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August 28, 2008

Swamped, Sinking, on the Verge of Drowning, but Still Breathing

That's how I've been increasingly feeling since the beginning of school events last Thursday.

Jason's testing at school Friday went really well.

Emily's sleepover with her church friend at our house Friday was great, along with my brother and niece's visit from Geneva Friday night through Sunday night. We played cards & board games and took a walk and played frisbee, badminton and whiffle ball together at our church picnic Sunday afternoon.

Monday Emily had her orientation at school and we met her teacher, who is from Northern Ireland. She isn't having too much trouble understanding him...and he seems nice. Emily met a set of twins from Texas, who just moved here a week ago, and these girls and their mom are truly adventurous and gregarious - already on the first day of school they called up Emily and invited her over on the spur of the moment to play at their house for an hour! Luckily for all of us, they live no more than 15 minutes away from our house (it could have been much worse - people commute from all over the place to this school - some kids spend an hour on the bus). So that was a HUGE answer to prayer - instant friends for Emily at school. I couldn't believe how fast that happened. It is this family's first international move and they are waiting for their shipments to arrive, using rental furniture in the meantime. I am glad we have all our stuff. The things that make one thankful...

At Emily's orientation day, they handed all the new parents a huge, thick envelope of stuff to read and fill out...which I haven't had time to look at yet, three days later (okay, I could be doing it right now, but I am taking a break for lunch and need to do something fun, so here I am blogging after 6 days of not being able to). It really made me appreciate our previous school, which sent these packets over the summer, giving parents ample time to peruse all the information and send all the forms in before school hit. I feel like I don't know anything and might be missing things. I need to get through that packet soon.

The rest of Monday was taken up by three medical appointments (orthodontist and a couple of minor irritating conditions that we though best to attend to before school started) and some shopping (gym shoes, etc). The orthodontist (the 2nd one we've tried - the first wanted to remove all Jason's braces and start again) was fantastic, in that that he learned French in Geneva and speaks it really well, so we use that to communicate, which is fun for me and good for the children's French. Also he had a very nice manner, was not terrifying like the other one, and sees no reason to replace Jason's current braces. Hurray for that. However, as I am now discovering, the receptionists do not speak any English or French, nothing but German, and the hours of the office are unclear except that they close at the same time as Jason gets out of school. This is not helpful; actually rather frustrating. So I am trying to make complicated scheduling arrangements in German, and not having too much luck so far. At the moment we are having to wait over a month to get him in there. I am not excited about the three-month delay in his orthodontic treatment here (what with trying multiple doctors and them being on vacation and then their calendar being full and Jason having very limited times he can get in - early before school or at lunch break). Also the orthodontist told us Emily can start with braces this year and do that for two years and be done (without the extra kinds of appliances the British ortho used for Jason). So that will be the beginning of a new stage for our family - two kids in braces.

Tuesday, on the first day of school, Jason received his testing results and class schedule. We were very pleased with his levels for Maths and French and German, but at first they couldn't accommodate him in the proper courses, and also couldn't give him the arts choice he had hoped for. I felt pretty resigned, but Jason was more optimistic, and so we prayed and asked God to sort it out - and by the end of the day, God had done it. I called and found the vice principal in her office at her computer, and she took my call, fiddling with the scheduling program for 15 minutes until she got it to accept Jason into the required level of German, and she let him go into her own Drama class, even though it's for 10th graders instead of 9th. The German II went into the previous elective slot, the Drama went into the previous Science slot, and she moved his Science class to the previous German I slot. How amazing is that? God-mazing.

Tuesday I spent four hours driving the car, between school runs and my German lessons, because we are at the beginning of smoothing out the school commute, which is so very much longer than we were used to, and I am learning traffic patterns and alternate routes...but that first day we got Jason to school 20 minutes early, and Emily to school 10 minutes late. Oops. But it was so chaotic on the first day of school that it didn't matter in the slightest. The second day, I went an entirely different way between the schools, avoiding the two major traffic snarls, and got her there with 3 minutes to spare. And today with 5 minutes to spare. But the best thing is yet to come - Emily starts taking the school bus in the mornings on Monday. We all can't wait. She will be able to leave home 27 minutes later every day. And then we will be sorting out Jason's commute, perhaps with me driving him to a bus stop halfway or something. The jury is out on that one. I am still planning to pick up both kids in the afternoon (they get out 30 minutes apart from each other, which helps a great deal, and also there is no traffic problem at that time of day). But that may change too, who knows.

Tuesday and Wednesday David and I continued in our German classes at his office, which are very interesting and helpful. The teacher is great. And we have homework to do...

Today is just a little calmer, with no German class, which is why I am sitting at the kitchen table typing this. However, I have a gajillion bazillion ramillion things that need to be prioritized and placed in an orderly manner on a to do list and then done. I don't know what they are (except maybe find a pharmacy that's open, find out how to submit health insurance claims and do so, get the piano tuned, clean the house, do my German homework, read the school information, pay for David's license plates, process the mail, rescue my desk/office...). This makes me very unsettled and frazzled. Please excuse me while I go figure out what to do next. Oh, and tonight we have a back to school night at Emily's school, which we just found out about on Monday. I am glad David is willing and able to come with me. He's been stellar, doing lots of dishes when I am exhausted at night. His support is unwavering and key to my survival. Another huge thank you.

P.S. Emily is already having her new twin friends over for a sleepover on Friday night, and we are planning to have the parents and older brother join us for brunch at pickup time on Saturday. Nobody's wasting any time here...

P.P.S. Yesterday on the way home from school Emily said, "Mom, when you aren't swamped anymore, will you go back to baking?"
So I replied, "Well, what would you like me to bake?"
"Peanut Butter Cookies?" (because we are so very, very happy to be back at a school that allows nuts on campus, meaning peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and walnuts or pecans or cashews for a snack, etc)
So of course we baked 6 sheets of peanut butter cookies as soon as we arrived home, swamped or not! Some plain, some with M&M's, some with Hershey's Hugs or Kisses on top, and some with pink, blue or chocolate sprinkles. We had them for dessert and then both kids took some to school today.

P.P.P.S. There, that was therapeutic - I feel that at least I am caught up on my blogging for the moment...nice to be caught up in something.

August 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2008

Three Houseguests Tonight

Jason's orientation day yesterday went fine. He's doing better healthwise, but tired. They told us yesterday that he (along with about 20 other kids) would need to do testing this morning for his level in French, German, and Math. So I took him for that this morning. We thought he'd be done by 11am based on what they told us on the phone when I inquired, but it ended up taking until 12:30pm. He's fried now and resting.

This afternoon we go pick up a new friend of Emily's for her first Swiss sleepover at our house. Then later on tonight my brother and niece arrive for the weekend! It will be the first time Jessica visits us in our new home here. Looking forward to seeing them both again.

Sunday is the church picnic by Lake Zurich.

Monday is Emily's orientation day at her new school, then it all really starts for both kids on Tuesday.

Got to go make some guest beds!

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 19, 2008

The World is So Full of a Number of Things...

Title reference: I know this line from the movie Singing in the Rain, in which Donald O'Connor quotes it before doing his most incredible "Make 'em Laugh" scene. I did not know until today that is was the beginning of a very short (two line couplet) poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In any case, my life is so full of a number of things...that I am finding it exceedingly difficult to write anything on my web log, even though there is prodigious material for it. The days are gone in a flash, one after the other. Right after this I should get to ironing, wrapping baby shower gifts, baking an apple crumble, finding cleaning help, organizing the office/my desk, showering and cooking dinner. I've been doing German class homework, laundry and sending my outstanding verses of the week to my Bible-in-a-Year reading partners. We've had a lot of fun events filling our time, e.g.:

Friday lunch: PASTORS OVER FOR A MEAL:
Had our new pastor & wife & two kids over for lunch (it was a holiday in their Kanton, Zug, but not in ours, Zurich, but David came home for lunch in his new car which makes such things possible, hurray, thank You!). A fun time. Emily loves playing with their daughter. They brought some yummy homemade zucchini bread. It poured with rain.

Friday night: tried a MÖVENPICK RESTAURANT
Not far from our home, in Adliswil. Nice non-smoking side, smelled good. Very pleasant servers. Heavy Germanic food, every variation of meat and potatoes and cheese....studied the menu and used a dictionary surreptitiously under the table, and even wrote down some Swiss-German words to look up at home (Rüebli = carrots in English, Karotten in high German; Chörbli = basket).

Saturday morning: COMPANY PICNIC FOR FAMILIES
Our first drive up the forested hill on the other side of Zürich for a company family picnic. Impressed by the family orientation of David's office here. It was not so in London, where most people didn't seem to have any kids. There are lots of little kids involved here (but hardly any older kids/teens, same as at our new church here). At the picnic, they let each family pick a rolled up picnic blanket with a handle and a waterproof bottom, and a toy for the kids. We got a silver frisbee and a pretty plaid blanket. I was most tickled that David and I wanted to choose the same pattern of blanket out of 7-8 choices, without conferring.

Saturday night: wonderful NEIGHBOURHOOD DINNER PARTY
Just across the road, for our cul-de-sac of 9 houses - we stayed from 5:15pm until 11pm, and so did everyone else! (13 adults, 7 kids) It was a potluck, so we brought our own saucisses de veau* to grill, and a green salad with peppers and carrots and homemade balsamic-mayo-maple syrup dressing, and brownies, to share. We got a house tour of my new Swiss friend Silvia's place which she and her husband designed and built - complete with screens on the windows and a laundry chute! That's the 2nd house around here we've seen with screens! Hmmmm..... The evening was really remarkable, in that I think we were the only non-Swiss (and I was the only non-reasonable-German-speaker), and from what we hear from coworkers and the ex-pat community, it is not "normal" to be welcomed into a Swiss community so soon and be on first name basis, etc. God has really, really provided very richly. It was humorous that most of the evening we had no idea what anyone was saying, because they were speaking in fast Swiss-German, which bears very little resemblance to "High German" (what they speak in Germany and Austria). However, several of the neighbours took time to speak with us in high German, English, and French! It was certainly a multilingual evening. Our neighbours include a general practitioner physician, a carpenter, a person with the fire department who does catering on the side, a furniture company representative, a gift shop saleslady, a dietician, and a stay-at-home mom who helps with the catering business and also does some child care. Behind our street live a lady and her two daughters, who have 5 horses on the premises, and sold part of their land to their hosts of the party (hence their invitation to join us). The mother has lived there for 50 years. Very interesting people, many of whom grew up in this very village and stayed (or other nearby villages). I had a long conversation in English with the doctor, whose daughter will be spending a few months in Australia soon (where people seem to go from here to solidify their English!). During the evening, the seven children (ranging in age from 8 to 14, perfect for our kids who are 10 and 13) played cards, ping-pong and football (soccer), and petted 3 rabbits. Later on, a bunch of adults joined the kids in the garage and played elimination ten-person ping pong, in which everyone runs around the table...crazy, funny, and a blast. The kids did everything in German, including learn a new card game called "Lüge" (= "Lie" in English, somewhat like "I Doubt It" except with following suit instead of increasing numbers).

This all meant that I never even opened my computer all day Saturday (a rare event for a day in my life).

Sunday: my niece arrived back in Switzerland after 6 weeks nannying in Virginia for my cousin, near my mom. My niece lives 3 hours from us, though, with my brother, so we might not see her for some time. I hope she comes to visit soon. At church I signed up for a bunch of upcoming women's events, including two baby showers, a Bible study (Beth Moore) and a ladies' potluck get-together (South African style - "Bring and Braai" - there are a number of South African families in the church). Or am I confusing that with the whole church picnic which is next weekend? I think that is a Bring and Braai too. From the wikipedia article, only men do the barbequeing, but maybe we have progressive South African women in our church. ;-)

Monday morning: KID CLEANING SERVICE
As usual this summer, big house cleaning day with the kids doing a huge amount of the work, for pay...Jason vacuumed the whole house, swiffered the stairs, replaced the handtowels, gathered all the trash, and carried the laundry & used towels downstairs. Emily stripped the beds, emptied the dishwasher and dishrack, cleaned all the toilets and sinks, and helped me make the beds. I mopped the bathroom floors, and did the laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. I was really grinning ear to ear last week when I had taught Emily how to clean toilets, and she said, as she moved onto the 3rd one, "Cleaning toilets really isn't so bad..." I'm going to miss my cheerful helpers something fierce when they go back to school next week!

Monday afternoon: PLAYING WITH NEIGHBOUR KIDS
A next-door neighbour girl from Saturday night's party came to the door for Emily while I was out shopping. Emily went over to her house, then they played at our house, and then they went across the street to the family with the ping-pong table and borrowed that... and in the meantime, Jason went over to the ping-pong family and played with the boy there who is exactly his age: ping pong, and then basketball with 4 other boys they met at the school playground, having biked there together. David and I are giving heartfelt thanks to God, again, for His incredible provision in this house and its neighbours. It's fantastic.

Tuesday morning: GERMAN LESSONS continue on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings with David at his office - in a group of about ten students, with a teacher from Germany. Today I understood about 20% of what the teacher was trying to convey about German grammar and pronoun endings. I told her so at the end of the class, and she said I should have said something during the class, because quite likely the others didn't understand either. I said I didn't know how far behind the others I was, since I've just joined the class, and she said I probably wasn't behind. One of the other students said he didn't ask anything because he hadn't done the homework, so he didn't feel he had the right to ask questions because it was his fault he didn't understand. I tried to do the homework, but since the textbooks ordered for David and me haven't arrived yet, it's a tad more challenging...the issue is that the teacher is speaking very fast in whole paragraphs in German, about German. There is no processing time. I think she will go more slowly tomorrow. I think it's great she teaches in German, but it was just too much too fast. And I don't know how to ask the questions I want to ask, in German! Argh! She said if it is about grammar, I can ask in English :-)

(During the writing of this post, I paused to move the laundry along (at least twice), give solicited feedback to Emily on a card she was making, answer questions about German words, encourage the kids to go outside, find a basketball pump needle for Jason, assist in pumping up a basketball, relocate to the vicinity of a power cord for my laptop...and also several days went by at different stages. Definitely time to stop now. Must get back to the laundry, and bake that apple crumble...)

* Video in French of Swiss saucisses de veau being made. You would never know from this video that they are really very tasty ;-)

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 14, 2008

Another Great Day: Bus & Train to Zug, with German Hangman

LakezugJason, Emily and I went through the Swiss Public Transport Initiation Rites today.

We bought the "Half Tax" annual cards for David and me, which make all public trains, buses, boats, trams, and most cable cars half price all year long. The kids are already half price, but we got them the "Junior Cards" which are only 20CHF and make them FREE anywhere in Switzerland on any bus, train, boat, tram, and most cable cars, IF they are with me or David, for the whole year.

So then we had to try it out, and the kids and I walked to the bus, missed it by one minute, walked the rest of the way to the train station, caught another bus to Thalwil, caught the train to Zug, changed to another train to go two more stops to just up the hill from Jason's school. We walked past the school and continued down the hill to hop on a bus back into Zug (to try out all the methods of getting around near his school), and had a nice lunch by the lake. We learned "Trothahn" is turkey, and "Teigwaren" is pasta. Great to add a few new words at each meal...we did all the transactions with the waitstaff in German, which felt good. Emily was tickled that her request for cheese to go with her Teigwaren worked, as she configured the sentence on her own out of her head... We played hangman on our paper placemats - in German of course. I did "Baumnuss" (walnut, literally "tree nut" - another new word we gleaned from the dessert menu photographs), and Jason guessed it straight off without even bothering with letters! Wow. Then Emily did "Nachtisch" (dessert), and Jason nearly stumped us with "Sonnenbrille" (sunglasses, which Emily wearing). I got another chance since my first lasted so short a time, and I nearly hung them with a word that has SIX different consonants in a row with no vowels interrupting the streak: Kühlschrank (H-L-S-C-H-R!), which means refrigerator.
ZugfountainThen I had Jason lead us all the way back home (via walk, bus, train, another bus, and more walking), to help him solidify his bearings and figure out where to look for all the information we needed. There are a lot of helpful screens at stations and on vehicles doling out information about which "Gleis" (train platform) to wait on, how many stops left until destination, etc.

It felt like a very successful trip. And boy was I glad we had all our tickets in order when that inspector came by and asked for them on the 2nd train of the day!

The upshot of our discoveries: public transport would be a good back-up method for Jason to get home if needed, and it's good for him to know how to do it...but it seems just way too long a commute to ask him to do daily (55 minutes each way, with 3 different vehicles involved). So we will probably end up driving him at least partway. In the car it's more like 30 minutes, although we haven't tried it at rush hour yet. We can also try the back way over the mountain.
(photos are Lake Zug, with views over the Alps - notice there is a tiny little fountain coming out of Lake Zug - tiny compared to what I can't help but feel is the "real" Jet d'Eau in Geneva ;-) Being from there and all)

August 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2008

Incredible Day: Car, Flowers, Cake, Swim, German Conversation

I am all better from my sore throat illness (since Sunday). Thanks for the prayers.

Today David bought a car for himself (we already had one for me), brought me home flowers (a gift from the car place, but who cares, I'll take roses!) AND chocolate chip bundt cake with chocolate glaze and marzipan decoration (a welcome gift from his company, but delicious is delicious!) and he shared them all with his family.

This afternoon the kids and I went with our new pastor's wife and her kids to an amazing swim place in Zug, with multiple indoor and outdoor pools, an awesome, long outdoor water slide that was not scary but took about 20 seconds to get down, whizzing past fresh lavender plants under the blue sky...and 1 meter, 3 meter and 5 meter diving platforms outside (I only managed the 1m! My friend's kids both did the 5m! They are 11 and 7 years old)...and a cool "river current" area in one of the inside pools that is so strong you cannot make any progress if you are trying to swim against it; better just to let it sweep you away around the corner and back into the main pool area. Fun! I also had a really great time talking with my friend Tanya and getting to know her a bit better.

Tonight at dinner our family held a half-hour conversation ALL IN GERMAN (with a bit of dictionary-searching, both electronic and paper, and about a million mistakes I'm sure), spontaneously, with great cheer and many laughs, and totally out of the blue. I don't even know how it started. All I know is that the kids have been doing the Rosetta Stone German program daily for months, I have finished it (Levels 1, 2, and 3, all there is), Emily finished today, David had a conversation with the car place in German today, and David and I have had our first two German lessons live at his workplace (offered for free by the company for employees AND spouses, woo woo!) yesterday and today. It all came out tonight. It was incredible and wonderful. David and I just looked at each other afterwards with eyebrows practically up to the ceiling. Such fun.

Thank You, Lord, for an incredible day.

August 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 08, 2008

Small Medical Adventures in Switzerland

I've had a sore throat for five days. So yesterday I decided to try to find a doctor to whom to show my throat (hals in German), to rule out something on the more serious side.

This turned out to be harder than I thought. I was anticipating some language problems with German-speaking receptionists. However, what it ended up more being was language problems with Swiss-German answering machine messages.

A local doctor's office in our village, recommended by our kind Irish landlady, is closed until August 18th, as far as I can tell from the message. 11 days to wait.

I tried phoning another doctor, recommended by someone on the Families-in-Zurich yahoo mailing list, in a neighbouring town, and perhaps deciphered that they might have closed permanently as of this month? They said something about August, but maybe they just meant the whole month of August it is closed? But the verb sounded more permanent somehow.

Then I dialled another highly recommended physician in a lakeside town who apparently studied in the U.S. and whose receptionists purportedly both speak English, but there was a long Swiss-German message awaiting me there as well, not sure what that one was about (regular hours resume Aug 15th, possibly?).

Next I went for a doctor heartily recommended by the local expat family organizer lady online, whose message was the clearest yet. It only took me three repeat calls to get it all! It must have been actual high German rather than Swiss-German. Closed Thursday afternoons. Of course it was Thursday afternoon at the time. The U.S. Consulate website warns that this is the case with most doctors in the Zurich area, and now I believe them.

I started to think that maybe I was just not meant to go to a doctor that day or anytime soon.


BUT. But...my throat was really hurting. I didn't look forward to another night and another morning of wondering if I had Lyme Disease or strep or mono or something.

So I persevered a little more. Having clued in that every doctor in Zurich is either away on vacation in August or just not in the office on Thursday afternoons, I started to look up "clinics" in the Zurich area. And into play came Englishforum.ch, which is a cool resource for anglos in Switzerland. There was a thread about a drop-in clinic in the centre of Zürich, open from 7am to 10pm 365 days a year. That sounded more positive. Except it's far away from our house, with complicated parking, and people were going on about how long they had to wait (up to 3 hours for one person). I kept reading and scrolling down the page, when PRESTO, someone mentioned another clinic which is only 15 minutes from our house, in a shopping mall I've been to before and liked, with easy parking, close to David's office (directly on his way home in fact, whether by train or car). Öffnungszeiten: Mo - Fr 08.00 bis 19.00. Sa 08.00 bis 13.00. That is, opening hours 8am-7pm Mon-Fri and Sat 8am to 1pm. Better and better all the time.

I called, now my fifth try at getting an appointment with any doctor, anywhere, at any time: success! The receptionist spoke English, was very pleasant, and booked me in for a couple of hours later! I went in, was assured it is just some little viral thing that will go away on its own, got a prescription for an anaesthetic spray, and met up with David on his way home from work. There was a pharmacy in the mall, so I picked up the meds before leaving.

In the meantime, we have to wait four more weeks to get our health insurance cards - but have been covered since August 1st. It doesn't really matter about the cards, since we have to pay our bills directly, then file for reimbursement by mail. It was a nice arrangement in England where all the regular visits were "free" and the specialist visits and hospital were paid directly from the insurer to the provider. No messing around with paperwork for us. Fantastic. Ah well, we really appreciate things when they change for the worse, right!?

All this is actually very positive, though, as I found the clinic at the mall to be a wonderful place, and I really like the availability they offer. Not closed all of August, not closed Thursday afternoons, and so on. They have a big team of different kinds of specialists. The doctor was friendly and spoke English and seemed competent. Now I just have to get better to prove she was correct in her diagnosis...maybe this will become our family's doctor's office. Or at least a great known resource. So I am thankful.

August 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 04, 2008

A Quick Guide to Swiss German

A Quick Guide to the Swiss German Language is a lovely page to look at if you are interested in some differences between German and Swiss German or would like some tongue twisters with which to pass your evening.

Today, other than cleaning toilets, mopping floors, changing sheets, doing laundry, meal-planning, grocery shopping, training the children to be industrious, helpful and hard-working (by giving them the instant reinforcement of being paid for their cheerful labor), and visiting our town library for the first time, I had a German interaction with the cashier (asking her for three sizes of the special trash bags they keep behind the registers, measured in litre capacity), and listened about four times to an answering machine message in Swiss-German without being able to decipher what the hours of the orthodontist are. I'll have to try them again tomorrow morning and hope they're open then (and speak English or French).

Being slightly under the weather this evening, that will have to suffice for my contribution to the blogosphere for today. The deepest of grace and peace to you. It flows freely to those who ask the Source Guy.

August 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 03, 2008

Lucerne - our first visit

LucernemtnviewToday after church in Zug (Emily was so happy to see her new friend again, and we met some more new people), we decided to continue on 20 minutes further from home to have lunch in Lucerne. Lucerne is a Swiss city founded in 1178, which in 1415 joined the Swiss Confederacy. It has gorgeous views of the Alps over the lake.

We parked and found a restaurant by the river and had some raclette (melted cheese slabs over hot boiled potatoes) and rösti (grated fried potatoes, with bacon & cheese) and Schweinegeschnetzeltes with Spätzle (pork strips with mushrooms in a cream sauce and homemade noodles) and a Schinkengipfel (ham croissant).

Strolling along the Reuss river, we crossed four bridges, back and forth over the same water:

The first, the Spreuerbrücke, is a wooden bridge from 1408, which at first we thought was THE bridge of the Lucerne photos, but it wasn't. Still pretty and fun to cross.

Next, the Reussbrücke, nothing special. But THEN:

LucernechapelbridgeLucernechapelbridgeclose
Then, ahhhh, the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) built in 1333, but mostly destroyed by a 1993 fire and then reproduced/restored. It was the oldest wooden bridge in Europe until that unfortunate event. This is the landmark that represents Lucerne in all the photos. We have a coaster with a painting of it, which for some reason led me to believe it just took people out into the middle of the lake, but actually it crosses the river. Halfway across there is an attractive water tower (Wasserturm). Apparently it "has served as a prison, torture chamber, watchtower and treasury." This bridge and tower together are supposedly the most photographed monument in Switzerland. I can see why, especially in summer with all the gorgeous flowers adorning it. We were blessed to be there when a harpist was treating all passersby to romantic, dreamy music. I laid my head on David's shoulder and closed my eyes. Lovely. 40 minutes from our house. Come visit, we'll take you.
LucernebridgeflowersjLucernebridgeflowers3

We noticed a sign on the Chapel Bridge telling of "Mauritius," a Christian commander in the Roman army in the 3rd century, who was martyred in 287 for either refusing to harrass local Christians, or for refusing to worship Roman gods. He was born in Egypt and died in what is now Switzerland. We clued in to the fact that the ski resort of St. Moritz is named after him! That was kind of neat to see - in the rafters of the Chapel Bridge there are several old artworks and poems about him and his Legion (who perhaps were all killed for their righteous insubordination).

Also along the river is a large baroque Jesuit Church from the 1600s. Very pretty inside, with lots of pink and gold. On the ceiling is a cool painting of the outside of the building, including the nearby Chapel Bridge and Water Tower, and, of course, an elephant pulling a cart (??).
Lucernejesuitchurch2Lucernejesuitchurch

LucerneflagbridgeWe finally got to the fourth bridge of the day, which is at the edge of Lake Lucerne itself (properly called "Vierwaldstättersee, or Lake of the Four Forest Cantons." I am used to lakes having a popular name and a real name, since what people call Lake Geneva is really the "Lac Léman" in French. We bought some stracciatella and strawberry ice cream, and wandered along the flags (this was the first bridge with cars on it as well as foot traffic), admiring the mountain view and the daring roofline of the Lucerne Art Museum.

I discovered today that swans make me feel at home, since they were ubiquitous in Geneva.
LucernemanyswansLucerneswan
There were also some cute ducklings:
Lucerneducklings

August 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wordle

Thanks to Jon Reid for the pointer to Wordle.net where you can make pretty word pictures like this by just sticking in your blog url (or any text you want):

Click to enlarge. Of course the choice of colors is my favorite part.

August 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 02, 2008

Cat on a Cool Stone Compass Rose

There's this neat compass rose in our driveway. It's good to know what direction we're heading in the morning...this very friendly neighbourhood cat likes to know, too.
SwissneighbourcatcompassroseSwissneighbourcat3
SwissneighbourcatSwissneighbourcat2

August 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack