Brückenweg in St. Gallen

We are itching to get to the real Alps for some hiking and picture-taking. The summer weather is not particularly cooperative. Plus, I’ve learned that it’s hard to look more than a few days ahead in the forecast since it seems to change frequently. One of our big agenda items is to hike as much as possible (and before winter comes and after winter leaves). I also want to make sure I am in a little better shape before I tackle more strenuous hiking. Some internet searching led me to this hike called the St. Gallen Brückenweg, or the St. Gallen Bridge Trail. The weather in St. Gallen only threatened a 20% chance of rain, the walk looked fairly easy (only 7.5 km or 4.6 miles) and started at one of the train stations, it’s not too far by train (one hour) and we could add another canton to our list. Three down, twenty-three to go.

Route and trail marker. These are ubiquitous and extremely helpful.

Route and trail marker. These are ubiquitous and extremely helpful.

Here is the first sign we saw, just across from the train station. Below the red and white circle is a brown sign pointing right which has the name of our trail. (The long sign below cautions that only a certain kind of shuttle bus is allowed straight ahead.) These signs helped us navigate the entire trail.

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Across the entire trek we saw a wide variety of things, from the advertised bridges to lush farms with cows, sheep, goats and chickens, to a Geo-Thermal Heating plant. Here are some of the high bridges (we did not walk across these).

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Here are some goats taking a Mittagspause (noon break) and some cows in the trees next to our lunch spot.

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This is one of the bridges that we walked across. It was a little bouncy, but not too scary.

At the end of the route is a bus stop where a PostBus (operated by the Swiss Postal Service) came along just minutes after we arrived, and we were happy to pay the 5 CHF to ride into town (2.5 CHF each), saving us an hour and some uphill walking. We told the nice driver that we had Half-Fare cards and he didn’t even ask to look at them, just gave us the discount. And a smile. Perhaps he liked H’s accent as we continue to use our German when we can. 

Tomorrow’s post: The Abbey in St. Gallen

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Trash and Recycling and Bio Waste

Hello, Glampers!

When you are out camping, you have to think about your trash. Perhaps in car camping you have dumpsters readily available. When backpacking you pack it out. Maybe some of it becomes part of the ecosystem, some of it can go up in flames in your campfire. 

Here in der Schweiz landfills are in short supply. Most household trash must be incinerated. So, when you pay over $2 for each trash bag, you think carefully about what is being thrown out. When we arrived, I knew to ask for our Züri-Säcke at the grocery checkout, and we purchased a pack of 10 for 20 CHF (about $22). It took us 13 days to fill up the first bag (left here in the flat – first one free!), so I think we are doing pretty well.

Nearly two weeks of trash

Our building has a dumpster out front with this slogan which looks to me to be Swiss German. “Only Züri Sacks. For a cleaner Zürich”

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There are all kinds of rules about recycling, too, but we haven’t had much call for recycling. We don’t take the newspaper, and we haven’t gotten much mail, so it will be awhile before we have enough paper to bundle up with string for paper recycling day. We can take bottles and cans to the grocery store to put in the correct bins. Unfortunately, there is no plastic recycling except for soda bottles, and we don’t drink soda.

Paper recycling comes round every other week. Our neighbors were on top of it. When I returned 10 minutes later, they had already been picked up.

Then there are these containers for Bio-Abfall (compostable trash). With my very best reading German I looked on the official website for trash and it seemed to me that we have to pay a subscription to get one of these containers. I asked around, but then decided to email our building manager yesterday. He promptly responded and told me that he would be in our building in the apartment below, and he would be happy to show me where I could compost. I thought he would show me an ETH Bio-Abfall dumpster, but no, he walked me between some buildings and showed me this actual, real compost bin. I don’t know who takes care of it, but I will be sure to add my apple cores, etc. to this pile. It will save not only the environment, but also our Swiss pocketbooks. 

Official Bio-Abfall dumpsters.

Real composting. It’s tucked away in a secret spot!

Wandering Old Town

Still wanting to squeeze a little more fun out of our all-day tram passes, we also took advantage of the warm and beautiful evening to head to the river. Now, we can get to the river and back on foot in not much time, but I thought that it would be lovely to return up the hill via tram when we were tired. Good thought.

Maybe because it is still August, maybe because we live in a real city, but even on a Thursday night, many, many people were out strolling, sitting in sidewalk cafes, and enjoying the atmosphere. I so enjoy just being around such liveliness. 

Along the way I thought I would take some pictures of doors since a friend of mine said that her husband is crazy about doors. I put up a whole photo album of these doors here. 

Even though we’ve strolled die Alte Stadt (the old city) several times already, there are always new nooks and crannies to find, not to mention revisiting some of our favorite spots. 

St. Peter’s Church. The largest clock face in Europe.

View of the Limmat River and buildings on the east side as seen from the Lindenhof.

Grossmuenster in silhouette

Evening light on Fraumuenster

I didn’t take many other kinds of photos besides doors and sunset-on-the-churches, except for this one. Too bad the store was closed…

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p.s. I actually did see the butter in the Coop this morning. I thought you might like to know.

Migration Office

Ok, Glamptopelementers. I thought I might have nice juicy post today about our trip to the Migration Office. When we last met the Swiss bureaucracy for our residence permits, they set up an appointment to have our biometrics (photos and fingerprints) taken. Today was the day, so we got up a little earlier than usual (7:15!), and when we got to the tram, we used two of our “all day” passes. As much as we have been walking, we didn’t really want to walk 6.2 km round-trip, especially if it might make us late.

The 10-minute tram ride (on Tram 10) took us past new sights (including the lrchel branch of the University of Zürich), and although we had given ourselves 12 minutes to find the building, we still arrived inside by 8:45 for our 9:00 appointment, and we were walking out of the building at 8:54. How’s that for Swiss efficiency? Our residence permits should arrive in 5-10 working days.

It all happened so fast that I forgot to take a photo of the building, so I have shamelessly grabbed one off of the web.

The best part? No additional cost. I guess they took enough money from us last week.

With extra time and the all-day pass burning a hole in our pockets, we headed to ShopVille to see if we could find H an umbrella (Regenschirm or Schirm). Using his good eyes, he bypassed the ones on the racks outside the stores ($20-30) and found one inside on sale for $9. The cashier laughed and asked if it was raining outside. We assured her that it was a lovely day outside (remember ShopVille never sees the light of day being underground), but that perhaps it would rain tomorrow.

So, I find myself now with a sunny day (and promises of rain tomorrow) and an all-day pass in my hand. It seems a shame to ride the tram on such a lovely day. It seems a shame to not ride the tram since I already paid for it. Now, where to go after lunch?

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Silly me. Why did I think I had to choose between riding the tram and walking? I decided to take the tram to the part of town where I may be meeting people to make music. There is an Old-Time Music meet-up at an Irish Pub and the orchestra I have contacted which are not only very near each other, but also close to the American Women’s Club. I took the Number 9 tram to Kreis 3 and walked between all three places, scoping them out so that I can find them the next time I go. The sun was shining and I enjoyed seeing a new part of town.

Grocery Shopping

From the semester I spent in Graz, Austria in 1980, I knew that European refrigerators are small. Because of this limited space, grocery shopping is a near-daily experience, and, actually, I welcome it. It gets me out and about, rain or shine. It appears that there are two major “low price” grocery stores in our vicinity (and everywhere): Coop and Migros. I know there is also Denner, but I don’t see them in Fluntern. 

Before we moved here, I checked to see how close we were to one of these and found the closest Migros, a 7-minute walk from our flat. We went there the first day, but we have not been back. It is very small and not well-stocked. Then we found the Coop that is very close to that Migros, and that seems to be our go-to close store. Then there is the Coop outside of the Hauptbahnhof which is really big with a nice “salad bar” for take-away lunch. H likes the Migros in the basement of the Hauptbahnhof the best of all.

(Underneath the Hauptbahnhof is the biggest mall called ShopVille. That will probably get its own blog post one day.)

I am discovering that each Coop does not carry exactly the same thing. For example, our nearby Coop does not have butter. At least, it isn’t anywhere where we can see. This morning I wanted butter, so I tried a different Coop – not as far as the Hauptbahnhof, but a nice walk from here. Thank goodness it had butter, as well as everything else on my list.

Here are some of our recent purchases:

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Tomato paste (like mustard and mayo) comes in something like a toothpaste tube. We buy organic milk by the one-liter container. Our go-to bread is Ruchbrot – a loaf for about $1.20. 

Oh, yes, I also buy the Coop brand bar of dark chocolate – only .6 CHF (about 66 cents). And I’m trying different cheeses every time. I haven’t found one I haven’t liked yet.

There are things that are hard to find, or very expensive here. No black beans. Apparently the peanut butter doesn’t taste good, so I haven’t bought it. I hear that sweet potatoes are hard to come by, and they had been one of my favorite foods this past year. 

Church Bells

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Kirche Fluntern

One summer during college, H lived in Grinnell, Iowa across the street from the Methodist church. The bells rang during the day and played “Ein Feste Berg ist Unser Gott” in the morning. Before we moved to Zürich, I noticed from Google Street View that we would be close to Kirche Fluntern. I knew we would be treated to chiming bells.

In the first few days here, when we were getting over jet lag, we could tell what time it was even in the dark of night. One bell is 15 minutes past the hour. Two bells, the half hour. Three the quarter hour. Four bells is the hour, and then in a different tone, you hear the number of hours. Midnight and noon have lots of bells. Since there are laws about not making noise after 22:00 and on Sundays (don’t be caught recycling or taking out trash then! You will be fined.), it seems ironic that the bells play on and on during all hours. Of course, after awhile you don’t even hear them.

Now, at 7:00, 11:00 and 19:00 after the allotted bells, you are treated to an additional clanging that goes on for about four minutes. Except on Saturday and Sunday. Then the first morning bells are at 9:00 or 10:00. I don’t remember which. I’m sure I’ll be reminded again next weekend. Occasionally they will ring at an odd time on the weekend. For weddings? Funerals?

Now, this is just what I notice about Kirche Fluntern. Sometimes when we are out in the old town we hear bells at various other times, so I don’t think all churches follow the same bell schedule.

Schaffhausen

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It might seem that all we do here is play. It seems as if we have done quite a variety of things this past week, this first week in Zürich, and we have. While planning our journey, we realized that we hadn’t taken a real summer vacation and vowed that we would have a stay-cation in our new home. First off, we wanted to get to know our way around, geographically, find grocery stores and learn how to use the public transportation. But we also want to be tourists, too.

Now we have to settle in to our routine lives. Today H goes into the lab where he is ready to start figuring out what the year will bring to him. I will start working on what my routine will be. I have already created a little list for myself which includes the mundane (grocery shop and cook, laundry) as well as the creative (what might I want to compose? what are my specific goals for making music?).

Our one last day of stay-cation yesterday involved buying a 9 o’clock day pass and heading north to the Rhein Falls and Schaffhausen. A 9 o’clock pass means that you can ride any train (or boat or tram) within all zones that the ZVV (Zürich Transport Network) covers (all of the Zürich canton and a little of some neighboring cantons) for about $12.75 all day long. On Monday-Friday you must start your travel no earlier than 9:00, but on the weekends and holidays, you can start any time in the morning.

My parents will be visiting us in October, and we had thought that a day trip to Schaffhausen and the Rhein Falls (the biggest waterfalls in Europe, I hear) might be good bet, so we thought we should preview it (like any good tour guide). While we had fun today, I don’t think it will be the right adventure in October.

First of all, the Rhein Falls are not what anyone would call overly exciting. If you’ve been to Niagara Falls, you would not consider these ones large by any stretch of the imagination. It’s pretty touristy like Niagara (although the Visitor Center in a castle is pretty cool), and to get any good views of the falls, you have to pay $5.50 to walk to a platform, or ride in a boat. The river is pretty turbulent under the falls and that did not seem like anything we wanted to do. So we took this picture as best we could and then decided to head into town.

IMG_4360Very close to the German border, Schaffhausen was founded in the Middle Ages, and the buildings are known for their bay windows. It was a sign of wealth to have one of these, and the old town boasts 170 (or 171, depending on the source).

IMG_4443Before we wandered through the old town, we walked up a lot of stairs (which is getting so much easier now!) to the Munot Fort, where we could have an overview of the town. I had fun taking photos of the 16th C. fortress as well as the viewpoints. It was also a great spot for lunch. If we hadn’t brought along our own bread and cheese, we would have had the opportunity to buy a bit on the top. The Swiss seem to always put an eatery where you might need one.

Back down in town we found the cloister with its lovely herb garden and managed to have a very short conversation in German with a woman who kept having us smell different herbs.

IMG_4414The old town is not large, and after wandering around and taking pics, we weren’t quite ready to leave, so we just had to buy some gelato from the little vendor and sit in the square between the two big fountains and watch the people walk by. The weather is still good for doing this comfortably, even with the clouds rolling in and out. We are not taking any sun for granted.

For more pictures of the town, click here.