part of the grounds was closed off this visit, but this is a picture from October of 2020.

There is a type of mountain goat that lives on the mountain called the Alpine Ibex. We have looked for these goats every time we have visited and never saw any until this visit. After breakfast we went for a last walk and I happened to catch some movement out of the corner of my eye, and there was a family (Mom and three kids) just hanging out on the side of the mountain having breakfast. It was a fantastic ending to a great weekend!

I also learned last weekend, that I am approaching the “GET OFF MY LAWN” phase of life. I was very irritated about part of our stay. The hotel dining room has a dress code posted. Even though we were only going for a weekend, I packed a sport coat, dress shoes, etc… Julie did the same. On Friday night, the dress code was enforced. Every man had either a sport coat or sweater, every woman was dressed equally as nice. Saturday, however, was a different story. There were only two of us in the whole restaurant with a coat. The majority of people were in jeans, t-shirts, hiking apparel, or in one case pajama bottoms and an overly large sweatshirt.

You can see by the picture I wasn’t going to the Oscars, but I did dress a little better than normal for dinner. I was very irritated that people would ignore the dress code, and even more irritated that the restaurant went ahead and sat everyone. Don’t get me wrong. If there was not a published dress code, I would not have cared one iota. Of course I also would not have brought dress shirts and a sport jacket either. 🙂

One of the things we had not had a chance to visit was the play area about 1/2 way up the mountain. When you go to the top of Pilatus you have three means of transportation. You can take the train up one side of the mountain. (It was not running last weekend.). You can hike. (If you know my son ask him about this. He did it last summer!). You can take a gondola. This was our method of travel last weekend. Anyway, at the last gondola area before the top they have a wonderful play area. There is a rope course, a great playground, a zipline style ride, and a toboggan run. I have always wanted to go on one of the toboggan runs so last weekend was my chance.

The Dragon Glider and Toboggan Run

One final video. Another thing I had not been able to finish at Pilatus was the Dragon Way. This is a short trail around, over, and through the mountain. Please ignore the heavy breathing. I am an old, overweight man! I still had fun on the train, though!

Well that was our weekend. We are getting ready to visit Austria and Hungary this next week. We are driving through Germany and Austria to Vienna. We will be spending 4 days there, and then we drive further east to Budapest where we will spend another 4 days before driving back to Switzerland.

Enjoy the pictures.

26 Mai 2023

Lake Geneva near the Lausanne Harbor

Julie and I visited Lausanne last weekend. Lausanne is the 4th largest city in Switzerland, and is best known as the Headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. The city is on the banks of Lake Geneva or Lac LĂ©man. This caused a bit of a headache for Julie and I. She kept insisting it was Lake Geneva. I kept insisting it was Lac LĂ©man. It turns out we were both right, but Julie was more right than I was. She had never heard the French name, and I thought the two names designated different lakes! The lake is referred to by two names due to historical and linguistic reasons.

The name “Lake Geneva” is derived from the English language and is widely used in English-speaking countries. It stems from the city of Geneva, which is located on the western end of the lake. The English name helps to differentiate the lake from other lakes that might bear the name “Geneva.”

On the other hand, the name “Lac LĂ©man” is the French designation for the lake. The word “LĂ©man” originates from the Latin term “Lemancus,” which was the name used for the lake during the Roman era. Over time, the name evolved into “Lacus Lemanus” in Latin and later into “Lac LĂ©man” in French.

As for why Geneva isn’t called “LĂ©man,” it is because “LĂ©man” specifically refers to the lake itself, not the city. The city of Geneva has its own historical significance and identity, and it has been known by the name “Geneva” for many centuries. While the French name for the lake is “Lac LĂ©man,” the city continues to be called Geneva in both French and English.

Therefore, the two names, Lake Geneva and Lac LĂ©man, are used interchangeably depending on the language and context, reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of the region.

Lausanne was a great place to spend a long weekend. We did some hiking around town but there are also some really good museums. We toured the Olympic Museum and we

also visited the Palais De Rumine. The second actually houses multiple museums, but we concentrated on the archaeology exhibits. We were fascinated to learn about the discoveries on Mormont Hill.

One of the most significant discoveries at Mormont Hill is the presence of a Gallo-Roman sanctuary, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Excavations have uncovered numerous votive objects, including pottery fragments, bronze statuettes, and coins, suggesting that the site held religious and ceremonial importance for the local population. The highlight of this discovery is an exceptionally well-preserved stone altar, adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions, offering a glimpse into the spiritual practices of the time.

Beyond the Gallo-Roman period, Mormont Hill bears evidence of earlier human occupation. Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of Iron Age settlements and fortifications, dating back to the 5th century BCE. These findings suggest that the hill served as a strategic stronghold, providing a vantage point for observing and defending the surrounding landscape. Excavations have revealed traces of dwelling structures, storage pits, and defensive earthworks, offering valuable insights into the daily lives and societal dynamics of ancient communities in the region.

The archaeological exploration of Mormont Hill has also shed light on the hill’s natural landscape and environmental changes over time. Sediment samples, pollen analysis, and geological surveys have provided valuable data on past vegetation, climate patterns, and land use practices. These interdisciplinary investigations contribute to our understanding of the relationship between human populations and their surrounding environment throughout history.

Mormont Hill’s archaeological significance extends beyond its immediate vicinity. The discoveries made at this site have implications for our understanding of broader regional interactions during antiquity. The artifacts unearthed provide valuable evidence of trade networks, cultural exchanges, and religious practices, offering glimpses into the social, economic, and religious fabric of ancient Switzerland.

One of the most fun things we did was visit the Cathedral for the 10 PM call of the Nightwatchman. The Nightwatchman has been calling out “ALL CLEAR” from the top of the cathedral for over 600 years.

Assuming the mantle of the nightwatchman involves a deep-seated respect for tradition, an intricate understanding of Lausanne’s rich history, and an unwavering dedication to the city and its people. Regardless of the season’s temperaments, be it the chill of winter or the warmth of summer, the nightwatchman dutifully fulfills his responsibilities, highlighting the resilience inherent to this age-old tradition. There is only ONE primary Watchman. However, there are seven apprentices. Julie and I both remembered reading how the “glass ceiling in Lausanne” was finally getting some cracks because they nominated a woman for the very first time about two years ago to be an apprentice.

The nightwatchman serves not just as the city’s guardian of time, but also as a physical connection to the city’s past, embodying its historical essence. In a world increasingly driven by technology and modernization, the watchman stands as a poignant symbol of Lausanne’s commitment to its heritage, a reminder that even in the face of progress, tradition holds a timeless value and an irreplaceable place in the collective identity of a community.

The video below has the recording of the nightwatchman if you are interested.

As we were heading back home we decided to make a detour to Montreux. We had visited Montreux for a day two years ago, but we learned there was a Freddie Mercury statue in town. This is kind of fitting since another musical icon that adopted Switzerland died this week.

The relationship between Queen, Mercury, and Montreux began in 1978 when the band bought Mountain Studios. The studio was already famous, having hosted artists like Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. For Queen, it was more than just a recording space; it was a creative sanctuary. Between 1978 and 1995, Queen recorded a significant portion of their music there, including parts of their iconic albums “Jazz,” “Hot Space,” and Mercury’s final vocal performances on “Made in Heaven.”

Mercury at first hated Montreux. The small quiet town was the exact opposite of what the flamboyant front man wanted. However, Mercury eventually fell in love with Montreux’s peaceful setting, eventually making it his home in 1987. Montreux gave Mercury the tranquility and privacy he craved, away from the intense media scrutiny that came with his fame. He often described Montreux as his “own little paradise,” where he could find solitude and engage in his passions, such as painting and collecting art.

Even as his health deteriorated due to AIDS, Mercury continued to record in Mountain Studios, showing his dedication and love for music. He was discreet about his illness, and the people of Montreux respected his privacy, further deepening his affection for the city.

Mercury’s death in 1991 left a profound impact on Montreux. In 1996, a larger-than-life statue of Mercury was unveiled on the city’s lakeside, serving as a constant reminder of his connection to Montreux. Each year, fans from around the world gather at the “Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day” to celebrate his life and music. The city, much like Queen’s music, is forever intertwined with the legacy of Freddie Mercury, the extraordinary musician who found peace and inspiration in its idyllic surroundings.

As I am writing this, Julie is packing for the weekend. We are heading over to Luzern. We have already stayed in the hotel on the top. of Mt Pilatus, but we had such a magical time, we decided to go do it again. This time, though, Julie has said we can go down the mountain on Saturday so I can do a summer bobsled run! This has been one of the things on my Swiss bucket list the first time I saw someone going down a mountain.

Enjoy the pictures, I will have more to say next week!

11 May 2023

It has been a pretty quiet last few weeks. Most of my time has been spent finishing up my school work. I am officially 1/2 way through the Masters Program for CyberSecurity Risk Management. I have actually enjoyed most of the school work which is very surprising to me. Even more surprising is that I am maintaining a 3.95 GPA. For those of you that may have known me 30 years ago, I hope you have someone to help you up off of the floor after reading that! 🙂 I mean I did graduate college, but I graduated with a B- average. Nope, I was NOT a good student.

I did get one nice bike ride in before the rain has come. One my Tik Tok Friends talked me into a long ride last week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole thing, but I was able to ride for about 80 miles before catching the train back home. We did ride through a beautiful part of Germany, and sometime soon I will be taking Julie through a drive in the Black Forest.

The first major climb wasn’t that bad. I was slow, but I got up the hill OK. The problem came in the second climb. It wasn’t that steep, but you can see it was pretty long. I made the mistake of letting my heart rate get up to about 160 and that was practically all I had left.

The last bit of the ride was great though. It was over 20 kms all downhill! I am really hoping to get stronger soon. Of it has rained every day this week, so I am getting a lot of miles in riding the basement. It just isn’t the same.

Julie and I have got our travel lists for the next few months together. We have some weekend trips planned here in Switzerland, and I just made reservations for what will be our longest drive, yet. We are going to drive to Vienna, Austria and then on to Budapest, Hungary. In addition some of our closest friends are coming for a week in July, and we are going to the Lauterbrunnen Valley here in Switzerland, then to Salzburg, Austria ending in Munich, Germany. This fall we also have another trip on the books for Munich. It will be our last chance for Octoberfest! Speaking of which we have to get busy on our outfits!!! I think we are going to try one last big trip late summer as well. We are thinking about a drive to Berlin, on to Rotterdam, and then back home. So I should have some good travel pictures to show you over the coming months.

Spring is finally coming, but it is coming slowly and as mentioned previously is very wet. However, last Saturday was a beautiful day so Julie and I decided to go see what was happening downtown.

Zurich is a very pretty city. We went for a stroll through the Old Town and along the river. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant, and then we finally went to visit the Police Station.

The Police Station is something I have wanted to see for a couple of years now. Most people don’t think of a police station as a tourist attraction, well sometimes Switzerland is a bit different! In the early 1900’s Zurich was experiencing a lot of growth; so they re-organized part of the Government offices. Including in the reorganization was closing down an orphanage and expanding the police station. After some more time Zurich decided to spruce up some of the government buildings; so they ran a contest for ideas on sprucing up some of the government offices. A man by the name of Augusto Giacometti won the contest, and he did fresco paintings on the vaulted ceilings in the entry hall of the police station. I think you will agree it does not look like your normal police station.

The entry hall is open to the public but only for a couple of hours each day. This time I was adamant that we were going to get inside. We learned that, as usual, the Swiss people are very clock conscious. We got there about 90 seconds early, and of course we were told to go back outside and wait for the right time! 🙂 I was very happy we finally got there to see the painting. It is magnificent.

The other bit of drama we had was that our ice machine broke down. Ice is something that people in the US take for granted. Here it is a bigger deal. We bought a counter top ice maker about three years ago. It is really nice having ice in our cocktails or water. 🙂 I had forgotten how expensive ice is here. A bag of ice costs 10 CHF. Of course since the bag won’t fit in the freezer, and I didn’t bring my really good cooler along, we wound up spending a large chunk of money for frozen water. At the rate we were buying ice, the new ice maker will be paid for in two weeks!

One update from our Eurowings debacle. Another week has gone by with no response. The gentleman that I ride with a lot gave me a website that will file a lawsuit against them for 30 Euros, and then they get 10% of the money. I have to decide if it is worth it, or not. I am leaning towards filing. I find it apalling that they won’t even respond.

I will talk to you soon.



26 April, 2023 or Eurowings Debacle

I need to preface this story that while I don’t think I will ever take another Eurowings flight again, it has nothing to do with the personnel we met face to face. All of the staff on the flight were great. The issue I have with Eurowings is the headache of dealing with things afterward.

So we were scheduled to fly out of Zurich on Friday 31 March. We have flown numerous times with other Lufthansa subsidiaries, but this was to be our first time on a Eurowings flight. Our itinerary had us flying from Zurich to Frankfurt and then straight to Ft Myers, Florida. This is not much different than our usual trips home. We always have at least one stop somewhere. There are no direct flights from Zurich to any of the cities in the US we visit.

Friday morning is a little cloudy, but there is no serious weather detected, Julie and I have learned we like to get to the airport early. We get through the checkin and security, and would rather sit in the lounge and have a drink or three than have to worry about making our flight on time. We knew this first leg would be easier than usual because we did not have to worry about going through passport control in Zurich. We breezed through the security process and had plenty of time to go into the lounge and have some breakfast and a bloody mary. Once seated we see that our flight is delayed about 30 minutes. This should not be a problem because we have a 90 minute layover in Frankfurt.

We got to the gate where we had the unpleasant surprise to see we were now delayed about 50 minutes. This started a little worry to settle in. However, at the appointed time we board a bus to drive out to the plane. We wind up sitting on the bus for another 20 minutes. It was at this point we knew it was going to be close. The pilot finally starts to taxi, and he makes the announcement that there are seven planes in front of us. We taxi on to the runway, and something happened I have not experienced. The pilot changes the throttle from takeoff to idle. We don’t know what is happening, and after about 5 minutes the pilot gets on the PA and announces that due to a fast moving storm cell he had to hold in place as they were afraid of wind sheer. I would rather be safe and late than really late and in a crash so…….

After sitting another few minutes, the pilot announces that we have to taxi down the runway and get back in the starting position, but the good news is that the airport will hold all flights behind us in place; so we do not have to get back in the queue. At this point Julie and I resigned ourselves to having to spend the night in the Frankfurt Airport, or possibly we would find a hotel nearby so we could get some sleep. The flight eventually took off.

When we landed in Frankfurt I turned back on my cell phone, to see if there were any other Eurowings, or since they are owned by Lufthansa the possibility of another flight going out that day. I was happy to see that our flight was delayed; so there was still a glimmer of hope we could make the flight.

On a side note: You really see some of the worst in people as they are trying to get off a flight. We were in row three; so very near the front of the plane. The number of people that were rushing from the back and trying to cut in front of everyone was ludicruous. After Julie was almost knocked off her feet, she finally was able to get into the aisle where all of these people kept loudly insisting that their next flight was more important than ours. The amazing thing is that NONE of these people were Americans, because it is usually us causing the scene. What I found hilarious, though, was the person speaking about how rude Julie and I were being not letting them go around us. Julie did shut them up when she simply said “I have a flight that is supposed to leave in thirty minutes as well. Why is your flight more important than mine?”

We had never been in the Frankfurt airport before so we stopped to ask the first person from Eurowings what gate we needed to get to. Unfortunately, they were absolutely no help, and refused to look on their computer to tell us. There were absolutely no departure boards around; so we figured we would start going to the lower numbers, because we knew we had to get off that concourse as we had not gone through border control yet. We ran down a couple of hundred meters before we found a board. We learned we needed to go to another concourse, but there was no map; so we had no clue how far it was. We started jogging again. After about 10 minutes of running we finally got to passport control. Julie of course had her purse. I had kept my passport in my pocket, but put my wallet in my backpack.

The border agent explained that I had no entry stamp in my passport; so they couldn’t let me leave. I explained that I lived in Switzerland, and there was no entry stamp because it was a brand new passport. Well, once I said that I had to prove my Swiss Residency. So I dug through my backpack until I found my wallet. By this time Julie was through, and she said she was going ahead to see if she could get them to hold the flight. I finally get through the border, and start running again. I think it was another 1/2 mile before we came to security, as soon as I started emptying my pockets I realized, “I don’t have my wallet!” I breezed through security, and started rooting through my backpack. Julie came over and said the flight was delayed another 20 minutes, but still no wallet. I realized where it was; so I grabbed my passport, cellphones and told Julie I will be back in 15 minutes. I took off running again!

I got back to the international side of the customs desk, but I knew I couldn’t just walk through; or I would get in trouble. Right then two police officers walk by. Now mind you; I just got done running as hard as I could for 1/2 mile; so I am out of breath, and trying to remember the right words to get the officer to help me. He took pity on me after about the third pant and fourth word, with “I speak English I can help you.” I explained what happened, and he took me through the door. Sure enough, there was my wallet sitting right in front of the window. I quickly gave my thanks and took off running once again!

I make it back to security, and the guard says “I have been looking for you. Let’s get you through here really fast.” I emptied my pockets and went through security again. This is where I learned some of the security people are little sadists. I sat there for about 90 seconds waiting for my stuff to come out of the x-ray machine. The only thing in the machine was my belt, wallet, passport, and phone. After waiting, one of the Eurowings employees came and told the security guard to send my stuff through, they are holding the plane just for me.

WE MADE THE FLIGHT!!!!

We got to our seat, and the flight attendant brought us some water, because we were both sweating. However, we still were not moving anywhere. In fact, there was quite the meeting going on about two rows in front of us. It turned out that Eurowings made a mistake as to the number of seats in business class. They upgraded five people from economy to business, but they only had room for four. So we sat there for another 30 minutes waiting for the employees to figure out what to do. The amazing thing is that for the entire time there was very little drama. No one raised their voices. We thought at one time, a man was going to get kicked off the flight, because he was refusing to leave his seat. The pilot came back and talked to the man for about five minutes, but eventually they found a seat for the paying customer, by making the family they upgraded hold their three year old. Mind you, this is an almost 10 hour flight, but at least the seats are big so there was room for the three year old and the teenage girl to share a seat.

The dinner service went off, almost without a hitch. We had a great selection to choose from, and the food was really good. There was just one little problem. I had a salad, and after I ate about half of it. I noticed something moving in the greens. It turns out, I got my protein with my salad as I ate half of a bug with giant legs. I thought the flight attendant was going to vomit, when we called him over, and I showed him what was in the bowl. He did ask if I wanted another salad, though. 🙂

GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE

For those of you that have never flown internationally before, once the meal is served the lights go out in the cabin. This makes it easier to try and get over the jet lag so you can get a couple of hours sleep. Well midway across the Atlantic Julie taps me on the shoulder. It turned out one her AirPods fell out of her ear, and flew towards my seat. I am looking everywhere, but there is about a one inch gap between the cushion and the seat pod. I told Julie, that it probably went down there. So we set the seats upright and using the flashlight on my phone I started crawling under the seats looking for her white AirPods. I had to give up after about 15 minutes, because I couldn’t see anything. Julie went and got a flight attendant, and I think because the man felt so bad about the bug I had eaten he came to help us look. So here we are in the dark 1/2 way across the Atlantic with the flight attendant taking apart my seat looking for Julie’s air pod. Lo and behold he actually found it!

I was just really impressed that he took the time during the flight to help us. Even better he did it with a smile.

LOST LUGGAGE

The rest of the flight went without incident. We landed at Ft Myers, and Julie told me to go ahead and get the rental car while she got the luggage. She had just been there a couple of weeks before so she knew that the line would be very long at the counter. She was right! Unfortunately, there was no luggage for her to get. Eurowings has one person at the airport, and this person is also the interpreter for the rest of the airlines; so even though there were a lot of people with lost luggage Julie had to wait for her to get done with the interpreter dealings first.

The woman would NOT give Julie a copy of the lost luggage report but Julie was smart enough to take a picture of the completed form. Thank goodness she did that, because it becomes important later. The woman told Julie that hopefully our luggage would be on the next flight, because if not we would have to wait 5 more days. It turns out that Eurowings only has three flights to Ft Myers Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday! One day wouldn’t be that bad, but unfortunately the funeral was Tuesday. If the luggage didn’t come on Saturday, that meant I had to go shopping!

On Saturday morning, Julie did some checking and she found where she could report the lost luggage online; so she filled out that form. Of course, the luggage did not come on Saturday; so that meant Sunday I had to spend way to much time in a shopping mall getting clothes to last until Tuesday as well as something nicer to wear to the service. Eurowings policy is that you get 30 Euros (very close to $30) for incidentals for every day your luggage is delayed. Now in someways that seems like a lot of money. $360 for both of us to buy clothes. If all we needed were toiletries and some underwear, that makes sense, but we had to go 5 days (turned out to be 6 because the luggage was not delivered until Wednesday). Heck a package of briefs and socks pretty much use an entire days worth of the money. Another day is spent on toiletries. Plus I had to buy nice clothes for the funeral.

FRUSTRATION

I waited until we were back home, before I filed the receipts with Eurowings. I sent copies of the receipts and figured the claim number for the lost luggage would be enough. The first email I got back from the company informed me that my claim was being denied, because I did NOT make a claim at the airport. Remember that form Julie took a picture of? 🙂

I wrote back attaching the picture, and figuring I would cut off the next thing early, I also attached screen shots of the claim we made online. Needless to say I very irritated when I get an email back two days later saying the claim was denied because I did not have valid copies of the forms.

I wrote back a third time asking how was it possible that anyone could have a copy of the Eurowings form when their employee would not give anyone a copy? I figured at this point we would have to get the travel agency that booked the flights get involved before we would have a chance to get any compensation at all.

This is Julie’s quarter close at work; so one of her busiest times of the year. It took her a couple of days to get with the travel agency, but we did finally get another email from Eurowings, that they would re-open our claim.

This is why I don’t even want to fly that airline again. It has been a week since the last communication, three full weeks since we made our initial claim, and they still have not even acknowledged that they lost our luggage. I realize they do not have to give me 100% compensation. It would be nice, but that is not what the law requires, but after this length of time, they should at least be willing to say “Yes, we misplaced your luggage, and we are sorry for the inconvenience it has caused.” I am no stranger to misplaced luggage.

If you remember a story from about a year ago, I talked getting a call from a Sheriff’s office in Indiana, because my suitcase was found on the side of the road. When that happened United was fantastic about keeping me informed as to the status of my luggage, and they compensated me $300 for that headache. Heck, my luggage was only lost for 48 hours that time. It is not that hard to keep a customer happy, but the first step a company has to take is admit they messed up.


After I wrote this, I have realized that in the scheme of life this doesn’t even constitute a speed bump. At the time it was happening thought it seemed like a gigantic issue. I guess the stress of losing a loved one coupled with the stress of the trip made the issue seem bigger than it was. Even though I can see that now, I still do not want to fly Eurowings ever again!

23 April 2023

This has been the longest time I have gone without posting since I started this blog almost four years ago. The last two months have by far been the hardest two months we have experienced since moving to Switzerland.

We started seeing the problems with living away from family in late February. Julie’s Mother was admitted into hospital with breathing problems, and it was very serious. Thankfully, Julie was able to make a fast visit back to the US and see her Mother, because unfortunately she did not recover. Julie’s Mother passed away on 11 March. Karen’s passing meant we made another trip back to the US to be with Julie’s family. For those of you that know Julie, or knew her mother here is a link to the obituary: Karen Marie O’Connor

The time period from when Karen got sick until coming back from the US in mid April demonstrated pretty much everything that is bad about moving away from your home country. If you remember back in February, I had a post about having to get my passport renewed. That was the beginning. Things we used to take for granted like being able to call a family member is suddenly much harder. If we make a call at 11 AM it is either 3 or 4 AM for our family. If they forget and call after work, Julie and I have been asleep for two or three hours. In most cases, time wise there really is not that much different in how long it would take us to get back to where our family is, but the COST is something completely different. It cost us roughly $500 to get each kid to Florida for the funeral. Our cost for the cheapest ticket we could find was closer to $1500.

We also got a surprise letter from one of the insurance companies last week. Remember back in February I talked about Julie’s knee surgery? Well the accident insurance decided they were not going to cover the “accident.” We have drafted an appeal letter, and in the letter showed where a torn meniscus meets the definition of an accident. The insurance company basically said, it cannot be an accident, because there was no outside event that caused the injury. Well, the Swiss Government decided about five years ago, that there are some accidental injuries that do not require an outside event. The law specifically says that a torn meniscus meets the definition of an accident. Keep your fingers crossed for us. If the appeal fails it won’t mean bankruptcy, but it will certainly be a big bill. Probably not to US medical standards, but still big!

I am working on another post that talks about why no one likes air travel any more, because the flight back to the US was the absolute worst experience we have ever had in regards to connections, lost items, and poor customer service.

While we were in Florida, I did learn that even though driving is a stressful experience in Switzerland, it is nothing compared to the stress of trying to drive around Ft Myers, FL. I was so glad to be back to the land of strange signs, narrow roads, and parking conditions that make driving seem like playing a game of tetris (trying to fit moving blocks together so they fit nicely and do not crash!). The biggest headache about driving in Ft Myers revolves around traffic lights. I learned that yellow lights no longer mean what they used to mean. Now they mean that if you are 1/4 mile away from the intersection and the light turns yellow, you do not prepare to stop. You floor the accelerator, and get through that intersection at all costs. Based on the reactions I got when I prepared to stop, I was LITERALLY concerned about Florida’s gun laws, and that someone was going to start shooting at me, because I made them stop for the red light. The next thing I learned about the traffic lights is that green no longer means go. Green means stay exactly where you are for 30 – 60 seconds and look every direction, because at least three cars are going to ignore their red light and go through that intersection no matter what.

After we got back from the US, we had three days to get ready for summer of visitors. My parents visited this past week.

We had a very relaxing visit. I worked very hard in Florida, and the days before their visit to make sure I was ahead with all my school work. It meant that instead of spending four or five hours every day studying, I only took one day with the school books.

After they had a good nights sleep we started with a visit to the Stiftsbibliothek (Abby Library) in St Gallen. I think this was my fifth visit, but I knew my parents would really enjoy the site. Every other time I have visited the library the docents were around to make sure that no one even thought about taking a camera out and snapping a picture, but those rules must have been loosened. I had my phone in my pocket so I took some pictures this time. The library is in my top three places to visit in all of Switzerland.

Unfortunately my pictures of the room do not do it justice. It is one of the most amazing rooms I have seen!

I took my parents to visit Colmar, France. We visited the Lindt Museum and Factory which is right by our apartment. The weather was really nice day on Saturday, so we took a lunch time cruise along Lake Zurich. I also took them for a drive along one of my bike ride routes. They got to see some of the hills I train on, and they could not believe that I have not been run over, yet! I kept my Dad busy. I took him to Jumbo which is the Swiss version of Lowes. We bought some potting soil and plants for our balcony garden. Next weekend Julie has to go and pick out the flowers she wants for our balcony boxes!

After our first visit to Colmar I wrote about how disgusted I was with the brass plaques bearing the Statue of Liberty. Well before we drove back to RĂĽschlikon, my parents and I visited the Liberty replica in Colmar. Many people think the statue is there because that is where it was made. That is not the case. The statue is in Colmar because that was the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, the artist that created the statue. It was put in place to commemorate Bartholdi’s 100th birthday.

Well, my parents left for the US this morning; so the grindstone continues for a couple of more weeks. I have three weeks left of my semester. I really hope my classmates wake up in one of the classes. I have been contacting them for two weeks about starting our final project. Almost no one in the group is responding and we really need to get going. Making the final project will not be hard, but we have present the project together. I don’t know about you, but the idea of making a Zoom video of our presentation is NOT appealing to me in the slightest.

In my other class, I am experiencing something never excperienced before. I am almost done with the class three weeks before the due date. I have a final program that I am working on due in two weeks. but I have already written the research paper due the last week of class, so all that is left is to make a powerpoint presentation of my paper. I figure that is about two hours of work. Even more surprising is that I can completely ignore the extra credit program also due the last week. I will probably do it, because it will be challenging and fun, but I am sitting at 102% of the points in the class with only three assignments outstanding. I think I can turn in what I have right now, and I will still get no worse than a B in the class. I will be exactly 1/2 way done with my Masters program this May. I am taking the summer off to because of all our visitors, and to hopefully to get a couple (four) trips in with Julie, as we work on our bucket list of places we want to visit. I am also going to keep training to try the Alpenbrevet again this September. Hopefully, I won’t get Covid again, because that will be devastating to my psyche!

Enjoy the pictures. I will have another post out this week, talking about the folly of our trip back to the US a few weeks ago. One word of advice. Don’t fly Eurowings!