Tuesday, August 11, 2015


When Switzerland is mentioned, mountains come to mind, but they're not all the same. Some can be visited via funicular, cable car or cog train while others are only to look at. There are crazy people who climb mountains.  I am not one of the crazies, but I do love the mountains here. 

We are lucky to live where we can see some mountains from our balcony. (on a clear day, I should add)  There are others which we can visit without having to travel far. Pilatus is visible from Luzern which is a short car ride away.

Pilatus is reached by taking the steepest cog train in the world or cable car. Our cog train ride gave us a view of the cable car.

See those little people in the top right? We walked up there and along the ledge (with a rail) to the left of the building. 

why is this chapel here? no idea

These are some other things that more adventurous people do. I'm sure the view is breathtaking, but what happens if you faint?

At the base of Pilatus, is Lake Luzern. We love this lake because it is one where the mountains jut right out of the lake. 

hang loose
missing Tom - he was at work

I recently revisited Pilatus when Lynn and Howard Adams were here with us.
Another mountain field trip with the Adams was to Stanserhorn. This is the only open-air cable car in the world! Surprisingly, it is open all year only stopping for lightning.


Not everyone can be on top, but we were lucky to ride on the upper deck on both ascent and descent.
I felt compelled to hold on

Thanks to Tom, we have views along the way because remember, I had to hold on! 

cable car going down

we will enter those clouds!
 Once at the summit, there is a short loop trail to walk which we did. 

Tom and Howard


we found Heidi's house!

Switzerland is a dog-friendly country.


Wildlife sighting!! Finally got to see a real marmot. Yes, they were living in an enclosure, but they did come out to say "Grützi".

sunbathing (or cloud-bathing) chairs
Most of our views were from the ride up and down. The clouds moved around quickly, but never cleared while we were there. 

Tom and I ... on cloud nine?
this is what we saw - we're surrounded by clouds!
this a friend's picture from another day and what we should have seen - must go back!

The last visit to be included isn't a mountain of the same magnitude as the others. This one is named for its small lake - Lake Obersee  (Lake Upper-lake). 

"The Lake "Obersee" is located 1000 m above sea level in the canton of Glarus. The little oasis in the mountains is a still intact countryside away from the tourist crowds, situated in one of the most beautiful alpine valleys. The drive along the romantic Oberseestrasse shows you foaming torrents, dense forest and defiant rock massifs leading to the mountain Hotel Obersee right on the lakeshore.  Enjoy the tranquility in an unspoilt landscape."

This excursion was taken with two friends and was again, a short drive away from Horgen. I include the online description because I want to be clear that one word was left out from the description of the drive: terrifying. I found nothing romantic about it, but then I was the one behind the wheel. It is a very steep, narrow, winding road which in many places cannot accommodate two-way traffic. It is not a one way road. That would be impossible to control without a traffic light with 10-15 minute wait. So I stayed in second gear and took it very slowly. The worst was when a piece of construction equipment was coming down and I had to back up some to allow him to pass.  I was very glad to reach the summit and park the car. I tried to ignore the fact that I would have to drive it again to go home. The beautiful and peaceful landscape was worth the stress.

Hotel Obersee and its reflection
We took a short, easy walk around the lake including a picnic lunch and returned to the hotel cafe for a refreshment before departure. 

my color-coordinated friends, Marisel and Robin
This is the view from our outdoor cafe table. Those white flowers? Yes, they're edelweiss! Woohoo! I have still not seen them growing freely (this is a hanging planter), but hey, it's a nice touch!

Deep breath. Time to drive again. There was a spot where we could pull off for yet  another scenic view.

we all have hat hair!
I really would like to go back again to do some hiking in the area rather than the very short walk. I need to work up my nerve first!

Friday, August 7, 2015

More weekend exploring

After nearly three years in our adopted country, we are still discovering new places to explore. Some are close by and it surprises me that we didn't learn about them sooner. 

We finally made it to Stein am Rhein which you can tell by its name is near the Rhine (English spelling) River. We put our bikes on the car and drove to the scenic town. Stein am Rhein is known for its old town center with frescoes painted on the buildings. They would look better on a sunny day, I'm sure. Maybe I'll go again someday.

musical details on one building

dragon on the end of the downspout

We happened upon Kloster St George (monastery) and took the opportunity to go inside. 

Kloster from across the river
entrance area

river view from the Kloster

not a real monk, thankfully

notice ceiling
The ceiling of this common gathering room was full of detailed artwork: carved and painted scenes whose significance  was unknown to us. 


It is possible to take a boat ride on the Rhine, but this we didn't do.



We discovered the streets even had reference to St George slaying the dragon!

After some wandering and a picnic lunch, we got on our bikes, rode across the border into Germany and along the Bodensee (known as Lake Constance in English).

crossing the border - without my passport!

A yellow stop sign!?! This was a first for us and Tom obeyed! 
sailboats on the lake for Tom's dad

Here are some of the sights along our ride.

It was a Springtime outing - this vendor must have been selling asparagus and strawberries although we did not go investigate.  

Can you tell if these are German or Swiss cows? 


These balls are made entirely of old horseshoes - that's a lot of horses!

castle on the hill

Phew, we made if back into Switzerland!

The fourth of July is obviously not a holiday in Switzerland. Although there are a few gatherings of Americans here, we opted to take a weekend trip to Freiburg, Germany. It's a short drive away and we'd never been there. It was at the end of an incredibly hot week by not only Swiss standards and without air conditioning, we were feeling it! The air conditioned car ride was a good way to start!

St. Martin's gate - part of original town wall

street and sidewalk art


The pedestrian areas all had narrow canals running through them. Their original purpose was to drain excess surface water and assist in fire fighting. They are certainly a tripping hazard, but also a very popular spot to cool off. 
same street with cathedral in view
pretty window

More examples of street or sidewalk artwork. Their original purpose was functional: they were used to mark the kind of shop -- some are still appropriate.

shoe store
jewelry store

want to take a carriage ride?

Freiburger Münster

 renovation is necessary - but scaffolding is always ugly

cathedral altar area
prayer candles - one of those is mine

Last Supper

3-D center panel of triptych is supposed to represent the holy family after their flight to Egypt. Joseph is sleeping, but he looks like he was beheaded!

Someone must have said it is good luck to rub this person's nose - it's very shiny! 

part of the exterior without scaffolding - yay!

You've heard of black forest cherry cake, certainly. Freiburg is on the edge of the black forest and the folk costume includes these silly hats that are supposed to look like they are covered with cherries. Didn't buy one, but now I wonder whether I made a mistake.
Kaufhaus from 1520
building detail


wider canal

view of the cathedral from across town

Sunday morning we took the Schlossbergbahn (funicular) a short ride to the top where we had brunch. This funicular runs like an elevator. There is no driver and you must push the button for the only car to come to you.
our coach on its way

overlooking Freiburg from brunch

After brunch, we took a short walk in the black forest. (looks green to me) We didn't go far because it was already hot. 

very refreshing!
Unfortunately, there was a lot of road construction in and around Freiburg making it difficult to find our way to the hotel. Many buildings were also being renovated. (we didn't take pictures of the ones totally covered in scaffolding or "wrapped") It wasn't the best excursion, but the air conditioned car rides and overnight in the cool hotel room were definite highlights! It is worth another look - maybe in December when their Christmas market is in place. Then we'll also be more interested in tasting the black forest cake rather than ice cream!